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Wednesday 13 February 2019

Court bars FG from freezing Onnoghen’s accounts

Court bars FG from freezing Onnoghen’s accounts

The Federal High Court in Abuja has restrained the President, Attorney General of the Federation and Nigerian Financial Intelligence from freezing the bank accounts of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen.

Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu granted the order while ruling on a motion ex parte instituted by the Legal Defence and Assistance Project Ltd/GTE.

The AGF last month wrote a letter to the NFIU asking the unit to “restrict normal banking operations on certain accounts belonging to Onnoghen”.

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The AGF said the order was in line with Executive Order 06 on the preservation of assets connected with corruption.

On February 8, 2019, however, Justice Ojukwu ruled that the AGF must obtain a court order before freezing the accounts.

The court ruled, “That the AGF shall obtain an order of court (ex parte) before freezing the accounts of Justice Onnoghen Walter Nkanu Samuel (in respect of exhibit 8) in compliance with the law if it was not obtained.

“That where it is shown that the order of court was obtained before the freezing of the accounts contained in Exhibit B, the freezing order shall remain valid.”

The court ordered that the order be served on the respondents pending the hearing of the motion notice.

The court adjourned the matter till February 13.

The NFIU last month discovered the identities of firms that paid $3m into the bank accounts of Onnoghen.

The allegations are contained in an interim report sent to the Office of the AGF. It is expected to be tendered in evidence before the Code of Conduct Tribunal should the case be allowed to continue.

According to the document obtained by The PUNCH, Onnoghen made huge transactions despite the fact that his salary and allowances were between N240, 202 and N751, 082.37 from 2005 to 2018.

The document read in part, “Suspicious transactions including $800,000 Standard Chartered Bank investment subscription were uncovered. Another $630,000 was discovered to have been lodged in some of the accounts through what was rated as structured payments in tranches of $10,000 each.

“Most of the lodgements effected between 2012 and 2016 respectively, were undeclared in the Asset Declaration Form of Onnoghen.”

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