Fresh twist in Onnoghen’s trial, as star prosecution witness makes damning revelation
In a rare twist of fate, the alleged criminal case brought against the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, by the Federal Government is crumbling under the weight of the pieces of evidence provided by two of the witnesses called by the prosecution itself.
Media reports of the last Thursday proceedings showed that both witnesses, a former director of the Code of Conduct Bureau which charged Onnoghen before the Tribunal, Awal Usman Yakasie and a staff of Standard Chartered Bank Plc, Ifeoma Okagbue, had practically punctured holes in the allegations by the central government for moving against the jurist.
Full transcript of the proceedings obtained by Sunday Tribune corroborated the media reports and revealed much more damaging testimonies from the duo.
Allegations of ownership of billions of naira, 50 houses and many exotic cars levelled against the CJN by government agents including the presidency which a couple of media outlets also helped in accentuating, went up in smoke by the time the prosecution lead counsel, Aliu Umar SAN, asked that both be discharged from the witness box.
Apart from the CCT trial, Onnoghen is also being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the National Judicial Council (NJC).
The said proceedings also revealed that EFCC had also contacted the bank for Onnoghen’s financial accounts, which were put in public domain at the hearing.
In days ahead, Sunday Tribune gathered that there could be an increase in calls for the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to step down for overseeing an embarrassingly shoddy investigation leading to the filing of the alleged criminal charge against Onnoghen.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) is already considering a request to sanction Umar, the lead prosecutor.
Apart from thrashing the alleged corruption angle to the developing saga, there is growing insinuation that the chairman of the CCB might have collaborated with agents of government to unlawfully release the asset declaration forms of the CJN.
Professor Muhammed Isah is the current chairman of the Bureau.
This revelation came from the testimony of the Bureau’s former director in charge of federal political office department, while being cross-examined by the defence counsel.
According to him, only the bureau chairman who usually takes custody of asset declaration forms of office holders like Onnoghen, could make it available.
Quoting proceedings transcript;
Defence– Will I be correct to say that all returned declaration forms are kept under lock and key in the most secured place in the CCB
Defence–Only the chairman of CCB can authorize access to the place?
Yakasie–Yes, with his permission.
Sensing the direction of the questioning, the witness resorted to not giving definite answers to subsequent questions which would have established how the author of the petition against Onnoghen, Dennis Aghanya, got details in the CJN’s asset declaration forms.
Aghanya is a former media aide to the president.
Full transcript of proceedings below.
Record of proceedings for FRN V Hon J. Onoghen C.J.N. on the 21st day of March, 2019.
Aliu Umar SAN et al for the prosecution.
Adegboyega S. Awomolo SAN, Chris Uche SAN, S.T. Hon SAN, Okon Efut Nkanu SAN, JUK Igwe SAN and, EK Ahsieta SAN a et al for the defense.
Aliu SAN- the matter is for continuation of trial and we are ready with our witness. I call Awal Usman Yakasie.
ASA- May we humbly bring to the attention of the Tribunal our application for the courts records of proceedings. We are ready too.
Pw2- Awal Usman Yakasie (retired director from the CCB) Affirm
Q – Please tell the Tribunal your full names and what you do
– My name is Awal usman yakasie, I retired from the civil service, am now a farmer
Q – As at December 2016, what was your work?
A- I was a director CCB in charge of Federal political office department. My duties are taking charge of the general administration of the department, Operational activities which include issuing and receiving asset declaration forms CCB 1 from the federal political office holders as well as staff of the federal judiciary.
Q – Please can you recall from what year before your retirement you have been performing these duties.
– I was posted to that department November, 2013 to April 2017 and I retired in April 2018.
Q – Have you met the defendant?
– Yes, when he came to submit his declaration to my office.
Q – From 2013 to when you left the department in February, 2017, have you met him before?
– I have never met him before he came to submit his declarations forms in my office.
Q – Can you remember the day or the 1st time you met him?
– Yes, it was 14th December, 2016. On that day I was in my office in Asokoro. I was attending a meeting at the conference hall, when a staff of mine, called me and inform me that the defendant was in my office to submit his form. I broke away from my meeting and came back to my office. He was in company of another person. I collected the form from him. We went through the form with him, page by page up to the last page. After that I put down my name as the receiving officer and appended my signature to confirm I was the person who received the form on page 8. Thereafter I handed the forms to the schedule officer and directed him to register the form in our register and process his acknowledgment slip to be delivered to the defendant. From there I went back to my meeting.
