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Citing Executive Order 6, FG Freezes Onnoghen’s Accounts



The federal government took drastic actions against the embattled Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, as it directed the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to freeze five of his bank accounts. The order to freeze the CJN’s accounts came from the office of the attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, which relied on the provisions of Presidential Executive Order 6. Section 1 (1-3) of the Order states: “Without prejudice to any laws or existing suits or any other rights  arising out of or in respect thereof, all assets of any Nigerian citizen within the territory of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, or within the possession or control of any person known to be a current or former government official, a person acting for or on behalf of such an official, any politically-exposed person or any person who is responsible for or complicit in, or has directly or indirectly engaged in corrupt practices and other relevant offences are forthwith to be protected from dissipation by employing all available lawful or statutory means, including seeking the appropriate order(s) of court where necessary, and shall not be transferred, withdrawn or dealt with in any way until the final determination by a court of competent jurisdiction of any corruption-related matter against such a person. This provision shall, in particular, apply to those connected with persons listed in the First Schedule to this Order, (or any such list as may be issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice). “Where a government official or a person acting for and on behalf of such an official, directly or indirectly, engages in corrupt practices such as misappropriation of state assets for personal gain, receives any form of bribe or engages in corrupt practices related to the performance of his/her duties or the award or execution of government contract; or transfers, launder or facilitates the transfer or laundering of proceeds of illicit activities, such official, in addition to forfeiting the proceeds in accordance with the relevant laws, shall forthwith be subject to  the disciplinary procedure in accordance with the Public Service Rules and investigation by the Code of Conduct Bureau. “Subject to Section 174 of the Constitution, the attorney-general of the federation shall have power to coordinate the implementation of this Order and to enlist the support of any enforcement authority particularly those listed in Second Schedule to this Order, or any other person or entity as may be required or permitted by applicable Law in order to give effect to this Executive Order. “The attorney-general shall from time to time publish a list of all assets protected pursuant to this Order.  The authority of the attorney-general of the federation to preserve assets pursuant to this Order shall extend to any person who is under investigation in accordance with applicable law in connection with having  materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or howsoever in support of any corrupt practices or other relevant offences by any person whose assets are protected pursuant to this Order; or any entity that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, any corrupt practices or other relevant offences.” Onnoghen is accused of non-declaration of his assets and also operating foreign accounts by the Code of Conduct Bureau. The CJN was to be arraigned before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) last Monday but he shunned the court because of improper service. That same day, a Federal High Court in Abuja led by Justice N.E. Maha stopped the CCT from trying the CJN till January 17 when the two ex-parte motions filed against the tribunal’s trial of the CJN would be held. The court asked all the parties to the suits to maintain the status quo. Similarly on that day, the CCT adjourned Onneghen’s arraignment to January 22 to enable the CCB properly serve him the six-count charges and the summons. But in a letter dated January 14, 2019, the office of the AGF directed that transactions on the said accounts remain restricted pending the determination of the case against the CJN at the CCT. The letter with reference number, HAGF/2019/EO6/Vol.02, premised the freezing of the accounts on the Presidential Executive Order No. 6 enacted on July 5, 2018. It was signed by one Abiodun Alkomo on behalf of the AGF and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami. The letter reads: “I am directed by Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to request that you, pursuant to the Presidential Executive Order No. 6 of 2018, forthwith restrict normal banking operations on certain accounts belonging to Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen pending final determination of the case against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT/ABJ/1/19. “These accounts marked to be frozen are accounts linked to him with the Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) as follows: Account No. 5001062686 (Euro) Standard Chartered Bank (SCB); Account No 5001062679 (Pound Sterling) SCB; Account No 0001062650 (Dollar) SCB; Account No 0001062667 (Naira) SCB, and Account No 5000162693 (Naira) “Please accept the assurances of the esteem of the honourable attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice.”   