This portray items the account of Justice Walter Onnoghen’s conviction by the Code of Behavior Tribunal, CCT. It takes the reader by the 100-day ordeal – counting from January 9 – of the historical Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, the intrigues, the desperation and the sloppiness of the full episode, ensuing in his conviction remaining Thursday.
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
I attach now not need any comment”, used to be the explicit response of the embattled historical Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, after he used to be convicted by the Code of Behavior Tribunal, CCT, in Abuja for your complete six-depend charge the Federal Govt most standard in opposition to him.
Many will, nevertheless, argue that he used to be now not that punctilious in response, the day he used to be approached by officials of the Code of Behavior Bureau, CCB, to disguise alleged infractions that were noticed in his asset declaration kinds.
In the interface that took build aside between him and CCB investigators on January 11, Justice Onnoghen, in a written assertion that used to be marked as Demonstrate C, which the Mr. Danladi Umar-led tribunal relied upon to nail him remaining Thursday, admitted that he forgot to divulge five domiciliary international accounts he operated with Current Chartered Financial institution.
The frequent CJN could per chance also had been spurred by his records that the CCB Act created a window of change for such admitted anomaly in asset declaration kinds to be corrected.
Unbeknownst to him, while he used to be silent interacting with the CCB officials at his cosy chambers at the Supreme Court, a charge had already been entered in opposition to him at the CCT.
In an unheard of nevertheless calculated transfer, the CCT, on the same day the charge used to be filed, summoned him to appear earlier than it on January 14 for arraignment. In a nation the build aside reckless appreciation of timeliness is the norm, this used to be irregular.
The charge, marked CCT/ABJ/01/19, followed a petition dated January 7, which used to be lodged earlier than the CCB by a neighborhood underneath the aegis of Anti-Corruption and Study Primarily essentially based completely Knowledge Initiative. Remarkably, the Bureau which got the petition on January 9, with supersonic tempo, concluded its investigations inner 48 hours. Between January 9 and january 11, when CCB officials visited Onnoghen, there used to be completely in some unspecified time in the future in between.
Intervening time, Justice Onnoghen, on January 14, declined to appear earlier than the CCT panel to enter his plea.
As a change, performing by his consortium of lawyers led by a historical President of the Nigerian Bar Affiliation, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, and a historical Authorized real Overall of the Federation, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, the Defendant, challenged the jurisdiction of the CCT to handle the case in opposition to him.
He contended that FG’s failure to channel the petition in opposition to him, besides the end result of the investigation that used to be purportedly conducted on his sources declaration kinds by the CCB, to the National Judicial Council, NJC, earlier than it rushed the case to the CCT.
The ex-CJN extra argued that FG failed to abide by gift judicial precedent as encapsulated in a fresh Charm Court chance in Nganjiwa v Federal Republic of Nigeria (2017) LPELR-43391(CA), to the discontinue that any misconduct hooked as much as the build aside of job and capabilities of a judicial officer, must first be reported to and handled by the NJC, pursuant to the provisions of the rules.
He maintained that completely after the NJC has pronounced in opposition to such judicial officer could per chance prosecuting businesses of the Federal Govt proceed to provoke a criminal persevering with.
Placing reliance on a fresh chance of the CCT on a identical charge FG lodged in opposition to one other Justice of the Supreme Court, Sylvester Ngwuta, the CJN’s upright crew, insisted that FG’s chance to sideline the NJC, stripped the tribunal off its jurisdiction to entertain the instantaneous case.
The the same day, FG, filed a roam for the tribunal to compel Justice Onnoghen to step aside because the CJN and Chairman of the NJC, and for him at give up to his next in direct, Justice Tanko Muhammad.
Onnoghen destroyed judiciary earlier than his resignation ― Group
Whereas the historical CJN used to be locking horns with the CCT, three separate excessive courts, besides the National Industrial Court, issued meantime injunctions stopping the tribunal from taking extra steps within the topic. All these, didn’t topic.
On January 21, in a two to 1 split chance, the CCT panel, acknowledged it will proceed with the trial, no topic the court orders.
