The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on Thursday ordered the removal of Justice Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and also barred him from holding public office for ten years for contravening the Code of Conduct Bureau laws in asset declaration for public officers.
Onnoghen will in addition forfeit to the federal government various sums of money found in his five bank accounts with the Standard Chartered Bank which he was said to have failed to declare.
Delivering judgement in a six count false asset declaration and non assets declaration brought against Onnoghen, Chairman of the Tribunal, Danlado Yakubu Umar held that the admission by Onnoghen that he forgot to declare the bank accounts in the form CCB001 was a clear contravention if Section 23 of the CCB and CCT Act.
Umar held that the prosecution through the witnesses and exhibits tendered and admitted established beyond reasonable doubt that the convicted CJN was in grave error by his failure to declare the bank accounts as required by law.
By the pronouncement of the Tribunal, Onnoghen us to forfeit to the federal government a sum of N26.8 million, $137, 700 and 13, 730 pounds sterling in his domiciliary account with the Standard Chattered Bank accounts which were said to have been maintained since 2009.
Umar, in the unanimous judgment said that the Tribunal ordered the forfeiture of the various currencies in the accounts because Onnoghen for not disclose the source of the money through out the trial.
The federal government had, in January 10, 2019 filed a six-count charge bordering on false declaration of assets against Onnoghen and called three witnesses to establish its case against the convicted defendants.
Umar, in the judgment over ruled the claim of Onnoghen that he could not be tried by the Tribunal on the account of his being a serving judicial officer, who’s misconduct, if any can only be investigated by the National Judicial Council (NJC) and also has the power to net any punishment on him.
The Tribunal chairman contended that Onnoghen was arraigned before him as a public officer and not as a judicial officer and as such, the Tribunal is not under the obligation of the NJC.
Although, Onnoghen had prayed the chairman of the Tribunal to recuse himself from participating in the proceedings on account of being bias and having issues with the EFCC on the N10 million bribery allegation by one Taiwo Owolabi, Umar however said that he could not step down from the trial because the EFCC has in two separate letters exonerated him from the bribery issue after a thorough investigation.
The CCT boss also said the issue of bias raised by Onnoghen against him was not established as required by law.
“The admission by the defendant in his own handwriting that he forgot to declare the five bank accounts in his asset declaration form CCB001 amounts to a partial confession that the defendant has breached the provision of the CCB/CCT Act as it amounts to refusal to declare assets.”
“In the present case, hard facts have been adduced by the prosecution to establish that the defendant is in crystal clear of breach if the CCB provisions and the prosecution has there for discharged the burden placed on it by law.”
“Having examined the case of the prosecution against the defendant, this Tribunal has come to a conclusion that the defendant falsely declared his assets as is hereby found guilty of contravention of Section 23 of the CCB/CCT Act.”
“It is hereby ordered that the defendant be removed as the Chief Justice of Nigeria and as chairman of the National Judicial Council.”
“He is also barred for ten years from holding public office while the money in the five undeclared bank accounts is hereby seized, confiscated and forfeited to the federal government, having been illegally acquired, since the defendant did not disclose their sources,” Umar said.