In 2015, President Buhari listed his assets as 270 cows, 25 sheep, five horses, birds and economic trees, there were five houses in Kaduna, Daura, Kano and Abuja, a plot of land each in Port Harcourt and Kano; farms, an orchard, and some cars while he owned a mud house in Daura.
Ahead of the Presidential inauguration of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari for his 2nd term in office, the president in line with the constitution declared his assets.
Before a public office holder is sworn into office, the Nigerian constitution demands that an asset declaration forms are submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau nothing less than May 28.
President Buhari on Tuesday in Abuja met the May 28 deadline as he submitted his asset declaration forms to the Code of Conduct Bureau. The President who will be inaugurated today for another second term in office following his victory at the 2019 Presidential election said that since 2015 which was the last time he declared his assets he has not acquired any new house or shares in any bank.
The disclosure was contained in a statement by the senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu.
He said, “The duly completed forms were submitted to the Chairman of the CCB, Prof Mohammed Isa, on behalf of the President by Sarki Abba, Senior Special Assistant, Household and Domestic Affairs.
“The forms, are signed by the President and sworn to before a Judge of Abuja High Court, showed no significant changes in assets as declared in 2015 by him.
“There are no new houses, no new bank accounts at home and abroad and there are no new shares acquired.
“The chairman of the CCB commended the President for leading by example by declaring his assets in accordance with the law.”
In 2015, in a statement by Shehu on the assets of President Buhari was listed as 270 cows, 25 sheep, five horses, birds and economic trees, there were five houses in Kaduna, Daura, Kano and Abuja, a plot of land each in Port Harcourt and Kano; farms, an orchard, and some cars while he owned a mud house in Daura.
The statement further revealed that the President had shares in Berger Paints, Union Bank, and Skye Bank.
“The retired general uses a number of cars, two of which he bought from his savings and the others supplied to him by the Federal Government in his capacity as a former Head of State. “The rest were donated to him by well-wishers after his jeep was damaged in a Boko Haram bomb attack on his convoy in July 2014.” For Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, the Presidency stated that he had, “A bank balance of about N94m and 900,000 United States Dollars in his bank accounts.”
The houses owned by Osinbajo back then were listed as “four-bedroomed residence on Victoria Garden City, Lagos, and a three-bedroom flat on 2, Mosley Road, Ikoyi; two-bedroom flat on Redemption Camp along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and a 2-bedroom mortgaged property in Bedford, England.”
The Presidency added, “Apart from his law firm, known as SimmonsCooper, the vice-president also declared shareholding in six private companies based in Lagos, including Octogenerium Limited, Windsor Grant Limited, Tarapolsa, Vistorion Limited, Aviva Limited and MTN Nigeria.” (Sahara Reporters)
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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has seized Senate President Bukola Saraki’s houses as they also marked others. Bukola Saraki’s houses seized by the EFCC are reportedly located at 15a, 15b and 17 MacDonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos. It was gathered that the EFCC who were unsure of the actual property that belonged to the Senate President, decided to place inscriptions and stickers on all of them.
According to insiders, 15a and 15b were declared by Saraki in his asset declaration form, it is believed that some other houses on the street were bought by the Senate President from the Presidential Implementation Committee for the Sales of Government Property through shell companies. A relative who spoke to Sunday Punch on condition of anonymity said;
“The EFCC had been making inquiries into the finances and assets of Saraki for quite some time. They came to inscribe ‘EFCC, Under Investigation’ in red on the walls and the fences. The irony is that even houses that don’t belong to Saraki were marked. From what we were told, they are keeping him under strict surveillance ahead of May 29, 2019 when they may invite him.”
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The embattled Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, has appealed the judgement delivered by the Code of Conduct Tribunal in his case of alleged false asset declaration.
Mr Onnoghen was convicted by the CCT, led by Danladi Umar on Thursday.
The tribunal which ruled that it had jurisdiction in the matter, also dismissed another application by the defence which suggested that Mr Umar should remove himself for alleged bias.
According to Mr Umar, the tribunal is a body empowered by section 158 (1) of the constitution to perform its duty “without external interference of bodies like the NJC.”
The section it relied on provides for the independence of the CCT and states that it “shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other authority or person.”
Mr Umar ruled that the relationship between the tribunal and the presidency “was purely administrative” in nature and insufficient for the defence to accuse him of bias.
According to the CCT chairman, “all judges of superior courts are appointed by the president, Muhammadu Buhari, on the recommendation of the NJC.”
