The suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen on Monday told the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, sitting in Abuja that his asset declaration forms submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, were tampered with.
He insisted at his resumed trial that the Form 001 he filled in 2014 and 2015, were no longer the way he submitted them, to the CCB, querying why the hitherto bound documents appeared “in loose form” before the tribunal, alleging that it was tampered with, with some of the pages missing.
Justice Onnoghen made the allegation through his counsel, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Adeboyega Awomolo, who cross-examined a prosecution witness at the resumed trial on the six counts of non-declaration of assets brought against him by the Federal Government.
Earlier, a senior investigative officer at the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, Mr. James Akpala, yesterday, admitted that the charge against Onnoghen was filed before his team concluded investigation on the allegation that he falsely declared his assets.
Akpala, the star prosecution witness, PW-1, testified before the CCT, where the embattled CJN is answering to a six-count charge that preferred against him by the Federal Government. Aside allegation that he failed to declare his assets as prescribed by the law, the Federal Government had in the charge, alleged that Onnoghen operated five foreign bank accounts, contrary to Section 15(2) of Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.
The Federal Government had insisted that it was the CCB that okayed Onnoghen’s trial based on certain infractions discovered in his asset declaration forms.
Justice Onnoghen informed the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, that the two forms he submitted in 2014 and 2016 were mutilated and in loose form.
The allegation came when Akpala sought to tender the two asset forms investigated by the bureau.
But when the attention of the defence team was drawn to the two asset forms, Awomolo consulted with Onnoghen for verification before tendering the forms.
After glancing through the forms, Justice Onnoghen informed the Tribunal through his counsel that the documents had been tampered with and that the CCT would be addressed on the issue.
“We have some reservation on the documents’ we will not object in the interest of justice but we have reservations that would be addressed at the end of the day,” he pointed out.
While giving his testimony, Akpala, who was led in evidence by FG’s lawyer, Mr. Aliyu Umar, SAN, explained how the CBB referred a petition from the Centre for Anti-Corruption Initiative and signed by one Denis Aganya to him and two others on January 10, 2019.
In the process, he said his team met with Justice Onnoghen, obtained a statement from him, and applied for his account details with a commercial bank.
The witness added that the investigation was concluded on January 11, when the team’s report was prepared.
Under cross-examination by the defence counsel, the witness said he did not know whether the CCB had a central registry and register where all returned asset declaration forms were kept.
He also informed the tribunal that investigation into the petition against Onnoghen was concluded within 24 hours by his team.
When asked if he was aware that the charges against the justice, list of witnesses, and proof of evidence, were prepared, dated and signed by the prosecutor on January 10, 2019, prior to the conclusion of his investigation, the witness declined.
He, however, confirmed the dates when he was confronted with the documents.
Answering another question under cross-examination, Akpala denied the claim that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, was involved in the investigation of Justice Onnoghen.
When also confronted that the bank statements he claimed he obtained from a commercial bank were addressed to the EFCC, he declined further comment.
After listening to the arguments and testimonies, the Tribunal adjourned further hearing till Thursday, to enable the prosecutor subpoena the account officer to Justice Onnoghen and allow the suspended CJN appear before the National Judicial Council, NJC.