…As FG calls witness, tenders evidence
The suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, on Monday at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) said his Assets Declaration Form 001 at the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) had been tampered with.
Onnoghen, in a six-count charge marked CCT/ABJ/01/19, is standing trial for failing to declare his assets as prescribed by the law, and for operating five foreign bank accounts, contrary to section 15(2) of Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.
Objecting however, Onnoghen had queried the validity of the six-count charge against him, contending that FG failed to respect established judicial precedents by not allowing the NJC to firstly investigate the allegation against him, before it rushed the matter to the CCT.
Meanwhile, at the resumed trial, Onnoghen made an allegation that his CCB assets declaration forms of 2014 and 2015 were tampered with.
The prosecution after calling its 1st witness, James Akalla, a Senior Investigative Officer with the CCB, had sought to tender the said documents in support of his evidence against Onnoghen.
However when the documents were shown to the defendant, Onnoghen through his counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo SAN, said a careful look at the documents showed that they had been tampered with.
According to him, the 2014 form has become loose; part of it mutilated and has become blue in a way.
Awomolo said a similar observation was made in the 2015 form with some duplications and omission of some pages.
Nevertheless, Awomolo said he would raise his client’s objection to the admissibility of the documents, in his final written address.
“We have some reservation on the documents, we will not object in the interest of justice but we have reservations that would be addressed at the end of the day”, the senior lawyer stated.
Earlier, Apala, who was led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, told the tribunal that: “On January 9, 2019, I was in my office at the Code of Conduct Bureau that morning when I received a call from my superior, Samuel Madojemu, who happens to be a member of the (investigation) team.
“He directed that I investigate a petition. Having done the required processes routine investigation case file was opened and investigation plan was drawn.
“The petition was authored by Chief Dennis Aghanya of the Anti-Corruption and Research-Based Data Initiative, alleging breach of Code of Conduct for Public Officers, including non-declaration of assets and false declaration of assets, against the Hon. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, GCON, the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“Thereafter, the team wrote to the Federal Political Officers Unit (of the bureau), Asokoro, requesting the defendant’s asset declarations received from 2000 to 2009.
“The department responded. The two asset declaration forms were examined and filed in the case file”, he added.
“Having done the required processes, a case file was opened and investigation plan drawn.
“The team includes Abu Simeon, deputy Director of Investigation and Monitoring, Samuel Madujumu, Assistant Director, Intelligence, Investigation and Monitoring and myself, James Akpalla.
“The petitioner was invited and his statement was recorded.
“Then, on January 10, having examined the forms, the team wrote to the Standard Chartered Bank Ltd, requesting for the defendant’s statement of account, account opening document and certificate of identification. The bank responded.
“During examination, the team realised that the account opening package were incomplete. So, the team notified the account officer, Ifeoma Okagbue.
“She came on March 6, with the complete account opening package. And her statement was recorded.
“On the same day, the team visited the defendant, Onnoghen’s office in the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Abuja.
“We met his Secretary who ushered us inside his office after introduction.
“We introduced ourselves and the Deputy Director, Abu Simeon, explained the purpose of our visitation and, handed over to the defendant an introduction letter signed by the CCB chairman, Prof. Mohammed Isah.
“We explained the petition to the defendant and handed over to him a copy of the petition. He gave an oral explanation and later put it in writing which he signed and counter-signed by his Secretary as Witness”.
Also, prosecution counsel Aliyu showed the documents to the witness for recognition and confirmation which he subsequently identified and admitted to be same before the court.
Awomolo also challenged the documents from the Standard Chartered Bank, saying the Witness was not the appropriate person to tender the two bank statements because he was neither the maker nor signatory to the documents.
He added that it was the account officer Ifeoma Okagbue who has the right to tender such documents.
He also affirmed that the witness couldn’t be cross-examined on the said documents and that if he has any role, at all, it was to tender it and, nothing more.
Under cross-examination by the defence counsel, the Witness said, “I have no idea if CCB has central register for all submitted asset declaration forms from 1993 to date.”