The Federal Government has asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen, to immediately vacate his exalted office as head of the nation’s judiciary over alleged sundry asset declaration issues.
In a move to force Justice Onnoghen out of office, the Federal Government will on Monday January 14 arraign the CJN before the Justice Danladi Yakubu led-Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, in Abuja on charges of failures to declare his assets as required by law and for operating Bank Domiciliary Foreign Currency Accounts.
The charge based on a petition seen by Thenewsmatrics has already being filed and served on the CJN last Friday at his official residence in Abuja preparatory for his appearance at the tribunal.
The Federal Government among others is accusing Nigeria’s Head of the Judiciary of refusal to declare his assets in breach of the provision of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act.
He is also being accused of maintaining Domiciliary foreign currencies account which comprised Dollars Account, Pound Sterling Account and Euro Account with Standard Chartered Bank, which are alleged to be contrary to relevant laws, especially for public office holders.
Justice Onnoghen whose appointment suffered unprecedented delay by President Muhammadu Buhari over undisclosed issues may be the first CJN in Nigeria to be arraigned for criminal charges by the Federal Government.
The petition was written by ARDI and Partners on January 7 to the Chairman, Code of Conduct Bureau, Federal Secretariat, Abuja and was received on January 9.
It is titled ‘PETITION AGAINST HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE W.S. NKANU ONNOGHEN, GCON, THE CHIEF JUSTICE OF NIGERIA, FOR SUNDRY BREACHES OF THE CODE OF CONDUCT BUREAU REQUIREMENTS FOR PUBLIC OFFICIALS INCLUDING NON- DECLARATION AND FALSE DECLARATION OF ASSETS.
Specifically among others, Onnoghen was accused of
*Being the owner of sundry accounts funded through cash deposits; *Discrepancy between his two CCB forms;
*Various sums of money in Naira, Dollars, Pound Sterling and Euro traced to his Union Bank and Standard Chartered Bank accounts;
*Cases of suspicious financial transactions
*Collusion between him and various banks related to Suspicious Transactions Reporting (STR);
*Financial transactions not justifiable by Onnoghen’s lawful remunerations.
Apart from putting the Chief Justice in the dock on Monday, it was learned that motion on notice is to be filed against him praying the tribunal to order him to vacate office and recuse himself office so as to prevent alleged interference in his arraignment and trial.
It was learnt that a Senior Advocate of Nigeria has been engaged by Federal Government to lead the legal tussle against Justice Onnoghen.
However, it is gathered that eminent lawyers have volunteered to put their services at the disposal of Justice Onnoghen in the bid to rescue him from the claws of the government.
It would be recalled the President of the Senate of Nigeria, Bukola Saraki, was in 2015 shortly he emerged the Head of the Legislature arraigned at the tribunal but the charges against him were quashed and he was discharged and acquitted by the tribunal on the ground that the charges against him by government were based on hearsay that could not stand in the face of the law.
Mr Saraki’s discharge and acquittal was upheld by the Supreme Court under the leadership of Justice Onnoghen.