The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has convicted Walter Onnoghen, the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, of falsely declaring his assets as a public officer.
Danladi Umar, the CCT Chairman, pronounced the guilty verdict while delivering the lead judgment at the tribunal’s chambers in Abuja on Thursday.
Justice Umar ordered that Justice Onnoghen be immediately removed as the country’s CJN, as well as the head of the National Judicial Council (NJC) and the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC).
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The tribunal also banned Justice Onnoghen from holding any public position in the country for 10 years.
The Federal government, through the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), had arraigned the former CJN before the CCT on a six-count charge for failing to properly declare his assets, particularly the monies domiciled in three domiciliary accounts and two Naira-denominated bank accounts.
Usman Mohammed, an investigator attached to the CCT, in a statement attached to the charge sheet said all the accounts are active and bore the name of the former Supreme Court judge.
“That the respondent (Onnoghen) also operates three domiciliary and two naira accounts with Standard Chartered Bank Limited with the following particulars.
“Domiciliary account number: 870001062650 bearing the name Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen.
“Domiciliary account number: 9300106268bearing the name Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen
“Domiciliary account number: 285001062679 bearing the name Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen
“Domiciliary account number: 5001062683 bearing the name Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen
“Domiciliary account number: 0100010626667 bearing the name Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen,” the statement of the witness partly read.
Mohammed also noted that Justice Onnoghen failed to declare his assets since he was elevated as a Justice of the Supreme Court in 2005 until the recommendation as CJN by the National Judicial Council and his subsequent appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2016.
The statement read: “That in 2016 declarations, the five domiciliary accounts were omitted. We proceeded to request the account details from Standard Chartered Bank Limited.
“The bank undertook to provide us with the opening form and provided us with statements of accounts.
“Investigations have been concluded and the facts revealed indict the defendant and consequently the file has been forwarded to the department of legal services for further necessary action.”
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But the country’s former topmost jurist, who hails from Cross River State, had challenged the trial, saying that the tribunal lacked the jurisdiction to hear the case.
However, in delivering judgment on Thursday, Justice Umar dismissed Justice Onnoghen’s claim that the CCT had no jurisdiction to hear the case.
According to the CCT Chairman, the defendant was not being tried as a judicial officer but as a public officer in the country.
Justice Umar also ruled that he could not disqualify himself from the case, contrary to the prayers of the former CJN.
The CCT Chairman said: “Without the chairman, there is no CCT.”
He then went on to deliver the judgment of the tribunal.
“The defendant is hereby removed from office as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Chairman of the National Judicial Council and the Chairman of the Federal Judicial Service Commission,” Justice Umar ruled.
The CCT also ruled that Justice Onnoghen must forfeit all the monies in the five accounts which he failed to declare, as well as not hold any public office for the next 10 years.
“The defendant is hereby banned from holding public office for 10 years.”
“The money in the five accounts which the defendant has failed to declare and disclose its source is hereby confiscated, seized and forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria as the money was acquired illegally and the defendant has failed to adduce any evidence how he acquired the money,” the CCT ruled.