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Presidency Rush To File Charges Against CJN Onnoghen While Investigation Was Ongoing

A senior investigative officer at the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, Mr. James Akpala, on Monday, admitted that the charge against the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, was filed before his team concluded investigation on the allegation against him.

Mr. Akpala, who is the star prosecution witness, PW-1, testified before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, where the embattled CJN is answering to a six-count charge that was preferred against him by the Federal Government.

Aside allegation that he failed to declare his assets, FG had in the charge alleged that he operated five foreign bank accounts, contrary to section 15(2) of Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.

The FG had insisted that it was the CCB that okayed Onnoghen’s trial based on certain infractions that were discovered in his asset declaration forms.

The Mr. Dalandi Umar-led tribunal had in a bench ruling on March 11, granted FG the nod to call witnesses and tender evidence against the defendant who was suspended from office by President Muhammadu Buhari on January 25.

At the resumed proceeding on Monday, the prosecution presented Mr. Akpala as its first witness.

Led in evidence by FG’s lawyer, Mr. Aliyu Umar, SAN, the PW-1, told the tribunal that he was a member of a three-man team of investigators that were investigating the alleged infractions in asset declaration forms the defendant submitted before the CCB.

The witness tendered in evidence six sets of documents that included a copy of the petition he said led to Onnoghen’s trial, as well as his bank account details.

At that juncture, Onnoghen’s lawyer asked him: “So Mr. Akpala, will I be correct to say that within 24 hours that the petition was received, investigation was concluded and an order secured from the tribunal to prefer charges against the defendant?”.

The witness replied: “Yes that is correct. We requested for documents and they were forwarded to us, which we examined. Based on examination we conducted on the documents, the charge was filed”.

Onnoghen’s lawyer then asked him: “When you obtained statement of the defendant at the Supreme Court, around 1pm on January 11, you did not tell him that a six-count charge had already been filed against him?”.

The witness said: “My Lord, I am an investigator, I do not work in the legal department. At the time the defendant recorded his statement around 12:30pm, the team had no idea that the charge had been filed.
“At about 2pm when we got to the office, we had not written our report then. We finished our report at about quarter to 3pm. The report was addressed to the Deputy Director Intelligence, Investigation and Monitoring”.

Asked if he would be surprised to know that as at that 3pm when the team submitted its report, FG had already secured leave of the tribunal and preferred charges against Onnoghen, the witness said: “My lord I cannot answer this question. All I know is that we filed our report after we obtained statement of the defendant. We were not aware that the charge was already filed”.

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