Dennis Aghanya, Executive Secretary, Anti-Corruption and Research-Based Data Initiative (ARDI), and author of the petition against Walter Onnoghen, Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), may not have acted alone in the controversial petition at the Code of Conduct Tribunal where the number one judicial officer is currently being tried over failure to declare some offshore bank accounts, Daily Independent can authoritatively reveal.
Aghanya, a former aide to President Muhammadu Buhari and Publicity Secretary to defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), claimed in his petition to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) that his petition was at the behest of his organisation, ARDI.
But details made available by competent sources to Akelicious revealed that the content of the petition to the CCT might not have come from his ARDI group.
Rather, two governors from the North Central and North West regions, along with key members of the presidency and some party stalwarts are alleged to have sourced for the damaging information on the CJN’s records at the CCB and sponsored the petition through Aghanya.
The two governors are also alleged to have been behind a clandestine coalition which pressured President Muhammadu Buhari not to sign the Electoral Bill which would have legalised e-voting.
One of the governors is said to be youthful while the other, diminutive. The latter is always in the news over sectarian clashes in his state.
The sources alleged that both men put Aghanya up to lead a coalition of 24 civil societies to convene a press conference in November last year to condemn use of card readers for voting, stating that the process would allow hackers to hijack the electoral process.
“Details on Onnoghen revealed in the petition with private account matters could only have been sourced by financial security agencies, the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), or from the CCB itself,” explained a highly placed source in the presidency.
“The contents of asset declaration at the CCB are private, non-accessible by the public. But the specifics of Aghanya’s petition reveal one who had complete access to the CJN’s financial dossier which, if it were in the CCB, should be private, by law”, he said.
For instance, Aghanya, giving example of infractions by the CJN on the non-declaration of the offshore account, stated: ‘To give specific examples, here are some instances of cash deposits by Justice Onnoghen: Justice Onnoghen made five different cash deposits of $10,000 each on 8th March 2011 into Standard Chartered Bank Account 1062650; On 7th June 2011, two separate cash deposits of $5000 each were made by Justice Walter Onnoghen, followed by four cash deposits of $10,000 each; On 27th June 2011, Justice Onnoghen made another set of five separate cash deposits of $10,000 each and made four more cash deposits of $10,000 each on the following day, 28th June 2011.”
The petitioner further revealed details of the petition, stating thus: ‘The Code of Conduct Bureau Forms (Form CCB 1) of Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen for 2014 and 2016 were dated and filed on the same day. The acknowledgement slip for Declarant SCN: 000014 was issued on 14th December 2016. The acknowledgement slip for Declarant SCN: 000015 was also issued on 14th December 2016, at which point Justice Onnoghen had become the Chief Justice of Nigeria.’
“Only one with access to details of a private account of another individual could give such details,” explained the newspaper source.
Ironically, ARDI, Aghanya’s organisation, on June 21, bestowed on Acting Chairman, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, ‘Government Agency Excellence Award’.
According to ARDI, the award was in recognition of Magu’s doggedness and commitment to the anti-corruption crusade, and for “distinguishing himself in the anti-graft campaign.”
This was at a time when the commission was being pilloried over perceived selective fight against corruption.
In November last year, Aghanya further demonstrated that he had access to thinking in top government circle. Leading a coalition of NGOs named C24, at press conference in a hotel in Abuja, he raised fears over the vulnerability of the Independent National Electoral Commission’s electoral process by sophisticated IT hackers.
In short, C24, led by Aghanya and ARDI, campaigned against the signing of the Electoral Amendment Bill still on the president’s table at the time and which would have given legal backing to the use of card readers in voting and electronic transmission of result. Again, this mirrored an earlier position by intelligence agencies a few months earlier on the same matter.
Aghanya alleged that the card reader would allow politicians to hijack the electoral process. C24 said that it was aware that politicians have hired sophisticated hackers from Asian countries with a view to invading the IT mainframes of INEC so as to alter election result in favour of their preferred candidate on election day.
According to the group, this is just a second step in the series of plans to undermine the 2019 general election in February.
“The end game is to remote-control the outcome of our elections in 2019 by hacking INEC servers and taking control of her website to upload fictitious result in favour of their pay masters, thereby determining electoral outcomes against the run of ballots, contrary to the expressed will of voters,” explained Aghanya.
He went ahead to link steps by politicians and some civil rights group to enforce 100 percent electronic voting in 2019 as part of the plot.
