Whilst not attempting to further comment on the merit of this matter as it is the subject of a number of ongoing court actions, it is important to put this out there.
Contrary to popular speculations, the CJN, Hon Mister Justice Walter Onnoghen is not daft!
In the recent past, it was widely reported that the CJN admitted to the CCB that he forgot to declare his assets. Many without as much having recourse to his statement or the law establishing the CCB stopped short of calling the number one judicial officer in Nigeria daft.
“Does he not know that ignorance of the law excuses no one, as caputured in the trite maxim of law, ignorantia juris non excusat?”
“Why would he think he can get away with admitting this “wrong doing” when as a judge he had convicted persons who confessed to a crime?”
“Did he not think it through before giving this lame excuse as a defence to this scandalous offence of his?”, they wondered.
If these legitimate, and no less reasonable questions were sincere attempts to learn, it should have made them privately seek further clarifications like some respected persons that I know quietly did.
But no. Many were quick to go public with their uninformed views. And while some were scathing with their criticism; others took to scorn and ridiculing.
Yet, this is the “horse” everyone should have placed before the “cart” before publicly disgracing their ancestors (apologies to a “professor” colleague of mine) with their ignorance:
The Honourable Mr Justice’s statement to the CCB reads thus:
“My asset declaration form numbers SCN 00014 and SCN 00005 were declared on the same day, 14/12/2016 because I forgot to make a declaration of my assets after the expiration of my 2005 declaration in 2009. Following my appointment as acting CJN in November, 2016, the need to declare my assets anew made me to realize the mistake.
“I then did the declaration to cover the period in default. I did not include my standard charted bank account in SCN 000014 because I believed they were not opened.
“I did not make a fresh declaration of asset after my substantive appointment as CJN because I was under the impression that my SCN 000015 was to cover that period of four years which includes my term as CJN,”
Now, here goes S 3 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act:
Functions of the Bureau
The functions of the Bureau shall be to-
(a) receive assets declarations by public officers in accordance with the provisions of this Act;
(b) examine the assets declarations and ensure that they comply with the requirements of this Act and of any law for the time being in force;
(c) take and retain custody of such assets declarations; and
(d) receive complaints about non-compliance with or breach of this Act and where the Bureau considers it necessary to do so, refer such complaints to the Code of Conduct Tribunal established by section 20 of this Act in accordance with the provisions of sections 20 to 25 of this Act:
PROVIDED THAT where the person concerned makes a WRITTEN ADMISSION of such breach or non-compliance, no reference to the Tribunal SHALL be necessary. (emphasis mine).
Please, read the proviso again slowly. Read it a third time, this time loudly.
A lecturer of mine often said “The knowledge of the general rule makes you an ordinary student; but the knowledge of the exceptions makes you an exceptional student.”
The CJN could be anything, but the CJN is not daft. Nor could he have been.