Disenchanted with the chance, Onnoghen, proceeded to the Abuja Division of the Court of Charm the build aside he secured an direct that suspended extra court cases at the CCT, pending the chance of an appeal he lodged in opposition to his trial.
Nonetheless, earlier than the appeal will be heard, Justice Onnoghen, on January 18, filed the roam the appellate court, on January 24, relied upon to in short suspend extra court cases within the case.
In what looked as if it would learn about admire a decided transfer to catch the CJN out of build aside of job any which manner, unknown to both the appellant and the court, FG had the day long previous by (January 23), persuaded the CCT to explain an ex-parte direct for the Defendant to be suspended from build aside of job, pending the conclusion of his trial.
Thus, in a transfer that took Nigerians by storm, President Muhammadu Buhari, on January 25, suspended Justice Onnoghen and swore-within the following most senior jurist of the Supreme Court, Justice Muhammad to pick out over the management of the judiciary because the Appearing CJN.
The roam of the President elicited varied reactions from both inner and outside the judicial circles, with the NBA, describing it as a coup in opposition to the judiciary.
Onnoghen used to be suspended barely eight hours after he announced his chance to begin judges that will decide charge of the 2019 election petition tribunals.
To extra register its displeasure over the roam FG took in opposition to Onnoghen, the NBA, ordered a 2-day boycott of court actions within the nation by lawyers.
The upright body constituted a three member committee to liaise with the government with a search to discovering an amicable resolution of the disaster bedevilling the suspended CJN.
Likewise, 25 constitutional lawyers, dragged President Buhari earlier than the Federal High Court in Abuja to subject what they termed as illegal suspension of the CJN, Onnoghen.
On January 30, the appellate court, cleared the wing for FG to begin its case in opposition to the suspended CJN.
After a convulated game of upright disguise and search, Onnoghen, on February 15, at remaining mounted the dock and pleaded his innocence to the charge in opposition to him, even as he used to be granted bail on self-recognition.
He surrendered himself for trial, about 48 hours after the tribunal issued a bench warrant for his arrest.
Intervening time, Onnoghen’s 98 days torturous path to conviction came to a climax remaining Thursday after the CCT panel found him guilty for your complete six-depend charge.
The tribunal acknowledged it used to be contented that FG successfully proved its allegation that Onnoghen who had voluntarily resigned his location as CJN on April 4, acted in breach of the code of behavior for public officers within the nation.
It held that proof of three witnesses that testified in some unspecified time in the future of the trial, were now not discredited by the defendant.
The CCT Chairman, Mr. Umar, who read the judgement, maintained that Onnoghen’s admission that he forgot to divulge the five accounts he operated since 2009, used to be “weighty enough” to ensure his conviction.
He held that the defendant used to be unable to disprove “hard details” that were introduced in opposition to him by the prosecution.
“The prosecution has discharged the onus positioned on it beyond every iota of doubt. It’s miles glaring that the defendant used to be in obvious breach of the code of behavior for public officers. The prosecution successfully established its case, and the defendant is accordingly convicted”, the CCT Chairman added.
As a result, handing its sentence after it declared the defendant guilty, the tribunal, ordered that he’s “hereby eradicated from build aside of job because the Chief Justice of the Nigeria, Chairman of the National Judicial Council and the Federal Judicial Provider Price.
“Secondly, the defendant is hereby banned from conserving any public build aside of job for 10 years”.
Extra so, the tribunal held that Onnoghen’s failure to disguise how he gathered “extensive amounts of cash in his accounts”, used to be a demonstration that the funds were obtained illegally.
It therefore ordered that the funds ought to be “confiscated, seized and forfeited to the federal govt”.
Mr. Umar had earlier than he commenced the sentencing, requested the defendant if he would decide to make a plea of allocutus (for mercy), nevertheless Onnoghen simply bowed his head and told him, “no comment”.
The tribunal had earlier, dismissed two preliminary objections the historical CJN lodged to subject the upright propriety of his trial.
