You were removed for corruption, anti-graft group tells former CJN, Ononghen
By Samuel Ogunsona
Two years after his removal from office, the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Nkanu Ononghen has been asked to stop claiming innocence in the face of weighty allegations of corruption against him.
In a statement on Sunday, made available to Irohinoodua, Nigeria’s leading anti-corruption network, Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), said it is appalling that the former CJN has the courage to claim virtue, knowing his removal was fuelled by a string of fraudulent and corrupt practices associated with him and his office during his troubled tenure as the country’s Chief Justice.
“The former CJN should be remorseful. For the fact that he escaped the claws of justice does not mean that the last chapter of his trial has been written. Credible evidence provided by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) indicated that the former CJN sat on a cesspool of corruption that disgraced the time honoured values of the judiciary. It is a shame that the former CJN still finds the gut to speak on his trial”, the statement signed by CSNAC Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju said.
He said the former CJN should not forget that he admitted he ‘forgot’ to declare substantial aspects of his assets while filing the Code of Conduct Bureau Asset Declaration form. CSNAC wondered if crooks who stole public funds are excused from trial on the strength of their claiming that they ‘forgot’ or that a person who wrongly killed a human being would be left off the hook if the accused claimed he forgot the victim should not have been killed.
Ononghen recently said no one told him his offence, that he was not aware of charges leveled against him, claiming he had led an exemplary life in his judicial career. He spoke during a dinner to mark his 70 years on earth. The event was held in his private residence located in Asokoro, Abuja. He described his removal as a surprise. Dignitaries that attended the event included a former Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, the Chief Judge of Bornu State, Justice Kashim Zannah and many top lawyers.
CSNAC said the former CJN Ononghen’s position is an indication that he appears not to appreciate the moral responsibility expected from anyone in his position. The group reminded the former CJN that numerous charges were filed against him in courts of competent jurisdiction. CSNAC reminded the former CJN that he was convicted by the Code of Conduct Bureau and banned from holding public office. The group said Ononghen was linked to series of bank accounts denominated in local and foreign currencies lodged with Standard Chartered Bank noting that six charges were filed against him at the Code of Conduct Bureau, (CCB).
“It appears Justice Ononghen is not conscientious enough to admit he did wrong. That is a big problem for Nigerians. It attempts to speak to the standard for measuring corruption in the judiciary. With all the facts presented to the public the CJN continues to claim innocence. It is unfortunate.”
Suraju said the secret trial of the former CJN by the National Judicial Commission (NJC), shielded the public from the various atrocities committed by the former CJN some of which he admitted before the NJC Panel and that resulted in the recommendation for his resignation as the CJN. The anti-corruption group cautioned the former CJN to walk with caution saying that his trial was “not absolutely secret.”
CSNAC advised the NJC to undertake an overhaul and ensure that it will no longer be in a position to protect its indicted members from public scrutiny. The attempt by Ononghen to claim innocence is a technical indictment on the NJC and its decision on his matter.