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CCT Trial: FG Closes Case Against Onnoghen



The federal government has closed its case against the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen.

The federal government closed its case after calling just three witnesses that testified before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT.

Federal government had initially expressed its intention to produce a total of six witnesses to substantiate all the allegations it levelled against the embattled CJN.

The CJN intends to move a motion of no case submission on March 29th.

Earlier in the proceeding, the third prosecution witness, PW-3, Mr. Ifeoma Okagbue, a staff of Standard Chartered Bank in Abuja, told the tribunal that it was not true that the defendant possessed either $1million or £1million in any of the five bank accounts that necessitated the charge.

Okagbue who told the tribunal that she started managing Onnoghen’s bank accounts since 2015, gave a load down of both the opening and closing balance of all the accounts from January 2018 to January 2019. She said the accounts were all linked to one Bank Verification Code, BVN, adding that the bank had upon securing an approval from the defendant, diverted funds from the accounts into various profit yielding ventures. The PW-3 told the tribunal that profits that accrued from the investments were credited back into the accounts. While two of the accounts are in Naira, the three others were Pounds Sterling, Euro and Dollar accounts. The witness told the tribunal that all the accounts were domiciliary, and were opened and managed at the branch of the bank in Wuse 2, Abuja.

Also yesterday, a retired Director at the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, Mr Awal Yakassai, was called upon to testify as the second prosecution witness, PW-2.

Onnoghen, is facing trial over his alleged failure to declare his assets.

The witness told the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, Mr Danladi Umar, that contrary to what was alleged in the media, he said the suspended CJN owned only five houses.

Also yesterday, the tribunal threatened to sentence any journalist who misrepresent proceedings at the tribunal.

He was reacting to the report of some media houses (LEADERSHIP not inclusive) on the proceeding.

The witness said it was not true that CCB investigators linked the ownership of 55 houses to the defendant.

He made the disclosure after he was shown copies of Justice Onnoghen’s asset declaration forms, which the federal government tendered in evidence before the CCT.

The embattled CJN was said to have submitted the forms marked as Exhibit 2 and 3, to the CCB in 2014 and 2015.

Answering questions under cross-examination, the PW-2, told the tribunal that he served at the CCB for 29 years before he retired in April 2018.

He said the CCB was yet to verify Justice Onnoghen’s assets with a view to finding out if he made false declarations.

Holding the two documents in his hand while responding to a question from Onnoghen’s lawyer, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, the witness said: “My lord, according to exhibit 2 and 3, the defendant has only five buildings and not 55”.

Awomolo noted that one of the five buildings was given to the defendant by the federal government itself.

He said in his evidence that verification columns on Onnoghen’s two asset declaration forms were still empty.

He said: “As indicated here, the column for verified assets have not been signed as at today.” He said that it was standard practice at the CCB that returned asset declaration forms must pass through three stages of verification.

“My lord we have three stages of verification, the first is at the time of submission of forms, the second is what we call conference verification whereby we invite the person. And the third is physical verification of the assets.

“Until these three stages are completed, we cannot say that the assets have been verified”.

The CCT chairman was displeased about “the distortion and misrepresentation” of what transpired at the tribunal last Monday by a section of the media.

He warned that he would henceforth wield his powers against journalists.

“Henceforth, any journalist carrying concocted or discredited statement which is not adduced before this tribunal, I will not hesitate to bring the full weight of the law heavily on the person.

“The journalist will languish there and may remain there (in prison) until I retire about 28 years from now. The person will be summarily sent to prison because that is contempt.

“It does not matter whether the contempt is committed in facie curiae (before the court) or ex facie curiae (outside the court),” he warned.