Q – How many forms did you receive from the defendant?
– 2 forms from the defendant.
Q – Look at exhibit 2 and 3 and tell the court whether these are the forms you went through page by page.
– Yes these are the forms. Confirm. I went through them with the defendant. These forms are the ones I went through with the defendant.
Q – When you directed that the forms be registered what happened.
– when I handed over the form to my junior who happens to be the schedule officer to the judiciary, he registered the 2 forms in the departmental register and processed the acknowledgement slip. Thereafter he took the 2 forms to the secretariat to the chairman CCB for his signature, Mr. Samson. He signed the acknowledgement slips. On that day, after signing, the slips were detached from the forms and handed over to his representative who is the person the defendant came to my office with. So the forms were retained in the chairman’s office and the defendant went away with the acknowledgement slips.
Q – Asides receiving the forms, and directing your junior to receive them and take them to the chairman’s office, did you do anything
Q – Are you a witness on subpoena?
Q – I will be correct to say that you are as an officer of the CCB to give evidence
– I am giving evidence as a officer that have retired from the Code of Conduct Bureau
Q – As a director, up to April 2018 you are a member of the management of CCB
Q – I will be correct to say you took instruction and directive from the chairman and members of the board
A – The Chairman and members are what is called bureau executive council
Q – The Bureau executive council is the supreme governing and decision making authority of the bureau
– In the Act that establishes the CCB and the Constitution it is not the supreme governing and decision making authority.
Q – I will be correct to say you have never heard code of conduct bureau standard operational procedure 2017 as a member of management
Q – Its commencement date was 27 day of January, 2017
Q – As a director can you tell the tribunal how many staffs you have in your department and their ranks
– A deputy director, assistant director. I can’t recall how many staff I had in my department as at the time I retired.
Q – How many years were you in CCB as an officer
A- I joined CCB 1989 and I retired 2019. 29 years.
Q – Is it possible for you to tell the Tribunal how many judicial officer were given asset declaration forms.
A- I can’t remember
Q – Tell the court the year you got to this department that dealt with judicial officers
A- I was posted there November 2013
Q -can you tell the court how many completed forms your received in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
A- I cannot recall
Q – Tell the court whether the completed form were archived
A- No but the chairman office archived them
Q – It is not your personal responsibility to record all completed form submitted to your department
A- No, we have schedule officers that do it
Q – Will I be correct to say that all returned declaration forms are kept under lock and key in the most secured place in the CCB
A – yes
Q – Only the chairman of CCB can authorize access to the place
A- yes with his permission
Q – I will be correct to say it is only the chairman who can approve viewing, taking and CTC of any declaration of asset form
Q – No member of public can have access to view and taking the content of asset declaration in CCB
A – I don’t know
Q – Only the chairman can approve application for a assets declaration form
– I don’t know
Q – Are you suggesting that members of the public can have access to the asset declaration form in the custody of the CCB
Q – Members of the public must apply to the chairman for permission to view and copy asset declaration form in the custody of the CCB
– I don’t know
Q – In exhibit 1, have ever heard if it?
A- I have seen it
Q – On the 11th of January 2019 when you made your statement to Mr. Abu Simeon where you shown that report?
A – No
Q – They did not show you the originals of exhibit 2 and 3 during investigation on the 11th of January 2019
A- The photocopies were shown to me
Q – Have ever heard those groups of people in Exhibit 1
Q – Look at exhibit 2 and 3 are referred to in exhibit 1. The petitioner was quoting the numbers of exhibit 2 and 3
Q – At page 3 of exhibit 1 it quoted the content of paragraphs exhibit 2 and 3
Q – In paragraph 2b of page 3 of exhibit 1 quoted word for word and figure for figure in exhibit 3.
Q – Do you agree that it is a criminal offence for anyone to hack into any secret place of the CCB
A -I don’t know
Q – that letter was addressed to the chairman, he read it and did nothing
– yes. I have seen it
Q – Tell the court to the best of your knowledge whether the CCB have reported the author of exhibit 1 to the police
A- I cant say anything
Q – I put it to you that the chairman of CCB was aware of this criminality and looked away
A –I don’t know
Q – Do you know Mrs, Nwafor
A-yes, she was in my department.
