Justice Onnoghen speaks on hiding bank accounts

The suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen, has denied confessing that he hid some of his bank accounts during the declaration of his assets.

Onnoghen is being tried at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, on a six-count charge, in which he is accused of breaching the Code of Conduct for public officers.

He is accused of allegedly making false declaration of assets and also failing to declare some.

However, Onnoghen’s counsel, Okon Nkanu Efut (SAN), yesterday told the tribunal that his client never confessed to hiding his bank accounts.

Efut argued that contrary to the prosecution’s claim that his client confessed to the offence, in his written statement, Onnoghen said he forgot to declare some of his assets, especially some bank accounts.

He urged the tribunal to dismiss the charge, acquit and discharge his client because not only was the charge incompetent but the prosecution failed to establish the Onnoghen’s guilt.

The defence counsel decried the competence of the charge and the procedure adopted by the prosecution, which he contended were unlawful.

According to Efut: “It is true in ordinary parlance that once a person says he did something, that is admittance. But, confession in law is different from confession in general parlance.

“When the defendant said he forgot, he did not mean he confessed. We are submitting that there has been no confession at all. There is no admission of guilt. Confession, in law, means admission of guilt.”

The defence counsel contended that the charge was incompetent because it was brought under Section 15 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal (CCB/T) Act, which has been found to be in conflict with Paragraph 11 of the 5th Schedule to the Constitution.

He added: “The charge ought to have been brought under Parapgraph 11 to the 5th Schedule to the 1999 Constitution. The section under which the charge is prepared is unconstitutional and null and void.

“The elements of the offence, which the prosecution attempted to prove are as it relate to the Act (CCB/T Act). They failed to prove the elements or ingredients as contained in the 5th Schedule of the 1999 Constitution.

“If they do not know the ingredients of the offence, they could not have proved it. They acted in ignorance.

“We urge that the charge be dismissed, because the prosecution has not proved beyond reasonable doubt the ingredients or elements of the offence.”