The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, has said he is innocent of the charges over which he is to be arraigned before the Code of Conduct Tribunal on Monday.
Onnoghen said this in a statement he made to operatives of the Code of Conduct Bureau, who interrogated him over allegations of corrupt practices and money laundering.
According to reports, Onnoghen’s attention was said to have been drawn by his interrogators to the discrepancies in the two assets declaration forms he submitted to the CCB.
The first form, with reference No. SCN: 000014, and the second, with reference No. SCN: 000015, and dated December 14, 2016, were reportedly issued, completed and acknowledged the same day by one Awwal Yakasai when the CJN had taken office.
But the two forms had what the interrogators considered as “significant deviations”, which informed their investigations and decision to invite the CJN for questioning.
The documents before the CCB, according to sources, indicated that in the first set of forms submitted by Onnoghen, he mentioned two banks accounts in SCN: 000014, namely Union Bank, with a balance of N9,536,407 as of November 14, 2014 and another Union Bank account in Calabar Branch with cash balance of N11,456,311.
However, in form Number SCN: 000015, the CJN allegedly listed seven bank accounts, mostly holding foreign and local currencies, running into millions of Naira.
The accounts, which the CJN reportedly acknowledged to have opened, are made up of five in Standard Chartered and two in Union.
They are: Standard Chartered accounts (five) with cash balances of N3,221,807.05, N$164,804,82, €55,154,56, £108,352.2 and N8,131,195,27 as of November 14, 2016.
The two Union Bank accounts held N23,261,568,89 and N14,695,029,12 respectively as of November 14, 2016.
Responding to the interrogation in writing, Onnoghen pleaded his innocence on the issues raised by the CCB, saying he did not do any wrong to warrant any action having satisfied the requirements of publicly declaring his assets as a top public officer in Nigeria.
In a written statement to the CCB, sighted last night by newsmen, he explained that he filed the two assets declaration forms on the same day in 2016 after becoming CJN because he forgot to make another declaration of his assets at the expiration of his 2005 paper in 2009.
He said: “Following my appointment as the Acting CJN in 2016 the need to declare my assets anew made me to realize the mistake and I therefore did the declaration to cover the period in default.”
On the seven accounts omitted in form SCN: 000014, Onnoghen explained that it arose because he believed they were not opened during the period covered by the declaration.
According to him, the $10,000 cash deposits he made at different intervals into his account in Standard Chartered in 2011 came from his earned estacodes for medical expenses, while the withdrawals from the accounts were due to paying for his children’s schools fees and for their upkeep abroad.