Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, speaks on false assets allegations

By Abiola David 

The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen has reacted to the allegations of false asset declaration leveled  against him by the Court of Conduct Bureau (CCB), saying his non-declaration of the domicilliary accounts was a mistake.

The CJN was reacting to the CCB’s plans to arraign him on six-count charges of false asset declaration. 

In a statement to the CCB investigators on Friday, Justice Onnoghen said the undeclared foreign currencies found in his Standard Chartered Bank were sourced from his estacodes and medical allowances, including funds from his days in private practice between 1979 and 1989.

He saud the withdrawals from his Pound Sterling and Euro accounts were for the school fees and upkeep allowances of his children abroad.

“My Asset Declaration Form No SC N 00014 and SCN 00005 were declared on the same day 14/12/2016 because I forgot to make a declaration of my assets after the expiration of my assets after the expiration of my 2005 declaration in 2009,” the CJN said.

“Following my appointment as Acting CJN in November 2016 the need to declare my asset anew made me to realise the mistake.”

The apex justice said he did not include the funds in his domicilliary accounts because he believed the accounts were not opened during the period covered by the declaration.

The charges against Onnoghen 

Spokesperson of CCB Ibrahim Hassan in a statement on Saturday confirmed the filing of the charges before the Code of Conduct Tribunal  in Abuja, where the CJN is expected to take his plea.

The charges followed a petition to the chairman of CCB by the Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative (ARDI)’s Executive Secretary, Dennis Aghanya. 

The justice was alleged to have failed to declare his asset upon assumption of office as provided in Section 15 (1) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act C15, punishable under Section 23 (2) (a) (b) and (c) of the same Act.

He was alleged to be maintaining domicilliary accounts with US Dollars, British Pounds Sterling and Euro in different bank accounts in Nigeria, which were ommitted in his asset form.

Onnoghen, for instance, was said to have made over five deposits of $10,000 into his Standard Chartered Bank accounts between March 8, 2011 and June 28, 2011. 

Investigators alleged that the CJN, presented his 2014 and 2016 assets declaration forms on same date of December 14, 2016 and both has discrepancies in them.

“The Code of Conduct Tribunal has scheduled Monday, 14th of January for the commencement of trial against current Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon Justice Onnoghen Nkanu Walter Samuel for alleged non declaration of asset,” CCB said in a statement.

“This was consequent to application filed by the Code of Conduct Bureau to the CCT Chairman yesterday for the trial to commence against the Chief Justice of Nigeria on six count charges.

“However, service of sumoms has been effected to the Dependant, the three man panel led by Justice Danladi Y. Umar, will commence the trial on  Monday, 14th January, 2019 at its  courtroom, situated at the headquarter, along Jabi Daki Biyu, Saloman Lar way, Abuja, at about 10:00am.”

Onnoghen’s planned arraignment will be the first time a serving CJN would be arraigned on similar allegations.

Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the apex court was charged by President Buhari Muhammadu administration. He was however dishcarged and acquitted by the CCT.