The CCT chairman added that the appointment of the said judges is not be regarded “as a reason for them to act according to the whims of the president”.
“It is to be noted that without the chairman, there is no CCT,” Mr Umar added
The tribunal had also dismissed the request against its jurisdiction after submitting that Mr Onnoghen was being tried “as a public officer and not as a judicial officer.”
Mr Umar also said that the “CCT had powers to overrule him where it finds that it has taken a decision that was wrongly reached.”
Subsequently, the tribunal overruled its earlier decision which freed another Supreme Court Justice, Sylvester Ngwuta, of a similar allegation.
Mr Ngwuta was one of seven judges whose houses had been raided by the State Security Service in October 2016, after President Muhammadu Buhari’s government accused them of fraud.
He was arraigned on false asset charges at the tribunal by the CCT. But the tribunal, also chaired by Mr Umar suspended the case following a decision of a Court of Appeal in a related matter.
The Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal had decided during the trial of another judge, Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, that the only body responsible for the indictment of a serving judicial officer was the NJC.
That decision had forced the suspension of the trial of Mr Ngwuta at the tribunal.
However, on Thursday, Mr Umar regarded the decision on Mr Ngwuta as a wrong judgement and “overruled himself.”
After dismissing the various applications, Mr Umar ruled in his judgement that the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr Onnoghen was involved in the alleged breach of the CCT act and found him guilty of same.
‘Three major punishments’
Mr Umar invoked section 23 of the act which allowed the tribunal to issue three major punishments to persons found guilty of such allegations.
The provision demands that a convicted person shall be made to vacate his office for a period, not exceeding 10 years. It also allows the tribunal to order that the convict shall forfeit assets found to have been acquired fraudulently.
But in an appeal to the appellate court, Mr Onnoghen has insisted that the tribunal erred in law when it ruled that it had jurisdiction in the matter.
According to Mr Onnoghen, he was arraigned at the time when he was still a serving judicial officer, therefore the tribunal lacked powers to entertain the allegations against him.
Although Mr Umar overruled the judgement in Mr Ngwuta’s case, Mr Onnoghen cited the January 2018 decision of the CCT which freed Mr Ngwuta as the reason for the tribunal to have ruled against its jurisdiction.
Mr Onnoghen also submitted in his request that the tribunal erred in law when it dismissed the application challenging its jurisdiction.
“Once an allegation of real likelihood of the bias is raised, the Court or tribunal will have nothing more to say except to wash its hands from further proceedings in the matter,” Mr Onnoghen said in his appeal.
The embattled CJN also argued that the failure of Mr Umar to recuse himself vindicated the defence in their submission that Mr Umar was a “person of interest.”
Mr Onnoghen said it was against the principle of natural justice for Mr Umar to sit in judgement of his own case.
He also argued that there was no way the tribunal could have been fair since the prosecution and the tribunal are both bodies working under the instructions of the executive arm of government.
Mr Onnoghen also submitted that the tribunal erred in law when it ruled that he confessed to having committed the allegations against him.
According to Mr Onnoghen, his statement was only meant to clarify the issues raised in the allegations. Mr Onnoghen said he never admitted to not declaring his assets in 2005, as suggested by the charge.
“The Appellant did not admit the fact of non-declaration of Assets from the year 2005 as the Justice of the Supreme Court.
“The Appellant only stated that he did not declare in 2009 as required because he forgot and did the declaration immediately it realised same.
“By the evidence of DWI (Defence Witness:1) and exhibit DW2 tendered, it has affirmed the statement of the appellant that he forgot to make a declaration in 2009 but did in 2010 when he remembered showing there was a declaration after all contrary to count one of the charges,” Mr Onnoghen said.
Mr Onnoghen also argued that the tribunal erred in law when it ruled that the evidence of the first defendant’s witness did not cast doubts on the submissions of the prosecution in the first count.
According to Mr Onnoghen in his appeal, the first defendant’s witness was able to refute the claims of non-declaration of an asset from 2005. “The doubt created by DWI’s evidence no matter how minute ought to be resolved in favour of the Appellant.”
Mr Onnoghen also submitted that his statement suggesting that he failed to include the five accounts in the declaration forms for 2014 because he believed they were not functioning, “does not amount to an admission of guilt.”
Mr Onnoghen explained that the forms for 2014 and that of 2016 were both filed the same day. He added that the declaration form for 2016 had all the accounts in it. According to him, the prosecution should not have accused him of false declaration since both forms were filed by him.
