The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen, has reacted to a news report alleging that he was under investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for purported corruption, stating that he was unaware that he was being investigated by the anti-graft agency.
He equally assured the public that he had nothing to hide and was open to any investigation.
The CJN’s statement Wednesday came on the heels of a similar rebuttal by the EFCC, stating that it was not investigating some high profile Nigerians, including Justice Onnoghen, the former Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, among others.
The news report had published a list of persons comprising former and serving government officials and judicial officers said to be under investigation for alleged corruption.
It said the list had been recently sent by the anti-graft agency to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN).
However, the CJN’s reaction, which was contained in a statement by his media aide, Awassam Bassey, said Justice Onnoghen would not be deterred by the report in his effort to carry out the necessary reforms in the judiciary.
The statement said: “Our attention has been drawn to a media report quoting the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as probing the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Hon. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen for yet-to-be disclosed reasons.
“The report in the media mentioned the reason for the investigation as ‘intelligence’, which for now we take to be abstract.
“However, the Hon. CJN wishes to use this medium to state that this is the first time he is being made aware of any allegations or intelligence against him, nor has he been invited or called upon to offer any explanation for any impropriety.
“However, the Hon. CJN wishes to assure the public that he has nothing to hide and is open to investigation.”
Awassam stated further that the CJN as a committed patriot who has spent his adult life in the temple of justice, was ready to pay the required price to make the nation a better place.
He said: “The commitment of the Hon. CJN in the efforts of the current administration to rid the country of corrupt practices is unwavering and he will stop at nothing to see a new dawn in Nigeria’s judiciary.
“He will also not be distracted from his avowed reformative efforts to make the Nigerian judiciary a beacon of well-rounded justices who the entire citizenry will be proud of.”
Awassam asked Nigerians to keep faith and trust in the present administration’s fight against corruption and assured them that the CJN was doing his best to reform the judiciary.
Also, EFCC spokesman Wilson Uwujaren said Wednesday in Abuja that there was no iota of truth in the said report.
He said: “The attention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has been drawn to a story indicating that the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen, former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Kayode Fayemi, and Justice Abdu Kafarati of the Federal High Court, among others, were under investigation by the commission.
“It is important to state that this report did not emanate from the EFCC and the allusion to ‘an EFCC source’ is diversionary and mischievous.
“For the avoidance of doubt, cases under investigation communicated to the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation by the commission are classified information and it is troubling how such would be leaked to the media.
“The mastermind of this leak is out to create disaffection between the commission and particularly the judiciary.
“The commission wishes to state categorically that it is currently not investigating Justices Onnoghen and Kafarati.
“When Justice Onnoghen was being considered for his present position, the commission received some petitions which were investigated and found to be without merit and discarded.
“Indeed, much damage has been done to the commission’s investigation activities by this leak especially, as some of the cases mentioned are still at preliminary stages of the investigation.”