Ahead of his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) slated for Monday, suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, has opened up on how he got the foreign currencies he deposited in his domiciliary accounts.
In a ‘Cautionary Statement Form’ filed at the Department of Intelligence Investigation and Monitoring, Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), in Abuja, he said the deposits in his dollar account were from trading in foreign exchange (forex), AGRICODE, while other investment returns were from proceeds of his investments.
Justice Onnoghen’s averments were contained in a voluntary statement he made at CCB.
In the statement, he specifically explained that “the deposits made in my US Dollar account No. 87000106250 with STD. Chartered Bank of $10,000 at different intervals of June 28, 2011 were sourced partly from my reserve and saving from my estacodes, including medical expenses.
“The same applies to my deposit of July 28, 2011, of $10,000 twice. It is important to state that prior to my opening the US dollar account, I had foreign currency, which I kept at home, due to the fact that there existed a government that proscribed the operation of foreign currency account by public officers including judicial officers.
“It was when I got to know that the policy had changed that I had to open the said account. Upon opening the account, I was made to understand that I cannot pay in more than $10,000 at a time and per payment slip. I cannot remember the total amount I had on reserve at the time, but it spread from my practice days as a private legal practitioner from 1979 to 1989.
“Some of the deposits are a result of forex trading, AGRICODE, and other investment returns were from proceeds of my investments into them. The withdrawals in the account are partly to pay children’s fees, upkeep abroad and further investments. My British pound and euro accounts with Chartered Standard Bank are savings accounts.”
“In the January 1, 2019 document, the suspended jurist, who wrote his statement on January 11, 2019, between 12:30pm to 1: 45pm added: “I, Walter S. N. Onnoghen, of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, hereby, voluntarily depose to the statement averred herein, knowing that whatever I write or state may be tendered against me as evidence in court.
“I also volunteer to state that the statement was not taken in evidence from me under duress but after the administering officer had explained and made known the details of the allegations against me.”
In response to allegations of non-declaration of his assets, justice Onnoghen added: “My asset declaration for numbers. SCN000014 and SCN.0000 5 were declared on the same day, December 14, 2016 because I forgot to make a declaration of May 2005 of my assets after the expiration of my 2005 declaration in 2009.
“Following my appointment as acting chief justice of Nigeria in November 2016, the need to declare my asset anew made me to realise the mistake and then did the declarations to cover the period in default.
“I did not include my Standard Chartered Bank Account in SCN. 000014 because I believed they were not opened during the period covered by the declaration.
“I did not make a fresh declaration of asset after my substantive appointment as CJN because I was under the impression that my SCN. 000015 was to cover the period of four years; which includes my leave as CJN.”
The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) will resume the trial of suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, over alleged false declaration of assets, next week Monday.
The tribunal fixed the date following the ruling of the Court of Appeal, which refused the application for stay of proceedings brought by Onnoghen.
A statement from the CCT’s head of press and public relations, Ibraheem Al-Hassan, yesterday, confirmed that the trial would resume on February 4. Al- Hassan explained that the date was fixed following an application by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) for the resumption of trial.
The said application, dated January 30 and jointly signed by Musa Ibrahim Usman and Fatima Danjuma Ali, read: “The above subject refers. This case came up for hearing of preliminary objection to the jurisdiction of the tribunal on the January 28, 2019, but the tribunal could not proceed due to the pendency of the case at the Court of Appeal.
“However, in the wake of this afternoon, January 30, 2019, the Court of Appeal has thrown out the appeal. Consequently, we urge the honourable tribunal to give us a date for resumption of the trial, subject to the convenience of the tribunal, most obliged, my lord.”
The Abuja division of the Court of Appeal on Wednesday refused to stay proceedings in the trial of the suspended CJN in the six-count charge of alleged false declaration filed against him by the Federal Government before the CCT.
The court refused to grant the application for stay of proceedings brought by Onnoghen on the ground that Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, does not allow a stay of proceedings in a criminal matter. It said that the tribunal being vested with a quasi-criminal jurisdiction is governed by the provisions of the ACJA, 2015, and its proceedings in a criminal matter cannot be stayed.
Onnoghen had in a motion on notice asked the appellate court to halt his trial at the CCT on grounds that the tribunal erred in law when it adjourned on January 14 to rule on both his motion challenging the tribunal’s jurisdiction as well as that of the Federal Government seeking the tribunal’s order asking him to step aside as CJN pending the determination of the charges against him at the CCT.
However, in a unanimous decision, the three-man panel of the Court of Appeal, led by Justice Abdul Aboki, ruled that the prayers of Onnoghen that proceedings at the tribunal be stayed were contrary to the provisions of Section 306 of the ACJA 2015.