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FG Closes Case Against Ex-CJN, Onnoghen

The Federal Government on Thursday closed its case of false and non-declaration of charges preferred against the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

Although, the prosecution led by Mr. Aliyu Umar (SAN) had proposed to call six witnesses to prove its case against the defendant; it closed its case after calling three of them.

Umar announced his decision to close the prosecution’s case after the third witness, Ifeoma Okeagbue, an official of Standard Chartered Bank, concluded her testimony yesterday.

Okaegbue, in her evidence in chief, told the tribunal that Onnoghen maintains five different accounts with her bank in Abuja.

According to her, two of the accounts are naira accounts, one saving and the other current, while the remaining three in pounds, dollars and euro.

She disclosed that as at December 2018, one of the naira accounts had N2.6 million, while the other has N12.8 million, the euro account as at December 2018 had €10,187, the pounds Sterling accounts as at December 2018, had £13,730 and the dollar account as at January 2019 had $56,878.

The witness said she met the defendant once in 2015 as a Relationship Manager.

Under cross examination by Onnoghen’s lawyer, Okagbue said that the five accounts are domiciled in the Wuse branch in Abuja and that Onnoghen never made any foreign transfer from the accounts.

She also confirmed that the five accounts have one Bank Verification Number (BVN). The witness however admitted that Onnoghen has a facility of $500,000 as at January 2019 with the bank secured by his investment in bonds and other investment.

She further admitted that Onnoghen as a disciplined account holder was encouraged by the bank to invest in profit yielding investment and that interest in the investment are regularly credited to his account, adding that the bank made investment on Onnoghen’s behalf from his account.

Earlier, the second prosecution witness, Awal Yakassai, under cross examination, admitted that two assets declaration forms submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) by Onnoghen three years ago have till date not been verified.

Yakassai, a retired director of the CCB, when his attention was drawn to the column for remarks, admitted that no comment was made on the verification column indicating that the forms have not been verified.

Answering a question, Yakassai further confirmed from the forms that Onnoghen has only five houses contrary to allegation of 55. One of the houses was said to have been sold to him by the federal government.

The prosecuting counsel said he had chosen to offer to the defence team the rest of his proposed witnesses, three of them, who were not called by the prosecution. But the lead defence counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), rejected the offer.

He then sought the permission of the three -man bench led by its Chairman, Danladi Umar, to consult with the defendant who was seated in the dock.

After a brief interaction with the suspended CJN, Awomolo announced that Onnoghen had opted to file a no- case submission, implying that the defence will contend that the prosecution has failed to make a case against the defendant and there will not be any need for the suspended CJN to enter his defence.

Shortly after the prosecution announced the closure of its case, Awomolo informed the tribunal of its intention to invoke section 303 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015.

He pleaded with the tribunal to allow him prepare a written address and urged the chairman to order the registry to make record of proceedings available to him to guide him in the written address.

The prosecution did not object to the application, prompting the tribunal chairman, Danladi Umar, to make an order on the registry to avail parties in the matter with the record of proceedings.

He also ordered that the record must be made available to the parties on Monday and adjourned hearing in the No- case submission to March 29.

Culled from Nigerian pilot newspaper.

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