Q – She was with the CCB up 2010
Q – The chairman as the right to forward asset declaration to any form by his own volition
A- Yes. That is what the law says
Q – On the 9th of December, 2016, you wrote a letter to the chairman.
A- Yes it is my letter, signed by me.
ASA – I wish to tender the letter
Aliu SAN – No objection
Tribunal – Admitted and marked as exhibit D1
Q – In exhibit 2 at page 8 of exhibit 2, that original form has not been verified up till today. The column has not been filled.
A- No, the column for verification has not been filled.
Q – In exhibit 3 same page, the column have not been filled as at today the 21st day of March, 2019
A- Yes, it has not been verified in the verification column.
Q – In exhibit 2 and 3 the defendant has only 5 buildings
– Yes as indicated here.
ASA- that will be all
Q – You said it is only the chairman that has the authority to grant viewing, copying and CTC
Q – Have you heard of Freedom of Information Act and can it allow the public to access to forms in custody of CCB
ASA – I object. This is a new issue and there is no ambiguity.
Aliu SAN – I withdraw the question.
Q – You
– We have 3 stages of verification. One is time of submission. The 2nd one is conference verification and the 3rd one is physical verification.
Aliu SAN – That will be all. I apply that the witness be discharged.
PW3- Ifeoma Okagbue (swears by the Holy Bible)
Q – tell the court your name
A -Ifeoma Okagbue, I work at standard chartered bank at Plot 374, Adetokunbo Ademola crescent, Wuse II Abuja. I have being working with Standard Chartered Bank for 12 years. My duties are team leader priority banking, offering finical services to high net worth customers, new business development, growing and deepening the priority affluence base, offering investment advice and wealth management solutions.
Q – Have you ever met the defendant in the course of your duties?
A- yes I have.
Q – Can you remember the 6th day of march, 2019?
A-yes, I was at the Code of Conduct Bureau Office in Abuja.
Q – what resulted in you going to the CCB
A- I was invited. A letter was sent to the bank to provide some documents to the CCB.
Q – Did the bank respond to the CCB
A- yes they responded based on my confirmation
Q – Please show her exhibit 5, go through does statement and tell the tribunal whether the statements were from your bank?
A- yes they are
Q – This document from your bank, where they the document sent to the CCB from your bank?
A- yes sir.
Q – The letter requested the bank to furnished them with account opening documents and statement of account from your bank, are they there?
Q – Look at the account opening document and tell the tribunal who the owner of the account is
A- Hon. Justice Onnoghen, who is sitting there.
Q – How many account are captured in the statement of account?
A – there are 5 accounts
Q – Tell the tribunal the account numbers and dates of opening.
A-1. 5001062686. The account was opened in April, 2010.
- 0001062667. Opened in June 2009
- 0001062650. Opened in June 2009
- 5001062679. Opened in March 2010
- 5001062693. Opened in February, 2011
Q – From the time of their opening up to the time you sent them to CCB, were they active or not?
A – I took over the account in 2015. I can’t recall the status as at 2015 but they are currently active now.
Q – What are the circumstances that make an account dormant?
A – Inactivity for a period of one year on the account.
Q – If an account is dormant will it be reflected on the account?
A- No. but there will be no transaction for a period of one year.
Q – Look at the 1st account with account number 5001062686 that was opened in April 2010. What period does the statement cover?
A- January, 2018 to December 2018. The 4 accounts cover from January 2018 to December, 2018. The only account that is different is 0001062650 and it covers January 2018 to January 2019
Q – As January, 2018 what are the balance of the accounts.
A – 1. Opening balance on account 1- 30, 178:58 euros and as at December 2018 was 10, 187. 18 euros.
- Opening balance on account 2- N6, 411, 312:77 euros and as at December 2018 was N12, 852, 580:52
- Opening balance on account 3- 39, 456.08 pounds and as at December 2018 was 13, 730.70 pounds
- Opening balance on account 0001062667- N24, 280, 904: 61 and as at December, 2018 balance was N2, 656, 019:21
- Opening balance on account 0001062650-$80, 824.25 and as at January, 2019 balance was $56, 878
Q – You said you had met the defendant
A- Sometime in 2015
Q – In what capacity did you met each other?
A- In my capacity as a relationship manage and he was a client of the bank
Q – In your bank, what happens when an account becomes dorment?
