I made my dollars, pounds through investment returns, practice – Onnoghen



With the controversy around him still raging, suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, has opened up on deposits in his domiciliary accounts.

He said the monies were made from forex trading AGRICODE,   returns from proceeds of his investments into them, and also from his legal practice as a lawyer.

Amidst all this, the Code of Conduct Trial adjourned yesterday to resume trial into the CJN’s case on February 4.

Justice Onnoghen was dragged to the CCT for failing to declare some of his assets, including some dollar, pounds and euro accounts, as expected of serving public officers.

He failed to appear at the two hearing sessions when the matter was called at the tribunal, as his defence team submitted that he was not properly served and that the CCT also lacked jurisdiction to try he matter.

Sources of funds

But Onnoghen, in a voluntary statement he made at Department of Intelligence Investigation and Monitoring, Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), Abuja, explained how he made the monies in dispute.

The document titled ‘Cautionary Statement Form’ dated January 1 and obtained by Blueprint, quoted the jurist as saying “the deposits made in my US Dollar account No. 87000106250 with STD, Chartered Bank of $10,000 at different intervals of 28/6/11 were sourced partly from my reserve and saving from my estacodes including medical expenses. The same applies to my deposit of 27/7/11 of the sum of $10,000 twice.

“It is important to state that prior to my opening the US dollar account, I had foreign currency which I kept at home due to the fact that there existed a government that proscribed the operation of foreign currency account by public officers, including judicial officers.

“It was when I got to know that the policy had changed that I had to open the said account. Upon opening the account, I was made to understand that I cannot pay in more than $10,000 at a time and per payment slip. I cannot remember the total amount I had on reserve at the time, but it spread from my practice days as a private legal practitioner from 1979 –1989.

“Some of the deposits are as a result of forex trading AGRICODE and other investment returns from where proceeds of my investments go into them. The withdrawals in the account are partly to pay children fees and upkeep abroad and further investments. My British pound and euro accounts with Chartered Standard Bank are savings accounts.”

The suspended jurist wrote his statement on January 11, 2019 between the hours of 12:30 pm and 1: 45pm on the document dated January 1, 2019.

 “I Walter S. N. Onnoghen of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, hereby voluntarily depose to the statement averred herein knowing that whatever I write or state may be tendered against me as evidence in court. I also volunteer to state that the statement was not taken in evidence from me under duress but after the administering officer has explained and made known the details of the allegations against me.”

On non- declaration of his assets, he said: “My Asset Declaration for Nos. SCN000014 and SCN.0000 5 were declared on the same day, 14th December, 2016, because I forgot to make a declaration of May, 2005 declaration of my assets after the expiration of my 2005 declaration in 2009.

“Following my appointment as acting Chief Justice of Nigeria in November, 2016, the need to declare my asset anew made me to realise the mistake and then did the declarations to cover the period in default.

“I did not include my Standard Chartered Bank Account in SCN. 000014 because I believed they were not opened during the period covered by the declaration; I did not make a fresh declaration of the asset after my substantive appointment as CJN because I was under the impression that my SCN. 000015 was to cover the period of four years which include my leave as CJN.

“The deposits made in my US dollar account No. 87000106250 with STD Chartered Bank of $10,000 at different intervals of 28/6/11 were sourced partly from my reserve and saving from my estacodes including medical expenses. The same applies to my deposit of 27/7/11 of the sum of $10,000 twice.

“It is important to state that prior to my opening the US dollar account, I had foreign currency which I kept at home due to the fact that there existed a government that proscribed the operation of foreign currency account by public officers, including judicial officers.

“It was when I got to know that the policy had changed that I had to open the said account. Upon opening the account, I was made to understand that I cannot pay in more than $10,000 at a time and per payment slip. I cannot remember the total amount I had on reserve at the time, but it spread from my practice days as a private legal practitioner from 1979-1989.

“Some of the deposits are a result of forex trading AGRICODE and other investment returns were from proceeds of my investments into them. The withdrawals in the account are partly to pay children fees and upkeep abroad and further investments. My British pound and euro accounts with Chartered Standard Bank are savings accounts.”

CCT trial resumes

And with the Court of Appeal order Wednesday asking the embattled CJN to face his trial, the CCT chaired by Dandali Umar, yesterday said it will carry on with the case on February 4.

“Following Court of Appeal ruling yesterday on the trial against Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Onnoghen Nkanu Walter, on alleged non-declaration of asset before Code of Conduct Tribunal is hereby fixed for Monday, 4th of February, 2019.

“The decision was reached today sequel to a correspondence from Code of Conduct Bureau, applying for the resumption of trial of the case captioned; Application for resumption of trial of the case of FRN V. Hon. Justice Onnoghen Nkanu Walter Samuel case No: CCT/ABJ/01/19, addressed to Hon. Chairman Code of Conduct Tribunal, dated 30th January, 2019, jointly signed by Musa Ibrahim Usman (Esq) and Fatima Danjuma Ali (Esq.).” 

The request reads in part: “The above subject refers. This case came up for hearing of preliminary objection to the jurisdiction of the Tribunal on the 28th of January, 2019 but the Tribunal could not proceed due to the pendency of the case at the Court of Appeal,” the statement said, quoting the communication from the CCB.

It added that the latest request by the bureau is therefore in response to the recent ruling by the Court of Appeal.

We‘re vindicated –APC

Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) said the decision of the Court of Appeal to okay the trial of Justice Onnoghen has vindicated his suspension from office by President Muhammadu Buhari. 

In a statement yesterday, APC National Publicity Secretary Malam Lanre Issa-Onilu said the party had insisted that the rule of law be upheld and allowed to thrive while Justice Onnoghen submit himself to the law.

The party said: “The Appeal Court ruling has further advertised the credentials of President Buhari as an unrepentant believer in the rule of law, due process and justice.

Contrary to claims by the opposition and a section of the Nigerian Bar Association that the suspended CJN is a victim of persecution and that the law is not being followed in his arraignment, the Appeal Court has now confirmed that Onnoghen’s trial at the CCT is indeed within the confines of the law. His suspension is therefore not prejudice as being painted in some quarters since it was based on an order lawfully issued by the CCT.

“The suspended CJN had adjudicated on many cases where he ruled that only the CCT is exclusively empowered to entertain cases on asset declaration. It may be tempting for a weak and self-serving leader to ignore these legal precedents, but not President Buhari. He is ever truthful, fearless, fair and just and a stickler to rules.

“The APC is calling on the opposition to subject their criticisms to constitutional tests before polluting the public space with remarks, largely a product of political experience capable of bringing an incorruptible president to opprobrium. Issues of law cannot thrive where emotions and sentiment are the driving force,” Onilu stated.

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