Mr Onnoghen said the submissions by the prosecution that he made a false declaration, based on the omission of certain details is not backed by the CCT Act. He also argued that the standard procedure for the verification of his forms was not complied with by the prosecution.
‘Confiscation of assets illegal’
Mr Onnoghen also challenged the order for the confiscation of his assets on the grounds that the assets were legitimately acquired, as against the provisions of paragraph three of section 23 of the CCB act which only permits the seizure of such assets “if they were acquired by fraud.”
Mr Onnoghen questioned the failure of the prosecution to present the petitioner, Denis Aghanya, before the tribunal.
Mr Aghanya’s petition had birthed the charges against Mr Onnoghen.
According to Mr Onnoghen, all the allegations brought against him “constitute no offence and should therefore not have formed the basis for his conviction.”
“Section 36 (12) of the 1999 Constitution Provides: –
“Subject as otherwise provided by this Constitution, a person shall not be convicted of a criminal offence unless that offence is defined and the penalty therefor is prescribed in a written law.
“The allegations contained in all the six counts of the charge constitute no offence known to the law, as the offence as charged is neither defined in any law nor is any punishment prescribed therefor.”
Mr Onnoghen made seven requests before the tribunal. They include:
– An order that the lower tribunal lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the case.
– An order that the lower tribunal ought to have recused itself from the proceedings before it.
– An order that the charge has become academic.
– An order setting aside the conviction of the Appellant.
– An order setting aside the order for forfeiture of assets made by the Honourable Tribunal.
– An order discharging and acquitting the Appellant.
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The suspended Chief of Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen has told the Code of Conduct Tribunal that his assets declaration forms before the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) appeared to have been tampered with.
He made the observation after his assets declaration forms were tendered and admitted in evidence by the tribunal.
The Federal government opened its case on Monday 18. Onnoghen returned for his trial after 72-hour bed rest.
A medical report tendered by his counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), before the tribunal at the last adjourned date indicated that Onnoghen was suffering from toothache and high blood pressure and was advised by his doctor to observe a bed rest for 72 hours.
The tribunal led by its chairman, Danladi Umar, had then adjourned till Monday (today) for the commencement of trial.
When the matter came up, the Federal government opened its case by calling on its first witness, Mr. James Akpala.
The prosecution was led by Aliyu Umar (SAN), who invited Akpala, Senior Investigation Officer of the Code of Conduct Bureau into the witness box.
In the course of his testimony, Akpala tendered some documentary exhibits which were admitted as evidence.
The exhibits tendered by the witness were the petition written by a civil society group which informed the six counts preferred against the suspended CJN and two assets declaration forms (Forms CCB1) submitted by the defendant in 2014 and 2015.
The petition dated January 7, 2019, was sent to the Code of Bureau by Anti-Corruption and Research-Based Data Initiative and was admitted by the three-man bench of the CCT as Exhibit 1 without any objection from the defence.
Although Onnoghen’s counsel, Awomolo did not object to the assets declaration forms, he noted that the forms were “in loose form and appeared to be tampered with,” adding that he would address the issues at the final stage.
In his ruling, the tribunal chairman, Umar, admitted the forms as exhibits with a caveat that the defence would have the right to address the issue in their final address.
Akpala had 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 Chief 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.” (The Sun)
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In a split decision of two to one, the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has refused an application by the Chief Justice of the Federation (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen for an indefinite adjournment of his trial.
Justice Onnoghen who was absent in court had through his legal team anchored by Chief Wole Olanikpekun, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), asked the tribunal to adjourned indefinitely, proceedings in the six-count criminal charge filed against him by the Federal government.
While the tribunal Chairman, Justice Danladi Umar and Justice Julie Annabor refused to grant the application for an indefinite adjournment of the proceedings as requested by the defence counsel, Justice William Agwadza on the other hand dissented and granted the application for stay of proceedings.
Olanikpekun who moved the application argued that in view of the various court orders by the Federal High Court and the National Industrial Court restraining the tribunal from taking further steps in the case, it was proper and appropriate for the tribunal to comply with such orders which he said were subsisting.
In addition, he informed the tribunal of the pendency of an appeal by the CJN before the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal in urging the court to adjourn proceedings and await the outcome of the appeal.
He argued that it would breach the legal principle of starie decisis (matters pending before court) and amount to an act of rascality for the tribunal to proceed having been aware of the appeal before the appellate court.