Mr. Umar held that the CCT had the requisite jurisdiction to test out the ex-CJN on the allegation that he falsely declared his sources.
He held that FG didn’t violate any portion of the legislation by bye-passing the NJC to file the charge.
A Controversial Umar And Tribunal Overruling Itself
Mr. Umar acknowledged the tribunal used to be minded to overrule itself by departing from the location it took in a identical case the government instituted in opposition to Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court.
The CCT held that sections 158(1) and Paragraph 21(6) of the Third Agenda to the1999 Constitution, as amended, used to be now not acceptable within the case since FG didn’t charge the historical CJN as a serving judicial officer, nevertheless as a long-established public officer that acted in breach of the code of behavior for public officers.
In a second ruling, the CCT Chairman, acknowledged there used to be no merit within the historical CJN’s application that he ought to silent recuse himself from the topic excited about that he (Umar) used to be beforehand disquieted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Price, EFCC.
Mr. Umar admitted that though there used to be a bribery allegation that used to be levelled in opposition to him, he acknowledged the EFCC had in two separate letters dated March 5, 2015, and April 20, 2016, cleared him of any wrongdoing.
He acknowledged an preliminary charge that used to be entered in opposition to him used to be therefore withdrawn by the EFCC on November 8, 2018.
This Judgment Can now not Stand – Onnoghen
Nonetheless, in a swift response, the historical CJN straight away approached the Abuja Division of the Court of Charm, adducing 16 grounds why his conviction by the CCT ought to be quashed.
Onnoghen contended that the tribunal erred in legislation and occasioned a grave miscarriage of justice in opposition to him when it failed to sigh no jurisdiction to entertain the charge.
He argued that the CCT Chairman ought to gain recused himself from presiding over his trial.
Moreover, the historical CJN, in his inspect of appeal, told the appellate court to divulge that the charge in opposition to him had turn out to be tutorial.
In his seven-point reliefs, Onnoghen, applied for his conviction and the direct for forfeiture of his sources to be role-aside.
He extra told the appellate court to discharge and acquit him of your complete allegations FG levelled in opposition to him.
Checklist almost definitely the most particulars of error within the CCT’s verdict, Onnoghen, argued that he used to be at the time the costs were filed in opposition to him on January 11, a judicial officer and used to be therefore now not subject to the jurisdiction of the decrease tribunal.
He acknowledged: “On the authority of Nganjiwa v. FRN (2018) 4 NWLR (Pt. 1609) 30: at 340. 341 completely the National Judicial Council has the vitality to discipline the Appellant for misconduct and now not the decrease tribunal.
“The decrease tribunal had within the case of FRN V. Sylvester Nwali Nguta in charge No: CCT/ABJ/01/2017 delivered on ninth January, 2018, affirmed the location of the Court in FRN Nganjiwa v. FRN and dismissed the costs and acquitted and discharged Justice Ngwuta being a Judicial Officer subject completely to the discipline of the National Judicial Council.
“The decrease tribunal has no jurisdiction over serving judicial officers such because the appellant, attach the National Judicial Council.
“The Motion on Take a look at dated 14th January, 2019, powerful jurisdiction ought to be granted in all subject cloth particular because it purports to connect the decrease tribunal of pointless futile sigh.
“The decrease tribunal erred In legislation when it dismissed the Appellant’s Application attempting for the chairman to recuse himself from extra court cases on the ground of true chance of bias and thus occasioned a miscarriage of justice
“Once an allegation of true chance of the bias Is raised, the Court or tribunal will haven’t got something else extra to sigh other than to glance its hands from extra court cases within the topic.
“The Appellant has alleged that the chairman of the decrease tribunal is biased in direction of him due to begin remarks within the tribunal besides the style in some unspecified time in the future of which the court cases used to be being conducted”.
Moreover, Onnoghen, acknowledged he didn’t admit the truth of non declaration of Resources from twelve months 2005 because the Justice of the Supreme Court.