Judiciary workers threaten showdown Also yesterday, the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) frowned at what it described as the politicization of the alleged non-declaration of assets by Onnoghen. JUSUN president, Comrade Marwan Mustapha Adamu, in a statement, said that even if the CJN committed the purported offence, the best option was for the petitioner to send his documents to the National Judicial Council (NJC) which is saddle with the responsibility of sanctioning a erring judicial officer. Adamu said that judiciary workers were watching the situation with keen interest and would not hesitate to take action should due process be jettisoned in resolving the matter. He insisted that the issue of the independence of the judiciary was non-negotiable. According to him, “even if such offence is committed, that is not the process, the position is that since there is an Appeal Court judgement that said any serving judicial officer who erred can only be prosecuted after the NJC has investigated and found him or her guilty, that is the proper path to follow. “Most people are suspicious of the government because of the timing and the general elections, and also the speed at which the petitioners filed the complaints and the urgency at which the matter is being pursued has also shown that something is fishy. Also, we may wish to ask when did the petitioner realise the anomalies? “The CJN was appointed based on merit and not because he is from the South- South or anywhere in the country. So any regional and political sentiment will only put the CJN on a bad light. “Also the judiciary as an institution has the capacity to tackle the matter even though we recognise their concern but it must come from a genuine quarter. “JUSUN is also watching and monitoring the development with keen interest and has put her members on red alert, not only on this matter, but on any other issue that has to do with the independence of the judiciary. “We are not in any way shielding anybody, but the position of the law must be follow. We should also avoid a scenario that played out recently where our judicial officers were embarrassed, arrested and prosecuted but in the end they were found not guilty,” Adamu said.   PMB had no prior knowledge of CJN’s arraignment – Osinbajo Meanwhile, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has hinted that President Muhammadu Buhari did not know about the plan to arraign Onnoghen until last Saturday evening. Osinbajo spoke yesterday at the third Online Publishers Association of Nigeria (OPAN) conference in Abuja. The VP said that he was sad about the development, but quickly added that the president has directed that no individual should interfere with what the institutions do. Osinbajo said: “President Muhammadu Buhari whole approach is that institutions should just do their work. I can tell by fact that he did not know about this until Saturday evening. “He did not know that there will be any kind of arraignment till Saturday evening. He has said categorically don’t interfere with what the institutions are doing. Sometimes it has consequences like we have today. “My take is that I rather not have a situation where members of profession are being tried for an offence. I don’t feel good about it, as a matter of fact, I feel very sad about it; that is going on at all. That is my position on it, but I want to say that this is the way it works.” On the new CCB chairman, he said: “In the case of the Code of Conduct Bureau chairman, where these things are reported to, he is new, he is barely three weeks on the job, but the specific instruction is that if you receive a petition, however, it is [you have to] go through the process.”   PDP Insists Buhari Is Aware of CJN’s Arraignment In a swift reaction, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) accused Osinbajo of being economical with the truth when he stated that Buhari was not aware of the plans by the Executive arm to arraign Onnoghen. The party said that Osinbajo should know that Nigerians are aware that there is no way such high level decision, such as the arraignment of the CJN in a court, would be taken without the awareness, input and clearance of Mr. President. Rejecting Osinbajo’s claims that Buhari only got to know about the plans last Saturday and the federal government was saddened by the development, the PDP, in a statement signed by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, challenged the VP to explain “why Mr. President did not stop the arraignment on Monday or said anything on the matter since then. “However, if the avowal by Vice President Osinbajo was true, then it goes to confirm the assertion that President Buhari is not in charge of governance but has outsourced the responsibilities of his office to unelected individuals due to his incompetence. “Vice President Osinbajo’s assertion has also confirmed the claims by our First Lady, Aisha Buhari, that a cabal has taken over the control of the presidency, for which she forcefully called on Nigerians to take back their country,” the PDP said. The party noted that the Buhari Presidency is only trying to sway public opinion on the matter following the outrage by Nigerians against the arraignment of the CJN.

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