Olanikpekun who was in the company of over 40 Senior Advocates of Nigeria cited some case laws in urging the tribunal to adjourn the trial sine dine (indefinitely).
Olanikpekun submitted: “I owe a duty to inform the tribunal about the subsisting orders of the Federal High Court and the National Industrial Court restraining the tribunal to maintain status quo ante.
“I also owe a duty to inform the tribunal the defendant is now before the Court of Appeal which sat on the matter on Monday. The Attorney General of the Federation was represented by a counsel who asked for an adjournment and the matter was adjourned to Thursday this week.
“The counsel to the AGF told the Court of Appeal that there was no need for another order of injunction.”
“The tribunal is therefore enjoined and mandated to honour and obey all the orders that have been made and serve on the tribunal, until they are set aside,” as doing otherwise would amount to judicial rascality, ” Olanikpekun submitted.
But in opposition to the application, the prosecution counsel, Aliyu Umar (SAN), urged the tribunal to refuse the application and order the Chief Justice of Nigeria to step down from his position.
He argued that as a court of coordinate jurisdiction, the decisions of the Federal High Court and the National Industrial Court are not binding on the tribunal.
Describing the CCT as a unique and creation of the 1999 Constitution, he contended that the Federal High Court and the National Industrial Court have no supervisory powers over it.
“This tribunal is under the supervision of the Court of Appeal and is not bound by the decisions of the Federal High Court and National Industrial Court.
“The Code of Conduct Tribunal is unique and independent and cannot enforce or comply with the decision of the Federal High Court,” Umar submitted.
In his ruling on the issue, the Chairman of the CCT, Justice Danladi Umar, held that the tribunal is not bound by the orders of the Federal High Court and National Industrial Court.
“The orders issued by the Federal High Court and National Industrial Court are not binding on the tribunal which is established by the 1999 Constitution under the third schedule to adjudicate on matters relating to matters of assets declaration by public officers.
“Therefore, any order from Federal High Court and National Industrial Court cannot stop the tribunal. This would be a crystal violation of the constitution and therefore null and void.
“The 1999 Constitution is a ground norm. Where the tribunal gives a decision, the appeal by whichever party lies as a right to the Court of Appeal.
“The Code of Conduct Bureau was established to receive complaints about non-declaration, investigate and refers matters to the tribunal.
“It further contravened the provisions of the constitution that the orders of the Federal High Court were obtained by some busybodies who do not have locus standi and therefore lacked merit.”
As regards the appeal by the CJN at the Court of Appeal, Justice Danladi held that going by the provisions of Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, proceedings in criminal matters cannot stay.
“The defendant counsel is therefore ordered to move his motion of preliminary objection. Let me say that courts and tribunals are enjoined to guide their jurisdictions jealously.”
In his minority ruling, another member of the tribunal, Justice William Agwadza held that it would result to judicial anarchy for the tribunal to proceed with the trial in view of the four subsisting court orders and the pending appeal at the Court of Appeal.
According to him, orders are binding on the tribunal until they are set aside in view of Section 287(3) of the 1999 Constitution which allows court orders to be enforced in all parts of the county, stressing that the CCT cannot operate in isolation.
“Having summarised argument from both parties, it is my submission that CCT as a creation of law bound by the existing court orders to avoid judicial anarchy,” he held.
He further held that the issue of jurisdiction of the tribunal to entertain the charge against CJN must first be resolved, adding that status the quo must be maintained by adjoining proceedings sine die until all contending issues were resolved.
Although the chairman ordered that the motion challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal to be moved immediately, counsel to the defendant, Chief Olanipekun however, informed the tribunal that the response of the complainant, Federal government, was served on him late Monday and as such needed time to study the response and then filed a reply on point of law.
Counsel to the Federal government, Umar, agreed that the government’s response was served late on the defendant, prompting the chairman to adjourned further proceedings till Monday, January 28.
Meanwhile, some groups under the platform of Lawyers in Defence of Democracy and National Interest Defenders staged a protest outside the courtroom against the trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Speaking at the rally, National Coordinator of National Interest Defenders, Ikenga Ugochinyere, described the charges against the CJN as an attempt by President Muhammadu Buhari to remove Justice Onnoghen and replaced him with Justice Tanko Ibrahim for the purpose of rigging the 2019 elections.
He said: “All members of the presidency cabal would be personally held responsible if for any reason there is a breach of peace and the country descends into anarchy.”