A- If an account goes dormant, it is my responsibility to inform the customer of the dormant nature of the account and encourage customer to re-activate the account and also the bank sends a notification to the client of the dormancy status.
Q – This is more so for the high net worth of the bank
– Not especially for the high net worth of the bank but for all customers.
Q – Have you or the bank ever written to the defendant that his account is dormant.
A- I don’t recall
Q – What classification of account are those five account.
A- The euro account is a savings account. One of the naira account is a current account and one is a savings account (E-Saver). The pounds account is a saving account while the dollar account is a current account.
Q – The 1st page of the exhibit contains certification from the bank? Where they sent to the CCB on request.
A- There is certification, they were sent to the CCB on request and the statements were gotten from our bank.
Aliu SAN- that will be all
Q –You have given evidence at the National judicial council investigation panel at the invitation of the EFCC
A- Yes sir
Q – You gave evidence there and you were cross-examined
A- Yes sir
Q – You did not send any bank document, e.g. statement of account or opening bank accounts forms to the EFCC yourself
A- Yes I submitted statements of accounts to the EFCC
Q – Do you know whether the CCB wrote to your bank on the 11th of January, 2019 requesting for statements of accounts
A- Yes, I recall that.
Q – The financial crime compliance department forwarded the statements of accounts directly to the CCB
A –Yes but I don’t know the date it was forwarded
Q – You were at the CCB on the 6th of March, 2019 where you gave statements
Q – Do you know one Oluwakemi Ajuwape
A- Yes she is a staff of Standard Chartered Bank.
Q – Do you know one Abakalam Solomon?
A- He was a staff of standard chartered bank.
Q – Look at exhibit 5. They were produced by the lady and gentleman that I earlier called to you. Correct?
A- Yes, they prepared it and signed it
Q – They were produced through a computer of the bank
A- Yes sir.
Q – Look at exhibit 4, it was not signed by you
A- No, it was signed by Oluwakemi Ajuwape
Q – The attachment were produced from computer system of the bank
Q – From the analysis you made on account 1 to 5 as at January 2019, he does not have 1 million US Dollars in his account but he had $56, 878.00
A – No he does not have 1 million dollars but he had $56, 878.00
Q – As at January, 2019, he only had 13, 730.70 pounds and not one million pounds. Correct?
A- Yes sir.
Q – The defendant has a facility of $500, 000.00 grated by the bank as at January, 2019
A -yes sir
Q – The security where his investments in Federal Government bounds, shares and other investments
Q – The pound sterling account, euro account and dollar account were operated as domiciliary accounts and managed here in Abuja by the bank
A -yes sir.
Q – You bank encouraged him as a discipline account holder to invest in other profit yielding investments
– Yes, the interests on these investments were regularly credited back into his account.
Q – Look at exhibit 5 and tell the court whether there was any purchase of any pleasure luxury car
a- No I cant see any transfer for that purpose
Q – It was your bank who made the investments on behalf of the defendant
A- yes and the interest generated are paid back into the accounts
Q – All these accounts have a common BVN on them
– yes to the best of my knowledge.
Q – With the BVN all the accounts of the Defendant anywhere in Nigeria will be disclosed.
– I don’t have access but I presume yes. I cannot and don’t have the right to use BVN to display the number of account. To the best of my knowledge these 5 accounts have the same BVN. Bank Verification Number is for single identification purpose.
ASA – That is all for this witness
Aliu SAN- You were asked if you saw whether the defendant bought a luxury car, is there anything to show what the defendant bought at all?
A- when there is a transfer, the purpose will be reflected in his statement. The transfer I see here are for investment purposes.
Aliu SAN – That will be all for her, I apply that she be discharged.
ASA – No objection
Tribunal- Witness discharged
Aliu SAN – We listed 6 witness in application to commence trial. We have taken 3 and the other 3 will say the same thing. We are offering the other 3 to the defense for them to cross-examination
ASA – I don’t need them.
Aliu SAN- I close my case. That is the case for the prosecution.
ASA – We intend to take advantage of our rights under section 303 of the ACJA 2015 to address the court on a no case submission. If the Tribunal permits, I urge the court to allow us file the written addresses and urge the Tribunal to make available the record of proceedings so that we can be on the same page with the tribunal.
Tribunal – Defense to serve the prosecution on Wednesday with their address and matter adjourned to Friday the 29th of March, 2019 for adoption of written address.