Onnoghen: Your reactions hasty, mistaken, Presidency tells US, UK, EU

The Presidency on Sunday heavily criticised the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union for voicing their opposition against the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, without allegedly following due process of law.

It said the three did not only act in a haste, but also made “serious mistakes” and “unfounded assumptions” in the stance they took on President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to suspend the CJN.

It noted that the US, the UK and the EU got things wrong when they concluded that the suspension was linked to the February polls.

In a statement on Sunday night by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, the Presidency described the stance of the three as unfortunate.

“The statements by the three seem more driven by unfounded assumptions and to be honest, a certain condescension to this African democracy.

This is unfortunate. But this gives us an opportunity to clarify some points in the hope that these three friends reach a deeper understanding of the situation.

“The statements by the US, UK and EU speak of their respect for constitutional practice and fair elections. However, the positions they stake tend to contravene rather than strengthen these laudable objectives”, the Presidency argued.

Defending Buhari’s action, the Presidency claimed that Onnoghen was the architect of his own travails.

It stated further, “CJN Onnoghen’s situation is one of his own making and, to a large degree, his own choosing.

“The CJN was brought before the Code of Conduct Tribunal because of a serious breach of law regarding his assets declaration.

This is not a mere technicality like innocently placing a document in a wrong file or mistakenly placing yesterday’s date on a document.

“All credible evidence indicates the CJN owned and operated several secret bank accounts. Unexplained large sums of money, exceeding several millions of dollars have passed through these accounts. Several thousand dollars are currently packed in the accounts. Multiple deposits of equal sums of money were deposited in some of those accounts during the same day. Such rapid and equal deposits are indicative of a person attempting to evade banking reporting laws and regulations.

“Thus far, CJN Onnoghen has given no plausible explanation for the funds or for failing to report the subject accounts in his assets declaration despite having ample time and opportunity to explain the omission.

Given the amount of money involved and the CJN’s inability to explain the source of the funds, the most plausible explanation at this point is also the most unfortunate explanation. No one did this to CJN Onnoghen. He and he alone is to blame for this turn of events.”

The Presidency expressed concern that the same US, UK and EU that had before now chided Nigeria on corruption issues, were turning a blind eye to Onnoghen’s case.

It added, “Over the years and with great frequency, the authors of the three statements have advised and even chided Nigeria about official corruption.

Now we are presented with the sad and unwanted situation where the CJN is discovered to have a vast, unexplained amount of money in his pocket.

“Because of this, he has been thoroughly discredited. It is untenable that a person in such compromised circumstances would be allowed to preside over the entire judicial system of a great nation. That would travesty the nation and what it stands for.

“Had the situation been reversed and the US, UK or any EU member government found that its chief judicial official is the recipient of large sums of money of questionable origin and Nigeria suggested that you retain the person in that position, you would question Nigeria’s bona fides. You also would swiftly move to suspend the official pending final determination of the causes against him.”

The statement further

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