Following the allegations of false asset declaration preferred against him by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, has described his non-declaration of the domiciliary accounts as a mistake.
In a statement wrote to the CCB investigators on Friday (January 11), Justice Onnoghen also explained that the undeclared foreign currencies found in his Standard Chartered Bank were sourced from his estacodes and medical allowances, including funds from his days in private practice between 1979 and 1989.
He further explained that the withdrawals from his Pound Sterling and Euro accounts were for the school fees and upkeep allowances of his children abroad.
My Asset Declaration Form No SC N 00014 and SCN 00005 were declared on the same day 14/12/2016 because I forgot to make a declaration of my assets after the expiration of my 2005 declaration in 2009,” the CJN stated.
“Following my appointment as Acting CJN in November 2016, the need to declare my asset anew made me to realise the mistake.”
The CJN further explained that he did not include the funds in his domiciliary accounts because he believed the accounts were not opened during the period covered by the declaration.
It will be recalled that the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) has said it will arraign the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen on six-count charges of false asset declaration on Monday, January 14.
The CCB in a statement on Saturday confirmed the filing of the charges before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Abuja, where the CJN is expected to take his plea.
The charges followed a petition to the chairman of CCB by the Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative (ARDI)’s Executive Secretary, Dennis Aghanya.
Justice Onnoghen was alleged to have failed to declare his asset upon assumption of office as provided in Section 15 (1) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act C15, punishable under Section 23 (2) (a) (b) and (c) of the same Act.
Justice Onnoghen was alleged to be maintaining domicilliary accounts with US Dollars, British Pounds Sterling and Euro in different bank accounts in Nigeria, which were omitted in his asset form.
Investigators alleged that the CJN, presented his 2014 and 2016 assets declaration forms on same date of December 14, 2016 and both has discrepancies in them.
The planned arraignment of the CJN will be the first time a serving Chief Justice of Nigeria would be arraigned on such allegations.
It is also the second time a justice of the Supreme Court would be charged with false asset declaration under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The last was Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, who was however discharged and acquitted by the CCT.