Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, yesterday alleged that his Assets Declaration Form CCB1 submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) has been tampered with by agents of the federal government.
Onnoghen made the allegation yesterday at his resumed trial on alleged non-declaration of some of his assets before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Abuja.
The said documents are the CCB Assets Declaration forms of 2014 and 2015.
The prosecution having called its 1st witness, Mr. James Akpala, a Senior Investigative Officer with the CCB, had sought to tender the said documents in support of his evidence against Onnoghen.
However, when the documents were shown to the defendant, Onnoghen through his counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo SAN, told the tribunal that a careful look at the documents showed that they had been tampered with.
According to him, the 2014 form has become loosed, part of it mutilated and has become blue in a way.
Awomolo said a similar observation was made on the 2015 form with some duplications and omission of some pages.
“We have some reservations 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,” the senior lawyer stated.
Akpala in his evidence-in-chief, told the tribunal that the CCB on January 10 referred a petition written by the Anti-Corruption and Research Database Initiative to his team for investigation.
The witness said that on the strength of the petition signed by one Chief Dennis Aghanya, he visited Onnoghen in his office at the Supreme Court, during which a cautionary statement was obtained from him while letters were also written to the Standard Chartered Bank for account details of the defendant with the bank.
He further stated that the following day, January 11, 2019, the bank responded, prompting the investigating team to conclude their investigation and prepare their report.
Under cross-examination, the witness informed the tribunal that he did not know whether the CCB has a central registry and register where returned assets forms are deposited and registered.
Responding to another question, the witness said investigation into the petition against Onnoghen was concluded within 24 hours.
Drama, however, started when Awomolo confronted the witness with the charge against Onnoghen, proof of evidence, list of exhibits and witnesses, which were all dated January 10, when investigation into the petition had not been completed.
Also, when the witness attempted to deny involvement of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the CCB investigation, he was confronted by Awomolo with documents from Standard Chartered Bank addressed to the EFCC but tendered by the witness.
In all, the witness said he was not aware that the charges against Onnoghen was filed before the completion of the investigation and declined comments on the bank’s document addressed to EFCC.
At yesterday’s proceedings, the petition against Onnoghen – two documents from his bank, his cautionary statement and the two assets declaration forms he submitted to the CCB, were admitted as exhibits by the tribunal.
Meanwhile, hearing on the matter was adjourned till March 21, 2019, when the account officer to Onnoghen already summoned by the tribunal, is expected to appear before the tribunal in relation to the documents submitted to the CCB.
Prosecution counsel, Mr. Aliyu Umar SAN, had asked the court to subpoena the bank official, after Awomolo had opposed to the tendering of the bank document on the grounds that since the witness did not author nor sign the document, he cannot tender it as exhibit before the tribunal.