How EFCC’s Probe Led To Onnoghen’s Sudden Resignation

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Strong indications have emerged that the sudden resignation of suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, may not be unconnected with the damning investigation of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which sealed the fate of the head of judicial arm of of government.

Though the embattled Onnoghen is facing trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), the outcome of the EFCC’s investigation has rattled all those who were claiming that the suspended CJN is innocent of allegations leveled against him

Dossier of EFCC against Onnoghen

Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has provided a new dossier of the improprieties committed by Justice Walter Onnoghen, the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, now facing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for false asset declaration.

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The dossier, by way of a “final address” was sent by lawyers to the commission in a letter to the National Judicial Council (NJC) and the shocking details informed the decision of the body on Wednesday to send a yet-to-be disclosed recommendation to President Muhammadu Buhari.

In the dossier prepared by Ekele Iheanacho and Rotimi Oyedepo Iseoluwa, the EFCC catalogued various allegations against Onnoghen, raising questions over the legitimacy of $1,716,000 deposited, over time, into his domiciliary account at Standard Chartered Bank and monies found in other accounts.

“It is clear that these huge sums of money were not earned by the Respondent (Onnoghen) as his salaries and allowances”, the EFCC said in its submission.

The letter cited the transactions between a senior advocate of Nigeria, Joe Agi and Onnoghen, and the contradictory statements made by the duo over a Mercedes Benz 450 worth N7million bought for Onnoghen by Agi in 2009 and a $30,000 deposited into Onnoghen’s account by Agi.

Onnoghen claimed he gave Agi the money to deposit on his behalf. Agi said he could not recall collecting such ‘huge money’ from Onnoghen. Onnoghen claimed he paid for the Mercedes Benz in tranches, Agi claimed he bought the car on Onnoghen’s behalf outright, with cash.

“I will be surprised if the money Onnoghen gave me was up to $30,000.00 as I cannot remember taking $30,000 USD from Justice Onnoghen. $30,000 USD is big money to take at a go,” Agi was quoted to have said in a testimony to the EFCC.

The Commission also listed five senior lawyers who paid ‘pecuniary gifts’ into Onnoghen’s account at various times in 2015.

Here is the full statement by the EFCC to NJC:

BETWEEN: THE ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIMES COMMISSION AND JUSTICE WALTER SAMUEL NKANU ONNOGHEN GCON.

THE PETITIONER’S FINAL ADDRESS IN RESPECT OF PETITION ON FINANCIAL IMPROPRIETY, INFIDELITY TO THE CONSTITUTION AND OTHER ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIMES RELATED LAWS AGAINST HON. JUSTICE WALTER SAMUEL NKANU ONNOGHEN GCON.

INTRODUCTION

My lords, by petition dated the 4th day of February, 2019 signed by the Ag. Executive Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (hereinafter called, petitioner) to the Chairman, National Judicial Council, allegations of FINANCIAL IMPROPRIETY, INFIDELITY TO THE CONSTITUTION AND OTHER ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIMES RELATED LAWS were leveled against the Respondent. See exhibit P10.

Furthermore, my lords, by another letter dated the 5th day of March, 2019, the Petitioner forwarded additional facts and findings to the Chairman of the Council which letter was referred to this Honourable Committee for necessary action. The petitioner adopted this additional facts and finding before this Committee and was admitted and marked exhibit P10A.

My lords, at the hearing of this petition, the petitioner called 7 witnesses and tendered documentary evidence which were admitted and marked as shown in the table below:

S/N      PARTICULARS OF THE EXHIBIT                        EXHIBIT NUMBER

1          RESPONDENT’S ACCOUNT HERITAGE BANKC   P1

2          LETTER FROM HERITAGE BANK DATED 24/10/16 FORWARDING THE STATEMENT OF ACCOUNT OF THE RESPONDENT TO EFCC           P2

3          RESPONDENTS UNION BANK SALARY ACCOUNT          P3

4          RESPONDENT’S STANDARD CHARTERED BANK STATEMENTS OF ACCOUNT –

  1. Naira Account (015001062693) – P4
  2. Naira Account (0100260075400) – P4A

III. GBP Account (2850160075400) – P4B

  1. USD Account (8700260075400) – P4C1 & 4C2
  2. Euro Account (9350160075400) – P4D
  3. Investment Portfolio Statements – P4E

