The suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, is present for his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), after attending to his health issues.
Justice Onnoghen’s trial was adjourned last week following his absence on health grounds.
His counsel, Adeboyega Awomolo, had tendered a letter from the CJN, explaining that he developed issues with his teeth and could not make it to court.
The prosecutor, on the other hand, Aliyu Umar, said he had also received a copy of the letter as well as a medical report indicating he had a high blood pressure.
In today’s sitting, the prosecution, Mr. Umar, called for the first witness, Mr. James Akpala, a Senior Investigative officer with the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).
He told the tribunal that he was directed by his superiors to carry out an investigation and was given a petition about the investigation.
He said that the petition was received from Mr. Denis Aganya alleging breach of Code of Public Office including alleged non-declaration of assets and false declaration of assets against the CJN.
According to Mr. Aganya, the team wrote to the CCB requesting for the CJN’s asset declaration ranging from the year 2000 to 2019 which was handed over to him and in turn examined and filed.
He added that after his investigation, the petitioner was invited and his statement recorded.
He also told the tribunal that the scheduling officer at the CCB, Ikpeme Amba, was invited with his statement which was recorded.
Mr. Aganya revealed that the team wrote to the commercial bank purportedly used by the Justice Onnoghen, requesting for his account statements, Account Opening Document and Certificate of Identification.
He noted that the team later found out that the account opening package was incomplete to which his team notified the account officer.
Mr. Akpala explained that on January 13, the investigation team visited the office of the defendant and out found that the account opening package was incomplete to which his team notified the account officer.
Mr. Akpala said the investigation team again visited the office of the defendant on January 13.
The tribunal then allowed the witness to tender documents from the CJN’s bank, their statement and the petition itself.
The Defence counsel Mr. Adeboyega Awomolo, objected to the documents.
He told the tribunal that the documents cannot be tendered because the witness is not the maker of the document and did not sign it, therefore cannot be asked any question concerning the document.
He added that every statement must be proved by the maker of the document and that the witness has testified under oath that he is a staff of CCB and not the bank.
In his submission, the prosecutor Mr. Aliyu Umar said the witness is an investigation officer who receives documents and asked for documents in the course of his work.
He is of the opinion that on the strength of that, he can submit the documents.
He stated that the proof will come from the officer of the bank who is listed as a witness in the matter.
The chairman of the Tribunal, however, admitted it in evidence. According to him, it is in the interest of justice.
The witness Mr. Akpala was asked if he sees the statement of the defendant will he recognise it? He answered in the affirmative.
The Defence has no objection to the said statement and it is tendered in evidence.
The witness is then asked to tell the court for what office the asset declaration form handed to him was declared.
The witness said it was for 2014. He was then asked to read when it was received by the bureau. The witness said it was on December 14, 2016.
Under cross-examination, the witness was asked if the only thing the team did was to collect information and documents.
He said in addition to that, his team Conducted interviews and wrote a report after that, Mr Akpala was asked to tell the tribunal the organogram of CCB which he listed.
He was then asked if the CCB had a particular register that contained those that have declared their assets from 1993 till date.
The witness stuttered at first, then eventually told the tribunal that he is not aware.