“ The Appellant completely said that he didn’t divulge in 2009 as required due to he forgot. The proof of witnesses and present tendered has affirmed the assertion of the appellant that he forgot to make a declaration in 2009 nevertheless did so in 2010 when he remembered, exhibiting there used to be a declaration at the least, opposite to depend one of the most charge.
“The decrease tribunal erred in legislation when It held that the proof of DW-I, didn’t create inexpensive doubt on the proof of the prosecution witnesses that the Appellant didn’t make declaration of sources since 2005 and thus occasioned a miscarriage of justice.
“The decrease tribunal erred in legislation when it held that the Appellant is guilty of counts 2-6 of the charge looking out out for the truth that the Appellant made an admission that he didn’t divulge the Current Chattered Financial institution Myth Numbers within the 2014 declaration and thus occasioned a miscarriage of justice.
“The Appellant’s assertion that he didn’t divulge the Myth numbers within the Current Chartered Financial institution within the 2014 Declaration due to he by no manner believed the account numbers were opened, would now not amount to an admission in legislation that he made unfounded statements as indicated in counts 2-6.
“The declaration for 2014 and 2016 were all made the same day being 16th December, 2016, nevertheless the disparity used to be that whereas the 2016 declaration had the account numbers, in Current Chartered Financial institution, that of 2014 didn’t gain nevertheless in any match, the acknowledged account numbers were declared.
“The Myth numbers were the ones declared by the Appellant himself within the 2016 declaration and used to be now not learned from any other source.
“The Appellant didn’t make any unfounded assertion or declaration by the omission to articulate the account numbers within the 2014 declaration.
“The decrease tribunal erred in legislation when it held that the Appellant made unfounded assertion by the omission to divulge the Myth numbers in Current Chartered Financial institution in 2014 declaration the same manner he did within the 2016 declaration and held counts 2-6 to be proved and thus occasioned miscarriage of justice.
“ Fragment 15 (2) of the Code of Behavior Bureau and Tribunal Act will be quite obvious and unambiguous when it offers that there ought to be verification. The decrease tribunal erred in legislation when it held that depend one of the most charge is true and proceeded to convict the Appellant upon it.
“The Honourable Tribunal erred In legislation when it tried and convicted the Defendant/Appellant for failure to divulge and submit sources declaration Kinds, between 2005 and 2016, which alleged offence is unknown to legislation; and in complete violation of Fragment 36 (12) of the 1999 Constitution”, Onnoghen added within the appeal he filed by his crew of lawyers led by Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN.
‘How I Made My Money’
This could occasionally be recalled that Justice Onnoghen had in a ‘Cautionary Commentary Obtain’ he filed at the Department of Intelligence Investigation and Monitoring, CCB, maintained that the alleged “extensive deposits” in his account were from trading in international replace (international replace), AGRICODE, besides proceeds of his investments.
In the assertion, Onnoghen averred, “That the deposits made in my US Greenback account No. 87000106250 with STD. Chartered Financial institution of $10,000 at varied intervals of June 28, 2011 were sourced partly from my reserve and saving from my estacodes, including clinical expenses.
“The the same applies to my deposit of July 28, 2011, of $10,000 twice. It’s miles very important to articulate that earlier than my opening the US greenback account, I had international currency, which I saved at dwelling, due to the truth that there existed a govt that proscribed the operation of international currency account by public officers including judicial officers.
“It used to be after I got to take hold of that the coverage had changed that I needed to begin the acknowledged account. Upon opening the account, I used to be made to realize that I will be capable to’t pay in extra than $10,000 at a time and per fee inch. I can’t bear in mind the complete amount I had on reserve at the time, nevertheless it unfold from my educate days as a non-public upright practitioner from 1979 to 1989.
“One of the most deposits are a result of international replace trading, AGRICODE, and other investment returns were from proceeds of my investments into them. The withdrawals within the account are partly to pay childhood’s costs, repairs in a international nation and extra investments. My British pound and euro accounts with Chartered Current Financial institution are savings accounts.
“In the January 1, 2019 doc, the suspended jurist, who wrote his assertion 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 assertion averred herein, vibrant that no topic I write or articulate could per chance even be tendered in opposition to me as proof in court.
