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.
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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