Udora Orizu in Abuja
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Joe Agi, has challenged the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to come up with evidence to support his claim that the $30,000 traced to the account of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen was a bribe to compromise the trial on the alleged $3.18 billion Paris Club fraud by the federal government, which he claimed to have exposed.
Agi, in a statement made available to journalists in Abuja, explained that although he convinced the suspended CJN to open the said domiciliary account with the Standard Chartered Bank ten years ago with an initial deposit of $30,000, he insisted that the said deposit was never a proceed of bribe to the CJN or the trial judge in the Paris Club fraud case, Justice A. Ademola.
He said: “I, Joe Agi, SAN has been acquainted with Justice Onnoghen (JSC) in our days as lawyers in Calabar, Cross River State from the 1980s before he was appointed a High Court Judge. 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, 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, that is, 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 seven or seven persons. Was the $30,000 for the five or seven Justices? And for which case? This is another huge joke aimed at vilifying my person by the same cabal who are hellbent on tarnishing my image as an aftermath of the exposure of the Paris Club fraud.
“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 launch a smear campaign against my person,” he said.
The senior lawyer alleged that Malami and those he described as a cabal have been after him since he exposed and secured the refund of the fraudulent deduction of $3.18 billion from local governments account by the federal government as part of the Paris Club fund.
According to him, rather than the government paying him his legal fee of over N70 million for exposing and winning the case in court, Malami and the alleged cabal had framed him up with trumped up charges,
including bribing the suspended CJN.
Agi said it was a huge joke to have said he bribed the respected Justice of supreme Court, Justice Ademola with N30 million and a jeep to secure the ruling on the Paris Club refund.
Agi urged the government to be sincere and serious about fighting corruption and not be engaged in a 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, 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 has seen nothing wrong with it,” he added.