P4-P4E

5          UBA STATEMENT OF ACCOUNT OF NGOZI LAURA        P5

6          INTERNAL MEMO FROM PROTOCOL UNIT SUPREME COURT TO THE CHEIF REGISTRAR DATED 11 Oct. 2018         P6

7          CIRCULAR TO ALL HEADS COURT DATED 28 MAY 2007          P7

8          LETTER FROM THE SUPREME COURT DATED 19TH FEBRUARY, 2019 TO EFCC WITH ATTACHED REGISTERED OF CASH SIGNED FOR AND RECEIVED BY THE RESPONDENT P8

9          FEDERAL TREASURY (CIRCULAR ON E-PAYMENT) DATED 22ND OCTOBER, 2008  P9

10        PETITION DATED 4TH FEBRUARY,2019    P10

11        EFCC LETTTER DATED 5TH MARCH,2019FORWARDING ADDITIONAL FACTS TO NJC LETTER            P10A

12        RESPONDENT’S STATEMENT TO CCB       P11

13        RESPONDENT’S ASSET DECLARATION FORMS   P12

14        SUPREME COURT JUDGMENT (CHIEF I. OHAKIM& ANOR V CHIEF MARTIN AGBASO& ANOR) (2010) NWLR (PT1226) 172 S.C, Suit No. SC3/2010 P13

15        STATEMENT OF JAMES ONOJA, SAN TO EFCC DATED 11TH AND 12TH MARCH 2019          P14 & P 15

16        STATEMENT OF IKPEAZU ONYEACHI, SAN TO EFCC DATED 4TH MARCH 2019       P16

17        Statement of Paul Usoro, SAN to EFCC Dated 4th March, 2019         P17

18        Statement of Emeka Etiaba, SAN to EFCC Dated 4th March, 2019     P18

19        Statement of Joe Agi, SAN to EFCC Dated 6th Feb. 2019       P19

20        Statement of Joe Agi, SAN to EFCC Dated 7th Feb. 2019       P20

21        Statement of Joe Agi, SAN to EFCC Dated 1 March 2019       P21

It is also worthy of note that exhibits P17-P21 were tendered by the Respondent through PW7 Hary Erin, the Investigating Officer of the Petitioner.

My lords, the Respondent called the Acting Director of Finance and Account of the Supreme Court and also testified on his own behalf. In the course of his defence, the Respondent tendered documentary evidence through DW1 and himself. The exhibits are as shown in the table below:

S/N      PARTICULARS OF THE EVIDENCE EXHIBIT NUMBER

1          Financial Regulations of the FRN p.80-81, Rule 1411, 1412 (II) & (III) Dated January 2009 R1

2          Foreign Currency (Domiciliary Accounts) Act Cap 151, LFN 1985    R2

3          Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Decree N0. 17, 1995  R3

4          Judgment of the FCT High Court in Suit No. FCT/HC/CR/21/2016 delivered 2017     R4

5          Judgment of the Court of Appeal in Appeal No. CA/A/371c/2017 delivered 2018     R5

6          Respondent’s response to the first petition dated 4th February, 2019  R6

7          Respondent’s response to EFCC’S Petition dated 19th February, 2019           R7

8          Respondent’s response to EFCC’S ADDITIONAL FACT        R8

9          Wedding Invitation for the Respondent’s Daughter     R9

10        PURPORTED PRINT OUT FROM THE EFCC WEBSITE       R10

ISSUE FOR DETERMINATION

We respectively submit that the sole issue for the determination of this Honourable Committee is whether in view of the evidence adduced by the Petitioner, it can be said that the Respondent has not breached the Code of conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

ARGUMENT ON THE ISSUE

My lords, it is our humble submission that from the evidence on record, it cannot be said that the Respondent has not breached the Code of Conducts for Judicial Officers. My lords by virtue of his appointment as a Judicial Officer, the Respondent has a duty to actively participate in establishing, maintaining, enforcing and observing a high standard of conduct that will ensure and preserve transparently the integrity of the Judiciary. The Respondent is also duty bond, in the performance of his duties to adhere and observe strictly the rules set out in the Code of conduct for Judicial Officer and failure to do so automatically constitutes misconduct. We humbly refer my lords to the Preamble to the Code of Conduct for Judicial

It is must be stated that the Code of Conduct for the Judicial Officers serves as the minimum standard of conduct to be observed by each and every judicial Officers. My lords, this explains why the preamble to the code provides: “therefore, this code of conduct for Judicial Offices of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is hereby adopted to serve as the minimum standard of conduct to be observed by each and every Judicial officer as defined in this code.”

 

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