The Code of Conduct Bureau has slammed corruption charges against the Chief Justice of Nigeria at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, court documents showed.
Walter Onnoghen became the Chief Justice in March 2017, less than six months after the homes of several federal judges, including those of the Supreme Court, were searched in an anti-corruption raid.
On January 10, the Nigerian government filed charges against the head of the country’s judicial arm, accusing him of asset declaration offences.
The government said it was only in 2016 after the controversial crackdown on judges that Mr Onnoghen partially declared his asset, but still failed to declare a series of bank accounts, denominated in local and foreign currencies, linked to him at a Standard Chartered Bank branch in Abuja.
The government consequently filed six charges of non and fraudulent declaration of assets by Mr Onnoghen, with trial expected to commence on January 14 at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
The CCT said in a separate statement Saturday afternoon that trial would commence on Monday at the premises of the Federal Capital Territory High Court in Jabi, commercial neighbourhood in Abuja.
A spokesperson for the Supreme Court did not immediately return requests for comments Saturday afternoon.
The trial could further strain relations between the judicial and the executive arms of the federal government, which had been largely tense since the raid on federal judges’s homes in October 2016.
Two judges of the Supreme Court were amongst those whose houses were raided. They were charged for corruption, but none of them has been found guilty of wrongdoing.
PREMIUM TIMES obtained copies of the January 10 charges on Saturday.
The charges appeared to have been triggered by a group.
The group, the Anti-corruption and Research based Data Initiative, had sent the petition below against the CJN to PREMIUM TIMES.
The complaints were sent to the Code of Conduct Bureau and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission
PETITION ON SUSPECTED FINANCIAL CRIMES AND BREACHES OF THE CODE OF CONDUCT BUREAU REQUIREMENTS AGAINST HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE W. S. NKANU ONNOGHEN, GCON, THE CHIEF JUSTICE OF NIGERIA
We write to bring to your attention serious concerns bothering on flagrant violations of the law and the Constitution of Nigeria by the Honourable Mr. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Specifically, we are distressed that facts on the ground indicate the leader of our country’s judicial branch is embroiled in suspected financial crimes and breaches of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.
The particulars of our findings indicate that:
His Lordship Justice Walter Onnoghen is the owner of sundry accounts primarily funded through cash deposits made by himself, up to as recently as 10th August 2016 which appear to have been run in a manner inconsistent with financial transparency and the code of conduct for public officials.
To give specific examples, here are some instances of cash deposits by Justice Onnoghen:
Justice Onnoghen made five different cash deposits of $10,000 each on 8th March 2011 into Standard Chartered Bank Account 1062650;
On 7th June 2011, two separate cash deposits of $5000 each were made by Justice Walter Onnoghen, followed by four cash deposits of $10,000 each;
On 27th June 2011, Justice Onnoghen made another set of five separate cash deposits of $10,000 each and made four more cash deposits of $10,000 each on the following day, 28th June 2011;
Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen did not declare his assets immediately after taking office, contrary to Section 15 (1) of Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act;
Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen did not comply with the constitutional requirement for public servants to declare their assets every four years during their career;
The Code of Conduct Bureau Forms (Form CCB 1) of Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen for 2014 and 2016 were dated and filed on the same day. The acknowledgement slip for Declarant SCN: 000014 was issued on 14th December 2016. The acknowledgement slip for Declarant SCN: 000015 was also issued on 14th December 2016, at which point Justice Onnoghen had become the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
The affidavit for SCN: 000014 was sworn to on 14th December 2016;
The affidavit for SCN: 000015 was sworn to on 14th December 2016;
Both forms were received on 14th December 2016 by one Awwal Usman Yakasai.
The discrepancy between Justice Walter Onnoghen’s two CCB forms that were filed on the same day is significant.
In filling the section on Details of Assets, particularly Cash, in Nigerian Banks, His Lordship as Declarant SCN: 000014 mentioned only two bank accounts:
Union Bank account number 0021464934 in Abuja, with balance of N9,536,407, as at 14th November 2014.
Union Bank account number 0012783291 in Calabar, with balance of N11, 456,311 as at 14th November 2014.
The sources of the funds in these accounts are stated as salaries, estacodes and allowances.
As Declarant SCN: 000015 His Lordship however lists seven bank accounts:
Standard Chartered account 00001062667, with balance of N3,221,807.05 as at 14th November 2016.
Standard Chartered account 00001062650, with balance of $164,804.82, as at 14th November 2016.
Standard Chartered account 5001062686, with balance of EUROS 55,154.56, as at 14th November 2016.
Standard Chartered Bank account 5001062679 with balance of GBP108,352.2, as at 14th November 2016.
Standard Chartered Bank account 5001062693 with balance of N8,131,195.27, as at 14th November 2016.
Union Bank account 00021464934 with balance of N23,261,568.89, as at 14th November 2016.
Union Bank account 0012783291 with balance of N14,695,029.12, as at 14th November 2016.
The foreign currency Standard Chartered Bank accounts that were declared by Declarant SCN: 000015 have been in existence since at least 2011.
Prior to 2016, His Lordship appears to have suppressed or otherwise concealed the existence of these multiple domiciliary accounts owned by him, as well as the substantial cash balances in them.
The Standard Chartered Bank dollar account 1062650 had a balance of $391,401.28 on 31st January 2011;
The Standard Chartered Bank Euro account 5001062686 had a balance of EURO 49,971.71 on 31st January 2011;
The Standard Chartered Bank pound sterling account 5001062679 had a balance of GBP23,409.66 on 28th February 2011.
It is curious that these domiciliary accounts were not declared in one of the two CCB Forms filed by Justice Onnoghen on the same day, 14th December 2016.
The Naira bank accounts in b (i) and b (v) above are also omitted in the CCB form of Declarant SCN: 000014.
It is our humble view that, with the foregoing, we have laid before you facts which support the assertion that Justice Walter Onnoghen may have committed a breach of the provisions of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act as follows:
Non-declaration of assets immediately after taking office in several capacities prior to becoming the Chief Justice of Nigeria contrary to section 15 of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act;
Non-declaration of assets immediately after taking office as the Chief Justice of Nigeria contrary to section 15 of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act;
55Non-declaration of assets at the statutory intervals after taking office throughout his career as a federal judicial officer contrary to section 15 of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act;
False declaration of asset, and in particular, concealment of significant and declarable assets in the form of sundry bank accounts and the balances therein, contrary to section 15 of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act;
Consequent to this information, it is our expectation and request that you will discharge the constitutional duty of your office and take the necessary lawful actions to uphold and enforce the law in this matter by involving sister agencies such as:
The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to conduct comprehensive statistical analysis of cash transactions on all the accounts for cases of suspicious transactions.
The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to determine whether Standard Chartered Bank has not breached statutory duties to the Nigerian State in favour of, or in connivance with, His Lordship on Suspicious Transactions Reporting (STR).
The Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), the Supreme Court of Nigeria and the National Judicial Council (NJC) to determine whether the disclosed financial transactions are justified by His Lordship’s lawful remuneration.
As ordinary citizens, motivated by a clear belief that there must be high standards in public life, we have acted to expose a possible criminal breach of our laws. We believe it is now your duty to act, and to do so promptly.