The suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, was finally on Thursday, April 18, convicted of false and non-declaration of assets.
The embattled ex-CJN had been arraigned by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), following a petition brought against him by a group, the Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative.
Onnoghen was charged on six counts, for allegedly failing to declare some of his accounts in the asset declaration form submitted to the CCB in December, 2016.
According to the charge, Onnoghen also failed to declare his assets after the expiration of his declaration form filled in 2005.
But Onnoghen, who had noted that he forgot to update the form, told the tribunal that he was not guilty of the charges brought against him.
During the proceedings, the defence, in their final arguments, maintained that the prosecution failed to prove the six counts beyond reasonable doubt as required by law and urged the tribunal to dismiss the case.
It added that the charges against Onnoghen were incompetent and unconstitutional as they were based on the provisions of the Code of Conduct Tribunal and Bureau Act which were in conflict with the relevant provisions of the Constitution.
However, Danladi Umar, CCT chairman, found him guilty of the six counts preferred against him by the federal government.
Umar held that the federal government had proved beyond reasonable doubt that Onnoghen breached the code of conduct for public officers.
“The defendant has clearly contravened the code for public officers,” he said.
“The prosecution has discharged the onus placed on it and it has proved its case beyond doubt. The defence has failed to prove that the chairman is biased.”
Thus, he ruled that Onnoghen be removed as CJN and chairman of the NJC and banned from holding public office for 10 years.
The tribunal further ruled that "all monies in the five accounts which were not declared by the defendant be confiscated, seized and forfeited to the federal government as they were all acquired illegally by the defendant."
He said the defence could not prove how Onnoghen legitimately owned the funds found in the five accounts.
Daily Trust highlights the total amount of monies Onnoghen will forfeit in 5 bank accounts:
Domiciliary US Dollar account No. 870001062650 – $56,878* (N20.4m)
Domiciliary Pound Sterling account No.285001062679 – £13,730.70. (N6.42m)
Domiciliary Euro account No. 93001062686 – €10,187.18. (N4.11m)
e-Saver savings (Naira) account No.5001062693 – N12,852,580.52 (12.85m)
Another Naira account No.010001062667 – N2,656,019.21. (N2.65m)
The total amount in Naira is about N46.43m
Daily Trust added that all the balance is as at December, 2018, except the US Dollar account.
According to the newspaper, except the conviction is overturned by appellate court, Onnoghen cannot be pardoned by the president through prerogative of mercy.
Section 23(7) of the CCT/B Act provides that: “The provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, relating to prerogative of mercy, shall not apply to any punishment imposed in accordance with the provisions of this section.”
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Meanwhile, Legit.ng previously reported that Onnoghen's counsel condemned the CCT's ruling on the case of false asset declaration by his client.
Okon Nkanu Efut (SAN) said the CCT’s judgement on the matter is a “complete erosion of fundamental human right to fair hearing.”
Efut said even before hearing from Onnoghen, he was removed as the CJN so easily and speedily without reference to the National Judicial Council (NJC) and the Senate.
“This is not right; it cannot be right. It is unconstitutional,” Efut said.
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