“I also volunteer to articulate that the assertion used to be now not taken in proof from me underneath duress nevertheless after the administering officer had outlined and made identified the particulars of the allegations in opposition to me.”
In accordance to allegations of non-declaration of his sources, justice Onnoghen acknowledged: “My asset declaration for numbers. SCN000014 and SCN.0000 5 were declared on the same day, December 14, 2016 due to I forgot to make a declaration of Also can impartial 2005 of my sources after the expiration of my 2005 declaration in 2009.
“Following my appointment as performing chief justice of Nigeria in November 2016, the prefer to divulge my asset anew made me to realise the error and then did the declarations to duvet the duration in default.
“I didn’t comprise my Current Chartered Financial institution Myth in SCN. 000014 due to I believed they were now not opened for the length of the duration covered by the declaration.
“I didn’t make a contemporary declaration of asset after my substantive appointment as CJN due to I used to be underneath the affect that my SCN. 000015 used to be to duvet the duration of 4 years; which contains my leave as CJN.”
The Sins Of Onnoghen – Petitioner
The petitioner had requested FG to study the origin of extensive international currencies they acknowledged were prove in Onnoghen’s accounts.
The petition read: “We write to raise to your consideration serious considerations bothering on flagrant violations of the legislation and the Constitution of Nigeria by the Honourable Mr. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“Namely, we’re distressed that details on the ground disguise the chief of our nation’s judicial branch is embroiled in suspected financial crimes and breaches of the Code of Behavior Bureau and Tribunal Act.
“The particulars of our findings disguise that: His Lordship Justice Walter Onnoghen is the owner of sundry accounts essentially funded by money deposits made by himself, as much as as only within the near previous as 10th August 2016 which seem to had been escape in a style inconsistent with financial transparency and the code of behavior for public officials.
“To give explicit examples, here are some cases of cash deposits by Justice Onnoghen: Justice Onnoghen made five varied money deposits of $10,000 each and every on Eighth March 2011 into Current Chartered Financial institution Myth 1062650;
“On seventh June 2011, two separate money deposits of $5000 each and every were made by Justice Walter Onnoghen, followed by four money deposits of $10,000 each and every;
“On 27th June 2011, Justice Onnoghen made one other role of 5 separate money deposits of $10,000 each and every and made four extra money deposits of $10,000 each and every on the following day, 28th June 2011;
“Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen didn’t divulge his sources straight away after taking build aside of job, opposite to Fragment 15 (1) of Code of Behavior Bureau and Tribunal Act;
“Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen didn’t comply with the constitutional requirement for public servants to divulge their sources every four years for the length of their profession.
“The Code of Behavior Bureau Kinds (Obtain CCB 1) of Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen for 2014 and 2016 were dated and filed on the same day. The acknowledgement inch for Declarant SCN: 000014 used to be issued on 14th December 2016. The acknowledgement inch for Declarant SCN: 000015 used to be also issued on 14th December 2016, at which point Justice Onnoghen had turn out to be the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“The affidavit for SCN: 000014 used to be sworn to on 14th December 2016; The affidavit for SCN: 000015 used to be sworn to on 14th December 2016;
“Both kinds were got on 14th December 2016 by one Awwal Usman Yakasai.
“The discrepancy between Justice Walter Onnoghen’s two CCB kinds that were filed on the same day is most important.
“In filling the portion on Small print of Resources, in particular Money, in Nigerian Banks, His Lordship as Declarant SCN: 000014 talked about completely two bank accounts:
“Union Financial institution account number 0021464934 in Abuja, with steadiness of N9,536,407, as at 14th November 2014.
“Union Financial institution account number 0012783291 in Calabar, with steadiness of N11, 456,311 as at 14th November 2014.
“The sources of the funds in these accounts are said as salaries, estacodes and allowances.
“As Declarant SCN: 000015 His Lordship nevertheless lists seven bank accounts: Current Chartered account 00001062667, with steadiness of N3,221,807.05 as at 14th November 2016.
