The Senior Investigation Officer of the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, James Opala, on Monday testified against the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen, who was accused of failing to declare his assets.
Mr Opala, who appeared as the first witness in the case, was a member of a team of investigators that uncovered alleged infractions in asset declaration forms the CJN submitted before the CCB.
The government, through the witness, tendered the first set of exhibits, establishing allegations it levelled against Mr Onnoghen at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT.
Recall that in the six-count charge marked CCT/ABJ/01/19, the federal government alleged that Mr Onnoghen operated five foreign bank accounts, contrary to section 15(2) of Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.
Led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Aliyu Umar, SAN, the PW-1, tendered before the CCT, a copy of the petition that led to Mr Onnoghen’s trial.
The petition dated January 7, 2019, which was sent to the CCB by a civil society group under the aegis of Anti-Corruption and Research-Based Data Initiative, was admitted in evidence by the Danladi Umar-led three-man panel tribunal, and marked as Exhibit 1.
The federal government equally tendered in evidence, two asset declaration forms the suspended CJN submitted in 2014 and 2015.
Meanwhile, before the asset declaration forms were admitted, Mr Onnoghen, through his lawyer, Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, alleged that it was tampered with.
Mr Onnoghen insisted that the Form 001 he filled in 2014 and 2015, were no longer the way he submitted it to the CCB.
He queried why the hitherto bound documents appeared “in loose form” before the tribunal, alleging that it was tampered with, with some of the pages missing.
Nevertheless, Mr Awomolo said he would raise his client’s objection to the admissibility of the documents, in his final written address.
“We have some reservation 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”, he added.
Earlier, Mr Apala, who was led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, told the tribunal that: “On January 9, 2019, I was in my office at the Code of Conduct Bureau that morning when I received a call from my superior, Samuel Madojemu, who happens to be a member of the (investigation) team.
“He directed that I investigate a petition. Having done the required processes – routine investigation – case file was opened and investigation plan was drawn.
“The petition was authored by Dennis Aghanya of the Anti-Corruption and Research-Based Data Initiative, alleging breach of Code of Conduct for Public Officers, including non-declaration of assets and false declaration of assets, against the Hon. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, GCON, the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“Thereafter, the team wrote to the Federal Political Officers Unit (of the bureau), Asokoro, requesting the defendant’s asset declarations received from 2000 to 2009.
“The department responded. The two asset declaration forms were examined and filed in the case file”, he added.