Walter Onnoghen, the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), has explained the sources of the foreign currencies deposited in his domiciliary accounts.
Onnoghen was suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari on a directive by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), before whom Onnoghen is standing trial over allegations of the fraudulent declaration of assets.
According to Sun newspaper, in a ‘Cautionary Statement Form’ filed at the Department of Intelligence Investigation and Monitoring, Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), in Abuja, Onnoghen said the deposits in his dollar account were from trading in foreign exchange (forex), AGRICODE, while other investment returns were from proceeds of his investments.
This was contained in a voluntary statement he made at CCB.
In the statement, he specifically explained that “the deposits made in my US Dollar account No. 87000106250 with STD. Chartered Bank of $10,000 at different intervals of June 28, 2011 were sourced partly from my reserve and saving from my estacodes, including medical expenses.
“The same applies to my deposit of July 28, 2011, of $10,000 twice. It is important to state that prior to my opening the US dollar account, I had foreign currency, which I kept at home, due to the fact that there existed a government that proscribed the operation of foreign currency account by public officers including judicial officers.
“It was when I got to know that the policy had changed that I had to open the said account. Upon opening the account, I was made to understand that I cannot pay in more than $10,000 at a time and per payment slip. I cannot remember the total amount I had on reserve at the time, but it spread from my practice days as a private legal practitioner from 1979 to 1989.
“Some of the deposits are a result of forex trading, AGRICODE, and other investment returns were from proceeds of my investments into them. The withdrawals in the account are partly to pay children’s fees, upkeep abroad and further investments. My British pound and euro accounts with Chartered Standard Bank are savings accounts.
“In the January 1, 2019 document, the suspended jurist, who wrote his statement on January 11, 2019, between 12:30pm to 1: 45pm added: 'I, Walter S. N. Onnoghen, of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, hereby, voluntarily depose to the statement averred herein, knowing that whatever I write or state may be tendered against me as evidence in court'.
“I also volunteer to state that the statement was not taken in evidence from me under duress but after the administering officer had explained and made known the details of the allegations against me.”
In his response to allegations of non-declaration of his assets, Justice Onnoghen added: “My asset declaration for numbers. SCN000014 and SCN.0000 5 were declared on the same day, December 14, 2016, because I forgot to make a declaration of May 2005 of my assets after the expiration of my 2005 declaration in 2009.
“Following my appointment as acting Chief Justice of Nigeria in November 2016, the need to declare my assets anew made me realise the mistake and then did the declarations to cover the period in default.
“I did not include my Standard Chartered Bank Account in SCN. 000014 because I believed they were not opened during the period covered by the declaration.
“I did not make a fresh declaration of asset after my substantive appointment as CJN because I was under the impression that my SCN. 000015 was to cover the period of four years; which includes my leave as CJN.”
Meanwhile, the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) will resume sitting on the matter on February 4, 2019.