Again, when the National Assembly had a face-off with the president over the lack of due process on the purchase of $496 million aircraft from the US, Aghanya appealed to the leadership of the National Assembly to show understanding.
“For anyone to think of impeachment process against him is not right. We have many problems at hand. Violation of a constitutional provision is bad but it is worse to act in an immoral manner,” Aghanya had said.
Aghanya was Buhari’s aide between 2009 and 2011 and the pioneer national publicity secretary of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). He is also the founding member of The Buhari Organisation (TBO).
Court Halts Chief Justice Onnoghen’s Arraignment
Meanwhile, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Monday restrained the Federal Government from arraigning Justice Walter Onnoghen, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), before the Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja.
Earlier on Monday, Justice Onnoghen failed to appear before the Umar Danladi-led three-man panel of justices at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
Onnoghen had argued through his team of defence lawyers that the charge against him and its service were defective. Thus he could not appear in court.
The CJN’s legal team was led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) and 42 other Senior Advocates.
The Federal Government had last Friday filed a six-count criminal charge against the CJN over allegation that he failed to declare his assets. He was also charged for money laundering offences.
However, whilst hearing in the suit at the CCT was ongoing, two separate suits were filed at the Federal High Court challenging the validity of the charge instituted against the CJN at the CCT, demanding an order that the arraignment should be stopped pending the determination of a motion on notice in that respect.
One of the suits with number FHC/ABJ/CS/27/2019 was filed by the Incorporated Trustees of the Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative. The other suit with number FHC/ABJ/CS/28/2019 was filed by Incorporated Trustees of the International Association of Student Economists and Management.
Ruling on the motion ex parte, Justice N. Maha ordered the parties to maintain status quo ante until January 17, directing that the defendants be served with all court processes and that they should appear in court same day.
Malam Abubakar Malami (SAN), the Attorney General of the Federation and Minster of Justice; Justice Danladi Umar, Chairman Code of Conduct Tribunal; the National Judicial Council (NJC); Mr. Ibrahim Idris, the Inspector General of Police; and Dr. Bukola Saraki, the Senate President, were defendants in the suit with number FHC/ABJ/CS/27/2019.
In the second suit, the defendants, save the Senate President, are also the Attorney General of the Federation, the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal as well as the Inspector General of Police.
The ex parte motion in suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/27/2019 was moved by Mr. R.A Rabana (SAN), while Jeph Njikonye moved the second motion ex parte in suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/28/2019.
Meanwhile, the scheduled arraignment of the CJN at the CCT was stalled on Monday following the defendant’s absence in court.
The CJN was to be arraigned before Justice Umar over allegation of non-declaration of assets.
Specifically, Justice Onnoghen is being accused by the Federal Government of failing to declare his assets as required by law and for operating domiciliary foreign currency accounts.
While the CJN’s team of defence counsels was led by Chief Olanipekun (SAN) and 42 other SANs, the prosecution team was led by Aliyu Umar (SAN) for the Federal Government.
After announcing appearance, Olanipekun informed the court of the defendant’s application challenging the CCT’s jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
He argued that service of the charge was not effected on Justice Onnoghen personally as required by law.
Olanipekun further submitted that the whole process was defective and that the CJN cannot be in court when he was challenging the validity of the proceeding.
Reacting, the CCT registrar said he took the summons to the residence of the CJN, and that he directed his personal assistant to receive the summons on his behalf.
“The PA, who introduced himself as Sunday Osai, signed and endorsed the summons on behalf of the CJN,” the registrar said.
But Olanipekun continued, informing the court that the application challenging the jurisdiction of the CCT to countenance the charge was filed on January 14.
“Our application is on protest and we have served the complainant/respondent; and if he is ready, we are ready to proceed,” Olanipekun added.
The prosecution counsel, however, opposed the motion on three grounds.
Umar contented that in a criminal trial there should be an arraignment first before any application is entertained; secondly, the application was not ripe for hearing and thirdly, the defendant was not in court.
At this juncture, the CCT sought to know why Justice Onnoghen was not in court.
Replying, Olanipekun submitted that “where service of criminal charge and jurisdictions of CCT are challenged, the defendant needed not appear in court,” saying, “It is settled law.”
The Tribunal’s Code of Conduct was referred to and the defence team was requested to be guided as to and when the tribunal granted leave for arraignment.
Olanipekun, however, argued that before a date for arraignment of a defendant could be fixed, the CCT must grant leave for such.
When showed a copy of the order, Olanipekun pointed out that it was addressed to the prosecution and that the defendant was not even served as required under CCT’s practice direction.
