Bribery Allegation/Monetary Gifts For Daughter’s Wedding: NJC Exonerates Onnoghen
The National Judicial Council [NJC] has exonerated the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen over allegations that he received bribes to influence cases before the Supreme Court.
NJC, in its report submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, stated that the suspended CJN has no case to answer.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had alleged that the suspended CJN received money in his account in 2015 to influence cases he presided over.
EFCC alleged that His Lordship received pecuniary gifts from the following and on the following dates:
- Ogunsanya Adewunmi: N250,000 (22/5/15)
- Paul Usoro (SAN): N350,000 (22/4/15)
- Emeka Etiaba (SAN): N250,000 (19/5/15)
- Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN): N300,000 (19/5/15), and,
- Eze Duru Iheoma (SAN): N100,000 (6/03/15).
In his reaction through a written address, Onnoghen denied receiving bribes, saying the money were gifts for his daughter’s wedding.
He explained that the gifts were made at a time of the marriage ceremony of his first daughter, Oremini Nkanu Onnoghen who got married sometime in 2015.
He tendered a copy of the wedding invitation which was admitted in evidence.
The embattled CJN noted that the said monies were not solicited and remains a part and parcel of the customs and traditions of the people.
In its submission, NJC Panel observed that all the gifts of N250,000, N350,000, N250,000, N300,000 and N100,000 respectively were made within the period of the wedding.
The panel also noted that from available EFCC evidence, “there were no other payments made by those persons or by any other lawyer into the account of the Respondent prior to or after the said period of the wedding of the daughter.”
The panel adopted:
“Accordingly, no misconduct can be seen or inferred from the unsolicited customary gifts said to be given to His Lordship.
“It had nothing to do with the discharge of his duties as a judicial offer.
“By Rule 13.5(2) of the Revised Code of Conduct For Judicial officers (Published February, 2016) a judicial office is permitted to accept – (i) Personal gifts or benefits from relatives or personal friends to such extent and on such occasions as are recognized by custom.
“The statements of three of the persons alleged to have given the gifts which they made to the EFCC are before this Committee.
“Nothing in them shows that the gifts were meant to bribe or induce His Lordship in the performance of his duties as a judicial officer.
“Nothing before this Committee contradicted the statements. It ought to be accepted as the true facts,” the NJC report concludes.