“Current Chartered account 00001062650, with steadiness of $164,804.82, as at 14th November 2016.
“Current Chartered account 5001062686, with steadiness of EUROS 55,154.56, as at 14th November 2016.
“Current Chartered Financial institution account 5001062679 with steadiness of GBP108,352.2, as at 14th November 2016.
“Current Chartered Financial institution account 5001062693 with steadiness of N8,131,195.27, as at 14th November 2016.
“Union Financial institution account 00021464934 with steadiness of N23,261,568.89, as at 14th November 2016.
“Union Financial institution account 0012783291 with steadiness of N14,695,029.12, as at 14th November 2016.
“The international currency Current Chartered Financial institution accounts that were declared by Declarant SCN: 000015 had been in existence since as a minimal 2011.
“Sooner than 2016, His Lordship looks to gain suppressed or otherwise hid the existence of these multiple domiciliary accounts owned by him, besides the extensive money balances in them.
“The Current Chartered Financial institution greenback account 1062650 had a steadiness of $391,401.28 on 31st January 2011;
“The Current Chartered Financial institution Euro account 5001062686 had a steadiness of EURO 49,971.71 on 31st January 2011;
“The Current Chartered Financial institution pound sterling account 5001062679 had a steadiness of GBP23,409.66 on 28th February 2011.
“It’s miles uncommon that these domiciliary accounts were now not declared in a single of the 2 CCB Kinds filed by Justice Onnoghen on the same day, 14th December 2016.
“The Naira bank accounts in b (i) and b (v) above are also uncared for within the CCB create of Declarant SCN: 000014.
“It’s miles our humble search that, with the foregoing, we gain laid earlier than you details which strengthen the assertion that Justice Walter Onnoghen could per chance even gain committed a breach of the provisions of the Code of Behavior Bureau Act as follows:
“Non-declaration of sources straight away after taking build aside of job in different capacities earlier than changing into the Chief Justice of Nigeria opposite to portion 15 of the Code of Behavior Bureau Act;
“Non-declaration of sources straight away after taking build aside of job because the Chief Justice of Nigeria opposite to portion 15 of the Code of Behavior Bureau Act.
“Non-declaration of sources at the statutory intervals after taking build aside of job for the length of his profession as a federal judicial officer opposite to portion 15 of the Code of Behavior Bureau Act.
“Fallacious declaration of asset, and in particular, concealment of powerful and declarable sources within the create of sundry bank accounts and the balances therein, opposite to portion 15 of the Code of Behavior Bureau Act.
“Consequent to this records, it’s a ways our expectation and quiz that you simply need to per chance discharge the constitutional responsibility of your dwelling of job and decide the important upright actions to uphold and set up into designate the legislation in this topic by attractive sister businesses corresponding to:
“The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to behavior comprehensive statistical diagnosis of cash transactions for your complete accounts for cases of suspicious transactions.
“The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to resolve whether or now not Current Chartered Financial institution has now not breached statutory duties to the Nigerian Issue in favour of, or in connivance with, His Lordship on Suspicious Transactions Reporting (STR).
“The Earnings Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Price (RMAFC), the Supreme Court of Nigeria and the National Judicial Council (NJC) to resolve whether or now not the disclosed financial transactions are justified by His Lordship’s upright remuneration.
“As typical citizens, motivated by a obvious belief that there ought to be excessive requirements in public lifestyles, we gain acted to direct a possible criminal breach of our rules. We give it some idea is now your responsibility to act, and to hold out so promptly”.
Whereas Nigerians stay up for President Muhammadu Buhari’s roam on the investigative portray of the NJC on the topic, which used to be transmitted to him on April 4, one immutable truth stays that the rest has now not been heard on ‘Onnoghengate’.
Sadly for the petitioner, the CCT and the FG, the clumsiness of the pursuit to catch Onnoghen out of build aside of job and catch him convicted, on occasion tended to forged a pall on the full route of. Whatever the crimes of Walter Onnoghen, the legislation wished to pick out it route. For now, it has.