By Udora Orizu in Abuja
A senior lawyer Mr Joe Agi SAN has challenged the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the fFederation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, to come up with evidence to support his claim that the $30,000 he (Agi) deposited in the account of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria Justice Walter Onnoghen was a bribe to compromise the $3.18 billion Paris Club case.
Mr Agi in a statement made available to journalists in Abuja explained that though he convinced the suspended CJN to open the said domiciliary account with the Standard Chartered Bank ten years ago with initial deposit of $30,000, but insisted that the said deposit was never a bribe to the CJN or the trial judge in the Paris Club Fraud case Justice A. Ademola.
The senior lawyer alleged that Mr Malami and those he described as ‘a cabal’ had been after him since he exposed and secured the refund of what he called a fraudulent deduction of $3.18billion from local governments account by the federal government part of the Paris Club refund.
According to him, rather than the government to pay him his legal fees of over N70 million for exposing and winning the case in court, Malami and the same cabal had framed him up with trump up charges including bribing the suspended CJN.
Mr Agi said it was a huge joke to have said he bribed the respected Justice of the Supreme Court Justice Ademola, with N30 million and a jeep to secure the ruling on the Paris Club refund.
On the $30,000 traced to the Justice account with Standard Chartered Bank , Mr Agi said “In the year 2009, I brought to his knowledge that he can open a domiciliary account instead of travelling with cash from Nigeria to abroad on seminars, holidays, conferences or medical trips. My Lord Justice Onnoghen said he had no idea since opening of foreign account was forbidden for Public Officers. I informed him that domiciliary account is not a foreign bank account as it is opened and operated within the local banks in Nigeria.”
“It was on this note that I went to my banker in Standard Chartered Bank and obtained Account Opening Forms for him as a friend and Senior Brother. He completed the Forms and I refereed him. He gave me $30,000 being left over of his allowances for overseas seminars, holidays, conferences or medical trips to deposit for him as the first deposit. This I did in 2009 i.e 10 years ago. After that he operated the account himself without me paying even a cent into that account till date.”
“Now 10 years after, I am again being vilified and accused of giving Justice Onnoghen bribe. If I may ask; bribe for which case? In the Supreme Court panel they sit in 5 or 7 persons, was the $30,000 for the 5 or 7 Justices? And for which case? This is another huge joke aimed at vilifying my person by the same cabal who are hell bent on tarnishing my image as an aftermath of the exposure of the Paris Club fraud,” the SAN lamented
“Is it a crime for Judges to have friends or acquaintances? I challenge the Attorney General Malami, SAN and the EFCC to come forward with their proof that the $30,000 Onnoghen sent me to deposit for him 10 years ago was as a result of bribery. I challenge them to come out openly on the real reason why they are out to tarnish my image. They should be bold enough to open up rather than hiding under the guise of fight against corruption as a smokescreen to lunch a smear campaign against my person.”
Agi urged government to be sincere and serious about fighting corruption and not be engaged in the deliberate destruction of the names of its citizens whom they perceive as enemies.
“Which Nigerian alive today can say he has not benefited from the Paris Club Refund? Yet Joe Agi, SAN who is the face of Paris Club refund is being hounded and haunted instead of being celebrated. Let it be known that very prominent people in the present government have corruptly and fraudulently taken the legal fees due to me from the Paris Club Refund and the EFCC have seen nothing wrong with it,” he added