How EFCC Finally Nailed Onnoghen, Suspended CJN

By Stephen Ubanna

The  Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, appears to have finally nailed Walter Kanu Onnoghen, the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, in its alleged report to President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, January 30, 2019. The report which was a fallout of over three years of investigation was very indicting, fuelling speculation that he may not be recalled back to office.

The Commission, according to sources was said to have started investigation on the Supreme Court Justice before his appointment as the acting CJN ,in 2016 and subsequent confirmation in 2017, on the recommendation of Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President.

 The anti-graft agency, investigation may have been stalled because  of its inability  to lay hands  on the suspended CJN Assets Declaration Form with the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT. This may have opened the door way for Dennis Aghaya, Executive Secretary of an Abuja based Anti-Corruption Data Based Initiative and Research, who may have penetrated the ranks of the Tribunal to obtain  the document and thus petition it.

More frustrating to the agency investigation effort was the inability  to get appropriate response  from the Nigerian Financial  Intelligence  Unit , NFIU, on questions raised on his accounts for further investigation. The Value News findings shows that the anti-graft agency had investigated his transactions  with the Nigerian Stock Exchange, NSE,  Central Security and Clearing System, CSCS, for details  of high yield stocks and bond options  held in the Capital market.  It was  also said to have beamed  its searchlight  on the nation’s Discount Houses to check his” transaction history  in treasury bills  and how such instruments were financed”.

It was said to have further  reached out to other government agencies like the Abuja Geographical Information System , AGIS , to obtain the  list of properties  in the name of the suspended CJN, Vehicle Inspection Office, VIO, on vehicles owned by him and the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, to know his currency declarations for movement outside the country. Its preliminary investigation on the Cross -river state  born suspended CJN, shows that he has major investments  in” Life Friend  PLC, Agricole, Lloyds and Pur Noble ”which are foreign Companies.

This is addition to the Euro  account maintained at Standard  Chartered Bank  which had a turn-over  of €55,154   between 2013 and 2016.  His choice property at Plot 582 Chari Close, Maitama, Abuja, speaks volume.

Not satisfied with its findings, the Commission was said to have also carried out investigations  on the finances  of his family members, domestic aides, judicial aides and close friends  with the sole purpose  of detecting proxies  allegedly used in laundering money by him.

Walter Kanu Onnoghen: Suspended CJN

The agency may not have wanted the investigation to become a public issue as a public figure  as it refused to invite one Joe Agi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who was said to have featured in his Statement of Account, for questioning for fear that he may leak  the information of the alleged probe to then CJN which could have frustrate the investigation. 

The findings of the Commission that the cash flow  to the suspended CJN  accounts  could not be justified  by his alleged monthly salary  of about N751,082.37 or an annual salary of N9,012,988.44 was an indictment on him as a public official. ”It is apparent  that the suspended CJN  was in possession of monies  that are above   his own legitimate  means of livelihood which was indicative of the fact that  he must have been involved bribery”, the agency had said.  The confirmation of his investments  in Life friend  AgriCole Redemption Pro and other identified foreign Companies that paid in $121,116 and $482,966  respectively into his domiciliary account  in Standard Chartered Bank  may have further exposed the alleged dirty deals of then CJN .

There is no gainsaying the fact that this is the extent to which the EFCC, had gone to remove the suspended  CJN            from office  before the CCT intervention. Many believe that if the CCT had allowed the EFCC, to do their job as expected and wait to act on  its report , the suspended CJN, could have been removed from office without much trouble or polarisation of the polity.  Onnoghen , has been suspended from office on friday, January 25, on the recommendation of the CCT , which had arraigned him over alleged non declaration of Assts and operation of domiciliary accounts in Standard Chartered Bank. Even since the trial began, the suspended CJN , has been shuttling between the Tribunal, Appeal and Courts to stop the trial but have not been lucky.

The intervention of the National Judicial Service Commission, NJC, on the matter may facilitate his retirement and the confirmation of the appointment Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed , as CJN, by the President.

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