Onnoghen: BVN reveals more accounts

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• Detectives write three banks

•Battle shifts to court on Monday

•Anxiety over restriction of Onnoghen’s movement

•Tight security in Supreme Court judges’ quarters

• US, UK, EU urge caution

 

A Bank Verification Number (BVN) search may have exposed more accounts linked to the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen.

Detectives are understood to have written three banks for details of the alleged accounts of the suspended CJN.

The banks are Standard Chartered Bank, Union Bank and Heritage Bank, according to a preliminary report on the activities of Onnoghen by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) and other agencies.

The CJN is accused of false declaration of assets. A six-count charge has been filed against him.

Further investigation into Onnoghen’s accounts  notwithstanding, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the European Commission (EU)  yesterday urged caution on the part of the federal government in its handling of his case.

The US called for due process to be followed in the matter while UK faulted the timing of the suspension.

Sources knowledgeable about the investigation of Onnoghen’s finances revealed to The Nation yesterday the turn-over in the alleged accounts of the CJN as follows:

  • USD account from October, 2012 to September, 2016 — $1,922,657.00
  • GBP (£) account from 2012 to September, 2016 — £138, 439.00
  • Euro account as at September 30, 2016 — €55,154.00
  • Naira account from September, 2005 to October, 2016 — N91, 962.362.49

A document sighted by The Nation correspondent states: “Upon receipt of the report, a preliminary investigation was conducted during which the following actions were carried out:

“A request was sent to the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) for a report on the suspect.

“A letter of investigation activities was sent to Standard Chartered Bank, Union Bank and Heritage Bank to provide the statements of accounts of the suspect;

“A BVN search through the NIBSS platform was conducted on the suspect and six (6) more accounts were found to be linked or connected to the suspect;

“The statements of accounts of the suspect were analyzed and further to that, a letter was written to Standard Chartered Bank requesting for additional information on suspicious activities in the account.”

There was anxiety yesterday over alleged restriction on the movement of Justice Onnoghen.

Security was tightened at the official quarters of the Justices of the Supreme Court.

Journalists were turned back from gaining access to the quarters in the three arms zone.

A reliable security source said: “Yes, the security around the quarters was enhanced but I doubt your insinuation of restriction of movement of the CJN.

“With the tension generated by the suspension of the CJN, security agencies are only taking pre-emptive action to prevent the judges from harm.”

There were also strong indications last night the battle over Onnoghen’s fate would shift to the court tomorrow.

A counsel in the defence team of the CJN said: “We will go to court to challenge the illegal suspension of His Lordship.

“We hope the Federal Government will respect any court order reinstating the CJN. Anything otherwise is a judicial anarchy.”

We’re concerned — US

Reviewing the Onnoghen saga, the US Embassy said in a statement in Abuja yesterday that Washington was “deeply concerned by the impact of the executive branch’s decision to suspend and replace the Chief Justice and head of the judicial branch without the support of the legislative branch on the eve of national and state elections.”

It added: “We note widespread Nigerian criticism that this decision is unconstitutional and that it undermines the independence of the judicial branch. That undercuts the stated determination of government, candidates, and political party leaders to ensure that the elections proceed in a way that is free, fair, transparent, and peaceful – leading to a credible result.

“We urge that the issues raised by this decision be resolved swiftly and peacefully in accordance with due process, full respect for the rule of law, and the spirit of the Constitution of Nigeria. Such action is needed urgently now to ensure that this decision does not cast a pall over the electoral process.”

UK: Timing of CJN’s suspension gives cause for concern

London, in a similar statement said: “The British High Commission expresses serious concern over the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria.

“We have heard a wide range of credible and independent voices, including in the Nigerian legal profession and civil society, who have expressed concern over the constitutionality of the executive branch’s suspension of the chief officer of the judiciary.

“We respect Nigeria’s sovereign authority and its right to adjudicate on constitutional provisions but as friends of the Nigerian people, we are compelled to observe that the timing of this action, so close to national elections, gives cause for concern. It risks affecting both domestic and international perceptions on the credibility of the forthcoming elections. We, along with other members of the international community, are following developments closely.

“We encourage all actors to maintain calm and address the concerns raised by this development through due process, demonstrating their commitment to respecting the constitution and the impartial administration of the rule of law.

“We further urge them to take steps to ensure that elections take place in an environment conducive to a free, fair and peaceful process.”

It can impact on credibility of votes, says EU election monitoring mission

The EU Election Observation Mission also faulted the timing of the suspension of the CJN.

It called on all parties to follow the legal processes provided for in the Constitution

It said: “The European Union was invited by the Independent National Electoral Commission to observe the 2019 general elections.

“The EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) is very concerned about the process and timing of the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Walter Onnoghen, on 25 January.

“With 20 days until the presidential and National Assembly elections, political parties, candidates and voters must be able to have confidence in the impartiality and independence of the judicial system.

“The decision to suspend the Chief Justice has led to many Nigerians, including lawyers and civil society observer groups, to question whether due process was followed.

“The timing, just before the swearing in of justices for Electoral Tribunals and the hearing of election-related cases, has also raised concerns about the opportunity for electoral justice.

“The EU EOM calls on all parties to follow the legal processes provided for in the Constitution and to respond calmly to any concerns they may have.

“The EU EOM will continue observing all aspects of the election, including the independence of the election administration, the neutrality of security agencies, and the extent to which the judiciary can and does fulfill its election-related responsibilities.”

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