To further support his argument, Olanipekun referred the court to section123 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 on the appropriate method of effecting service.
“If an individual is involved, service of summons must be personal, except if there is an order of substituted service,” Olanipekun argued referring to the said section.
He added, “It is strange that the prosecution counsel is talking about arraignment when the defendant is not properly served.
“We are not to brush the law aside. The whole process is incompetent and the law must be adhered to. Therefore, we urge the CCT to uphold the dignity and sanctity of the law by admitting that the process was defective.”
Reacting, Umar said the CJN chose that his PA should accept the service, insisting that “there is no law that says a defendant can challenge jurisdictions without being present in court.”
While insisting that the CJN must appear in court, the prosecution counsel restated that “the defendant having directed his PA to receive the court summons on his behalf, cannot come back and say he was not served.
“But if they are contesting, the court can order for another proper service.”
Responding, Olanipekun said, “We are talking about what the law says and not what Umar thinks is the law.”
But Umar cited section 396(a) ACJA, which provides that after plea has been taken, the defendant can raise any issue, insisting that the defendant has to be present in court before any application could be taken.
After listening to counsels, the CCT chairman ordered that a fresh service be effected on the CJN, and adjourned till January 22 for arraignment and hearing of pending applications.
Afenifere Lauds Nigerians For Rising Against Alleged Dictatorship
The pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, on Monday said Nigerians deserved commendations for rising against the dictatorship of the All Progressives Congress (APC) led Federal Government.
The group said the ordeal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, in the hands of the Muhammadu Buhari administration officials did not come to it as a surprise.
It also commended the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), civil society organisations, and Nigerians for speaking out against the affliction of the CJN.
Speaking with Daily Independent, Yinka Odumakin, the organisation’s National Publicity Secretary, said Justice Onnoghen had given judgment against President Buhari in the past, so the president was not comfortable with him as the CJN.
Odumakin said the president was afraid that constitutional issues might arise which may be resolved by the Supreme Court.
Odumakin explained: “We are not surprised because given the fact that Onnoghen is from the five percent part of Nigeria and not from 97%, President Buhari could not have been comfortable with him as the Chief Justice of Nigeria fearing that issues might arise constitutionally and it has to go through the Supreme Court.”
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Organisation (PPCO) argued on Monday that desperation by President Muhammadu Buhari and APC to win the 2019 election was the reason they wanted Justice Onnoghen out.
The party noted that Buhari presidency and the APC, in their venture, had exposed their desperation to subdue and annex the judiciary.
Accusing President Buhari and the APC of desperation in the assault against the judiciary, PPCO, in a statement by its Director, Media and Publicity, Kola Ologbondiyan, said it was despicable that rather than retracing their steps from the ignoble act against the CJN, after the spontaneous public outrage that trailed the shameful act, the APC and the Buhari presidency were attempting to blackmail Nigerians who condemned the assault on the judiciary as being sympathetic to corruption.
“The Buhari presidency and the APC, in this venture, have exposed their desperation to subdue and annex the judiciary, particularly, following increasing agitation by Nigerians for the prosecution of President Buhari’s cronies and APC leaders over exposed corruption.
“The Buhari presidency and APC in turning around to fight Nigerians have further exposed their desperation to replace Justice Onnoghen with a pliable CJN, who will execute their plots to use the courts to detain opposition leaders as well as vocal members of the civil society during the elections.
“It is now crystal clear to all Nigerians that apart from failing woefully in all its promises, the APC and its presidential candidate, President Buhari, are beginning to manifest their autocratic attributes,” the party said.
Labelling Buhari’s government as corrupt, the PDP campaign organisation said that Buhari’s presidency was not only corrupt, but was also an asylum for corrupt people.
“The PPCO, therefore, challenges the APC and the Buhari presidency to name one APC member that has been investigated, prosecuted or arraigned before any court of competent jurisdiction in the last three and half years in spite of their humongous corruption.
“If for anything, President Muhammadu Buhari has encouraged corruption in our nation more than any president that had the privilege of governing our country, Nigeria.
“It is important to restate that the Buhari presidency is now a refugee camp for known and well-advertised faces of corruption. From the factional National Chairman of the APC, the co-chairman of the Buhari Campaign Organisation, the Director General of the Buhari Campaign, the zonal directors and the recent entrants from Bauchi and Gombe states, all leaders of the APC and Buhari campaign structure are all candidates of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).”