…moves to file no case submission
CCB: CJN has 5 houses, not 55
The suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen yesterday told the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) sitting in Abuja that he will file a no case submission to the six-count criminal charge slammed on him by the Federal Government. A no submission case as provided by Section 303, Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) is filed by a defendant to show the court that the prosecution has not established any prima facie case or link him with the charge in question. Onnoghen made his intention known through his lead counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) after the prosecution counsel, Aliyu Umar, closed his case after calling three witnesses, out of six witnesses listed. Aliyu had, after the evidence of Prosecution Witness 3, informed the tribunal that he listed six witnesses, but he would want to ask the defence team whether they would want the remaining three witnesses to appear at the tribunal.
Awomolo, however, responded that he does not need the three remaining witnesses, after which he prayed the tribunal for records of proceedings to enable him file the no case submission. The tribunal consequently mandated the registry of the court to provide records of proceeding to the parties, latest by March 25 The tribunal later adjourned till March 29 for the defendant to argue his no case submission. Earlier, the prosecution had called his PW 2, a retired Director at the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), Mr. Awal Yakassai, to testify in the on-going trial. Yakassai told the tribunal that contrary to what was alleged in the media, the suspended CJN owned only five houses.
He, however, stated that it was not true that CCB investigators linked the ownership of 55 houses to the defendant. The witness made the disclosure after he was shown copies of Justice Onnoghen’s asset declaration forms, which the Federal Government tendered in evidence before the CCT. Onnoghen was said to have submitted the forms marked as Exhibits 2 and 3, to the CCB in 2014 and 2015. Answering questions under cross-examination, the PW 2, told the tribunal that he served at the CCB for 29 years before he retired in April 2018.
He added that the CCB was yet to verify Justice Onnoghen’s assets with a view to finding out if he made false declarations or not. Holding the two documents in his hand while responding to a question from the defence counsel, the witness said: “My lord, according to exhibits 2 and 3, the defendant has only five buildings and not 55.” Awomolo, however, noted that one of the five buildings was given to the defendant by the Federal Government. The witness also told the tribunal that verification columns on Onnoghen’s two asset declaration forms were still empty. “As indicated here, the column for verified assets have not been signed as at today,” he stated. He further stated that it was standard practice at the CCB that returned asset declaration forms must pass through three stages of verification. “My lord, we have three stages of verification, the first is at the time of submission of forms, the second is what we call conference verification whereby we invite the person. And the third is physical verification of the assets. “Until these three stages are completed, we cannot say that the assets have been verified.” Meanwhile, Prosecution Witness 3, an official of Standard Chartered Bank, Ifeoma Okeagbue, yesterday gave details of the balances on the five different accounts of Onnoghen. Okeagbue, who is Team Leader, Priority Banking, as well as Onnoghen’s Relationship Manager at the branch of the bank in Wuse II, Abuja, said all the bank accounts were still active. Okeagbue, while being led in evidence in chief by the Prosecution Counsel, Aliyu Umar (SAN), said the five accounts were opened separately between 2009 and 2010, in euro, pound, dollar and naira denominations.
The witness said the euro and the pounds accounts were savings, the dollar account was current, while the two other accounts were in naira denominations, with one being savings account and the other current. Reading from the statements of the accounts earlier admitted as exhibits, Okeagbue said: “On the account 5001062686, the opening balance in January 2018 was €30,178.58. As at December 2018, the balance was €10,187.18. “On account 5001062693, at January 2018, it was with opening balance of N6,411,312.77. “At December 2018, the balance was N12,852,580.52. On account 5001062679, the opening balance as at January 2018 was £39,456.08 and by December 2018 the balance was £13,730.70. “On account 0001062667, the opening balance as at January 2018 was N24,280,904 and as at December 2018, the balance was N2,656,019.21. “On account 0001062650, as of January 2018, the opening balance was $80,824.25, and by January 2019, the balance was $56,878.” However, under cross-examination, PW 3 admitted that she was not the originator of Onnoghen’ opening accounts details and statement of accounts, but rather the duo of Oluwakemi Ajuwape and Abakalam Solomon. She equally admitted that from her analysis, the defendant did not have any single currency denomination amounting to one million. She added that the defendant has a $500,000 facility given by the bank, in which he used FG bonds as collateral. The witness also admitted that the bank encouraged the defendant to invest in profit yielding investment and that the interest from the investment is regularly credited into his accounts. In addition, the witness admitted that from the statement of account, it does not show anywhere that the defendant made any transfer for the purchase of a pleasure car, and that rather what was revealed from the statement of account was that transfer was made for investment. She also admitted that it was the bank that made investment on behalf of the defendant on his credit.
Earlier, Chairman of the CCB, Danladi Umar, had threatened to summarily award 28 years jail term to journalists that misrepresent proceedings on the CJN’s trial. Umar, who said he was displeased about “the distortion and misrepresentation” of what transpired at the tribunal last Monday by a section of the media, warned that he would, henceforth, wield his powers against journalists. “Henceforth, any journalist carrying concocted or discredited statement which is not adduced before this tribunal, I will not hesitate to bring the full weight of the law heavily on the person.
“The journalist will languish there and may remain there (in prison) until I retire about 28 years from now. “The person will be summarily sent to prison because that is contempt. “It does not matter whether the contempt is committed in facie curiae (before the court) or ex facie curiae (outside the court)