Onnoghen accuses FG of tampering with asset declaration form
The suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen has alleged that his Assets Declaration Form CCB1 submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) was tampered with by agents of the Federal Government.
Onnoghen made the allegation at his resumed trial on alleged non-declaration of some of his assets before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
The documents he alleged were tampered with are the CCB assets declaration forms of 2014 and 2015.
The prosecution had sought to tender the said documents in support of his evidence against Onnoghen after it called its first witness, James Akpalla, a Senior Investigative Officer with the CCB
However, when the documents were shown to the defendant, Onnoghen through his counsel, Adegboyega Awomolo SAN, told the tribunal that a careful look at the documents showed that they have been tampered with.
According to him, the 2014 form had become loose, with a part of it mutilated and had become blue in a way.
Awomolo said a similar observation was made in the 2015 form with some duplications and omission of some pages.
“We have some reservation on the documents, we will not object in the interest of justice but we have reservations that would be addressed at the end of the day,” Awomolo stated.
Akpalla, in his evidence in chief, had told the tribunal that the CCB on January 10 referred a petition written by the Anti-Corruption and Research Database Initiative to his team for investigation.
The witness said that on the strength of the petition signed by one Dennis Aghanya, who visited Onnoghen in his office at the Supreme Court, during which a cautionary statement was obtained from him while letters were also written to the Standard Chartered Bank for account details of the defendant with the bank.
He further stated that the following day, January 11, 2019, the bank responded prompting the investigating team to conclude their investigation and prepare their report.
Under cross-examination, the witness informed the tribunal that he did not know whether the CCB has a central registry and register where returned assets forms are deposited and registered.
Responding to another question, the witness said the investigation into the petition against Onnoghen was concluded within 24 hours.
But drama started when Awomolo confronted the witness with the charge against Onnoghen, proof of evidence, list of exhibits and witnesses which were all dated January 10, when investigation into the petition had not been completed.
Awomolo confronted the witness who attempted denying the involvement of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the CCB investigation with documents from Standard Chartered Bank addressed to the EFCC but tendered by the witness.
In all, the witness said he was not aware that the charges against Onnoghen was filed before the completion of the investigation and declined comments on the bank’s document addressed to EFCC.
However, two documents from Onnoghen’s bank, his cautionary statement and the two assets declaration forms which he submitted to the CCB were admitted as exhibits by the tribunal.
Prosecution counsel, Aliyu Umar SAN, had asked the court to subpoena the bank official after Awomolo had opposed to the tendering of the bank document on the grounds that since the witness did not author nor sign the document, he cannot tender it as an exhibit before the tribunal.
Meanwhile, hearing on the matter was adjourned till March 21, 2019, when the account officer to Onnoghen already summoned by the tribunal, is expected to appear before the tribunal in relation to the documents submitted to the CCB.
The Nigerian government is suing the CJN over refusal to declare his assets in breach of the provision of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act.
He is also being accused of maintaining domiciliary foreign currencies account which comprised Dollar Account, Pound Sterling Account and Euro Account which are alleged to be contrary to relevant laws, especially for public office holders.