- The suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, has said that the federal government owe him an apology
- Onnoghen said that the federal government failed to prove that he is guilty of any offence to warrant his appearing before the tribunal
- The embattled suspended CJN also argued that the federal government lacked evidence that he did not file declaration of asset forms between 2005 and 2016
Walter Onnoghen, the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) on Friday, March 29, said that he deserves an apology from the federal government since, according to him, it has failed to tender any credible evidence before the tribunal to establish that he committed any offence.
The suspended CJN referred to the exhibits presented by the federal government in their suit against him as “hearsay, irrelevant and useless evidence”.
Onnoghen, through legal his team led by Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, based on section 303 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015 claimed that his accusers were unable to establish a prima facie case, Vanguard reports.
He state that while the federal government alleged that he did not declare his assets, “there is no report of investigation before the tribunal to show that this is true”.
Added to this, the embattled justice said that the federal government lacked evidence that he did not file declaration of asset forms between 2005 and 2016.
He argued that the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) did not completely comply with the constitution from which it derived its powers.
The suspended CJN's lead lawyer said: “There is evidence on record that the CCB did not substantially comply with the law. “Even if there was non declaration, there must be verification. That was not done. There is no offence known to the law in this matter.”
He went on to claim that some of the exhibits were irrelevant to the case before the CCT since they were procured by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Based on initial resolve by the tribunal in a similar charge against the Senate president, Bukola Saraki, Onnoghen argued that neither the EFCC nor the Department of State Service (DSS), have a role to play in relation to proceedings before the CCT.
He said that most of the documents tendered through the three witnesses that testified before the tribunal, emanated from the EFCC. Onnoghen said: “It is our submission that this document addressed to EFCC in the tribunal’s proceeding is illegal and your lordship should not countenance an illegal document”.
He drew attention of the panel to the oral testimony of the federal government’s key witness, PW-1, James Akpala who is a senior investigative officer at the CCB, to the effect that the Bureau had a Register were details of public officers that submitted their asset declaration forms were documented.
“Neither the Register nor the Director was brought”, Onnoghen argued, adding that the onus was on the CCB to prove that he did not file his asset declaration forms as required by the law. The defendant has no duty to show that he filed the form.
"It is only when credible evidence is led to the fact that he did not file, that the burden shifts to the defence”, he argued. Onnoghen’s lawyer further maintained that counts 2,3,4,5 and 6 of the charge were invalid as it failed to disclose essential elements of the offence of making false declarations.
“It is mandatory for the prosecution to prove that there is verification of exhibit 1 and 2 (Onnoghen’s Asset Declaration Forms of 2014 and 2016).
“They must show that the forms have been verified by the authority or persons authorized by the CCB “Without verification by the authorised person, there cannot be allegation of false declaration of assets.
“It is not the duty of the prosecutor or the defence to verify, it is the responsibility of the authorised person,” he added.
Onnoghen said that essential elements of offence in each count of the charge must be proved before a prima-facie case can be said to have been established against him.
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His lawyer went on: “The authorised person must have investigated the statement in the declaration form and found that the declaration was false.
“That person or authority must give evidence before the tribunal. In this case, what we have are mere speculation, assumptions and imaginative contrivance. Therefore this tribunal should not compel the defendant to come and defend speculations.
“We urge your lordships to uphold this no- cases submission, discharge and acquit the defendant. Likewise, my lords should direct whoever was responsible for this trial to apologize to the CJN for bringing this shame to the judiciary."
Earlier, Legit.ng reported that the CCT on Friday, March 29, dismissed the no case submission filed by Onnoghen in the ongoing trial over alleged false assets declaration.
The chairman of the CCT, Danladi Umar, held that Justice Onnoghen must enter his defence on Monday, April 1.
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