CUPP, NBA, SAN Condemn Freezing Of CJN Onnoghen’s Accounts
The order from the Attorney General Federation, Abubakar Malami to place restrictions on five bank accounts belonging to the embattled Chief justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen has not gone down well with many.
The restriction order was contained in a letter with reference number HAGF/2019/E06/Vol.01, by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), dated January 14, 2019 and addressed to the Director, Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, Naija News reports
In their reaction, Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), spokesman, Imo Ugochinyere the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), a former NBA President, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), Mike Ozekhome (SAN) and Chief Edward Ashiekaa (SAN), said the act was not proper as the order did not originate from the court, adding that it was attack on the CJN’s office.
On his part. Agbakoba (SAN), speaking with newsmen on Wednesday, said the AGF could not validly rely on the Presidential Executive Order 6 because the charges the CJN was being tried for were about false assets declaration and not corruption.
He said, “It is not proper for the AGF to issue those directives because he is not being tried on corruption charges. He was charged with false declaration of assets.
“So, for me the AGF has exceeded his power to issue those directives. So I expect that lawyers, of course, will challenge it. The AGF cannot do that.”
In his reaction, Ozekhome said with the AGF’s directive, the nation was heading towards full-blown dictatorship.
He said, “They showed their clear intentions when they filed simultaneously a motion that he should excuse himself as the CJN. Somehow, the plan backfired on the government because of the unanimous public uproar and rejection that greeted it and the tactical move of Onnoghen’s lawyers who refused him appearing physically in court.”
In agreement, Ashiekaa noted that the Federal Government’s action was politically motivated.
“You cannot separate what is happening at the CCT from the issue of the freezing of the CJN’s accounts by the AGF. There were claims that the President wasn’t aware. How on earth can you separate these two issues? The order to freeze the accounts was from the AGF who is a SAN and who was supposed to know better.
“He wants to drag the image of the judiciary through the mud because of politics. The judiciary, which is insulated from partisan politics, is now being dragged through the mud,” he added.
Another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Paul Ananaba, also faulted the AGF’s directive on the basis that it was not backed by a court order.
He said, “If it is true, it is unfortunate and it is not acceptable. This is because before you freeze somebody’s account, you have to obtain a court order. Is there any order of court? You cannot just freeze an ordinary citizen’s account let alone that of the CJN. He has not even been arraigned.
“He is presumed innocent. Why will you freeze the account of a person that is presumed innocent? And having regard that the Federal High Court has issued an order that he should not be arraigned, why won’t you allow the matter to take its full course. If you want to freeze his account, why won’t an application be made and the order made. It is a dangerous trend.”
Also, the NBA has condemned Malami for the freezing of Onnoghen’s bank accounts without the backing of a court order, saying it is “a complete abuse.”
The NBA President, Mr Paul Usoro (SAN), who said the NBA was going to issue a comprehensive response to the development, expressed this view in a telephone chat with Punch on Wednesday.
He said, “I am not aware that the AGF has gone to court to obtain a court order for the freezing of the account of the CJN. If he has not obtained the court order permitting him to do it, then it is wrong and it is a complete abuse.”
Furthermore, spokesman of CUPP, Imo Ugochinyere has described the development as another plot by the government of the All Progressives Congress to harm Onnoghen “for refusing to compromise the composition of the post-2019 election Supreme Court Appeal Tribunal.”
Ugochinyere further alleged that efforts to also make Onnoghen compose Supreme Court Appeal Tribunal for the governorship elections in Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Lagos, Benue, Imo, Kwara, Plateau, Kaduna, Abia and Sokoto states with their preferred choices of judges did not succeed.
He added, “The current ordeal of the Honourable CJN will not end soon. He is up against people who are desperate and who do not care if the engine of state grinds to a halt. They have taken this dastardly attack to a new low by freezing all the family assets of the CJN.”
Meanwhile, as earlier reported by Naija News, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo said on Wednesday that President Buhari had no prior knowledge of the CJN’s arraignment.
He said, “I can tell you for a fact that he did not even know about this until Saturday evening. He did not even know that there will be any kind of arraignment until Saturday evening.