Fresh evidence reveals that charges against the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, was filed before the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) concluded investigation on the allegation that he falsely declared his assets.
A senior investigative officer of the CCB, James Akpala, who is the star prosecution witness, made this confession on Monday before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, where the embattled CJN is answering to a six-count charge that was preferred against him by the Federal Government.
Recall that the FG had insisted that it was the CCB that okayed Onnoghen’s trial based on certain infractions that were discovered in his asset declaration forms.
Aside allegation that he failed to declare his assets as prescribed by the law, FG had in the charge marked CCT/ABJ/01/19, FG, alleged that Onnoghen operated five foreign bank accounts, contrary to section 15(2) of Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.
The Dalandi Umar-led tribunal had in a bench ruling on March 11, granted FG the nod to call witnesses and tender evidence against the defendant who was suspended from office by President Muhammadu Buhari on January 25.
At the resumed proceeding on Monday, the prosecution, presented Mr. Akpala as its first witness.
Led in evidence by FG’s lawyer, Aliyu Umar, SAN, the PW-1, told the tribunal that he was a member of a three-man team of investigators that uncovered alleged infractions in asset declaration forms the defendant submitted before the CCB.
The witness, tendered in evidence, six sets of documents that included a copy of the petition he said led to Onnoghen’s trial, as well as his bank account details.
FG equally tendered through him, two asset declaration forms the suspended CJN submitted in 2014 and 2015. The petition dated January 7, 2019, which was sent to the CCB by a civil society group under the aegis of Anti-Corruption and Research-Based Data Initiative, was admitted in evidence as Exhibit 1.
Meanwhile, before the asset declaration forms were admitted, Onnoghen, through his lawyer, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, had alleged that it had been tampered with.
Onnoghen insisted that the Form 001 he filled in 2014 and 2015, were no longer the way he submitted it to the CCB.
He queried why the hitherto bound documents appeared “in loose form” before the tribunal, alleging that it was tampered with, with some of the pages missing.
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”, he added.