Detectives probing the finances of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, have turned their searchlight on his salary account, it was gathered yesterday.
And they may have unearthed evidence that the salary account laid untouched in the bank for 18 months at a stretch.
The development has sparked fresh anxiety on the fate of the CJN.
The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN), reviewing the Onnoghen issue at a meeting in Lagos yesterday, urged caution in federal government’s handling of the matter.
Preliminary findings by the detectives showed that the salary account has a turnover of N91,962.362.49.
No single withdrawal was made from it between March 2015 and October 2016.
A source familiar with the probe said: “He did not spend from the salary account from March 2015 to October 2016. The salary and allowances accumulated to N22, 520, 636.27 in October 2016 from N6, 132, 885.24 in March of 2015.”
A document on the probe said: “Naira Account (Salary Account):
- The balance as at October 10, 2016 was N22,510,636.27;
- (b)The turnover in the account from September, 2005 to October, 2016 was N91,962.362.49;
- (c) His salary in 2005 was N240,202.20 and it rose to N751,082.37 in February 2008. The salary remains within this range till date;
” He did not spend from the salary account from March 2015 to October 2016. The salary and allowances accumulated to N22,520,636.27 in October 2016 from N6,132 885.24 in March of 2015 .
“From the investigation conducted so far, it is possible that the payments into the various accounts might be bribes.
“This is because the sources of the inflows into his accounts other than the salary account in Union Bank of Nigeria Plc are unknown and probably fraudulent, and the nature of the transaction (including structured payments), are not typical of the financial transactions of a Public Servant.”
A reliable source, who spoke in confidence, said: “Following the screening of the CJN’s accounts, detectives have discovered that the turnover does not tally with funds in other accounts.
“He needs to explain the sources of some extra inflows into other accounts. The government may ask any of the anti-graft agencies to look into the latest discoveries.”
The retrieval of documents on CJN’s salary account is causing anxiety at the bench and bar.
It was also learnt that some salary schedule officers might be interrogated by detectives.
“There is panic in the Supreme Court on the dimension the ongoing probe of the CJN, “a top source at the apex court said.
The detectives are said to be interested in finding out why the CJN did not withdraw from the salary account for 18 months.
There were also indications yesterday that the CJN might be quizzed on “some strange inflows into some of his accounts.”
It was not immediately clear whether the CJN might be handed over to any of the anti-graft agencies or the latest findings be reported to the National Judicial Council (NJC).
But The Nation can also authoritatively report that there was no restriction, as at last night, on five undeclared accounts of the CJN which were alleged to have about $3million.
The accounts were not declared by the CJN in his Asset Declaration Form.
Another top source said: “Although it is true that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), has directed the NFIU to restrict the operation of the accounts of the CJN, the directive is yet to be carried out.
“The government stayed action in view of new dimensions into the financial activities of the CJN. There are more angles to the case against Onnoghen.
“So far, no restriction on CJN’s accounts.”
SANs urge respect in Onnoghen’s trial
The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN) yesterday called for respect for the constitution in the trial of Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen.
It made the call in a communique issued at the end of a meeting held at the Nigerian Law School in Lagos.
The Federal Government filed charges of non-declaration of assets at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) against Chief Justice Onnoghen.
He has, however, filed an application to challenge the CCT’s jurisdiction on the basis that the matter ought to be determined by the National Judicial Council (NJC) first.
The Federal High Court in Abuja had also restrained the CCT from arraigning Chief Justice Onnoghen.
After considering issues of national importance, BOSAN said the issues must be resolved carefully in the Judiciary’s interest.
The communique reads: “The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria deplores the situation that has arisen from the preferment of charges against the CJN and head of the Nigerian Judiciary before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
“The Body urges respect for the Constitution, the rule of law, separation of powers, due process and the proper administration of justice.
“In the prevailing circumstances, all parties are urged to consider the impact of their respective actions on the administration of justice in Nigeria and public confidence in our institutions.
“The Body recognises that the matter is subjudice (before the CCT and other courts) and it is therefore not appropriate to comment on the merits or otherwise of any of the cases.
“The Body considers that these issues must be resolved carefully and responsibly in the interest of the legal profession and the nation.
“The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria continues to endorse the core values of good governance, public integrity and sustenance of democracy in the spirit of the Constitution.”
The communique was signed by Prof Ben Nwabueze and Mr Seyi Sowemimo.
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Author: Yusuf Alli, Managing Editor, Northern Operation/Joseph Jibueze