Mr. Aliyu Umar (SAN), the lead prosecutor in the trial of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, said yesterday that the Federal Government did not table allegations of undeclared $3million against Onnoghen before the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
He also said all the six charges against Onnoghen made no references to 55 houses.
Government, he said, only accused Onnoghen of breaching the Code of Conduct Act with his failure to declare and disclose five Standard Chartered Bank’s Statement of Accounts in his Asset Declaration Form.
He said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) wrote a separate petition to the National Judicial Council (NJC) on some accounts and issues on inflows into Onnoghen’s accounts.
The Nation gathered yesterday that the EFCC had quizzed the driver to the CJN, Mr. Emmanuel Essien as part of its ongoing probe.
Essien was released after his interrogation by the operatives of the anti-graft commission.
Umar, who spoke exclusively with our correspondent, said: “There is a lot of falsehood in the public space which I need to correct. The government did not file complaints bordering on $3million and 55 houses against Onnoghen before the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
“I am aware that the EFCC wrote a separate petition to the NJC on some alleged infractions, including the accumulated $3million in Onnoghen’s accounts but those allegations are not before the CCT. The NJC is handling this matter separately.
“There is a deliberate attempt to mislead the public by using the proceedings at the tribunal to address the petition before the NJC. They are even alleging that the prosecution could not prove its case. There was a distortion of the proceedings of the tribunal to fit a propaganda focus.
“The case before the tribunal is just about failure to declare five accounts and alleged violation of the Code of Conduct Act. The same figures being twisted in the public space were the exhibits presented to the tribunal by the prosecution to prove its case against Onnoghen.
“The Exhibits the government presented to the tribunal were as follows:
- CCB4o, CCB4p, CCB4q for Onnoghen’s Euro Account No. 93001062686 with NUBAN No. 5001062686 with a balance of $10, 187.18(USD) as at 11th January 2019.
- CCB4r, CCB4s, CCB4t and CCB4u for Onnoghen’s Pound Sterling Account No. 285001062679 with NUBAN No. 5001062679 with a balance of £13, 730.70 as at 11th January 2019.
- CCB4v, CCB4w, CCB4x, CCB4y and CCB4z, CCB4za, CCB4zb, CCB4zc, CCB4zd, CCB4ze, CCB4zf for Onnoghen’s Dollar Account No. 0001062650 with a balance of $63, 832.99 USD as at 11th January 2019.
- CCB4zg, CCBzh, CCB4zi, CCB4zj and CCB4zk for Onnoghen’s Naira NUBAN Account No. 0001062667 with a balance of N2, 556, 019. 25 as at 11th January 2019.
- CCB4zl, CCB4zm, CCB4zn, CCB4zo and CCB4zp and CCB4zq, for Onnoghen’s Nigerian Naira NUBAN Account No. 5000162693 with a balance of N12, 852, 580.52 as at 11th January 2019.
“Any Nigerian is free to apply for a copy of the charges against Onnoghen at the CCT and he or she will know that they were explicit.
Quoting from “Further affidavit and Better Affidavit before the tribunal, Umar said: “We submit that there are two important reasons to be observed from this case against the defendant.
“These reasons are as follows: (1) The complainant no doubt is the body responsible for code of conducts of the public servants in Nigeria. (2) That the depositions and exhibits attached to the further affidavit glaringly show that the allegations of breach of code of conduct against the defendant are strong, cogent and compelling.
“We submit that by the strength of the allegations of the breach of Code of Conduct Act, the defendant was alleged to have failed to declare and disclose his five Standard Chartered Bank Statement of Accounts in his Asset Declaration Form of Public Officer Exhibit CCB 3 and Exhibit CCB5 deposed to in paragraphs 5-11 of the Further Affidavit.”
Umar dismissed allegations that the prosecution chickened out by closing its case when it had no fact.
He added: “The prosecution also did not close its case abruptly as being insinuated by some commentators. We listed six witnesses including the petitioner, a staff of Standard Chartered Bank and four from the Code of Conduct Bureau.
“Two staff of the Code of Conduct Bureau testified as PW 1 and PW2 and a staff of the Standard Chartered Bank testified for the prosecution. Those who came for the Code of Conduct Bureau were investigators and at a point during cross-examination, it was the defence which asked one of them that their testimony was likely to be the same.”
Meanwhile, the EFCC has interrogated a driver of the CJN, Mr. Emmanuel Essien.
A source said: “As part of our investigation, we interrogated Essien and released him afterwards. We will still need to interact further with him,” a top source added.
The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) alleged yesterday that Essien was abducted.
The coalition, in a statement by its spokesman, Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, also condemned the interrogation of Essien.
It said: “The CUPP sees this new offensive against Onnoghen as one too many.
“We note that the government, having seen from yesterday’s proceedings at the Code of Conduct Tribunal that the trump up charges filed against him may not fly, has resorted to hunting for evidence to further indict him.
“We reiterate our position that President Muhammadu Buhari is desperate to see Onnoghen resign without any justifiable reasons.”