President Muhammadu Buhari has insisted that Walter Onnoghen, the immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria, lacked conscience while he sat for years on the bench of the Supreme Court.
President Buhari made the claim when leaders of Afenifere, a Pan-Yoruba socio-political group, visited him at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday.
Justice Onnoghen was suspended as the CJN by President Buhari after the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) discovered that he made a false declaration of his assets.
The president lamented that former CJN was bereft of his moral duty as a judicial officer and violated the constitution while convicting persons found to be guilty of different crimes.
President Buhari admitted that he was reluctant to sanction Justice Onnoghen, whose resignation he accepted recently, adding that he was astounded by the discovery of such large amount of undeclared monies belonging to the former CJN.
He said: “I will tell you as Afenifere, that I had to deal, though reluctantly, with the former chief justice because there were millions of dollars, euros, not to talk of naira, which were not declared,” he said.
“I wonder what sort of conscience some of us have, how can you sit and preside and lock people up for years and even sentence some to death and yet you are not doing what the constitution says you should do by occupying that vital position.”
The president told the visiting Afenifere delegation remains resolute in ensuring that all stolen funds and properties are recovered.
He also announced that all seized properties would not be returned to the owners without the affected persons providing a just and plausible explanation on the source of such questionable assets.
President Buhari said: “So, we are recovering as much as we can under the system and this time around I said the properties will be sold and the money put in the treasury.
“The last time they were given back their properties but this time around whoever comes after me no matter how generous he is, he cannot take money from the treasury give it to individuals, it will be impossible.
“But anybody who cannot account for what he has and for refusing to declare, we will have to do something about it.”.
Speaking earlier on behalf of Afenifere, Olabiyi Durojaiye, a former senator, said the group visited the Presidential Villa to specially congratulate him and his vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, for emerging victorious during the February general elections and been inaugurated for a second term.
Durojaiye said the group also used the occasion to thank the president for the special recognition of June 12 as the country’s Democracy Day.
He said: “We are proud of our contributions to your victory through the Yoruba Summit Conference held at the University of Ibadan International Conference Centre on January 29.
“There, we passed a well-applauded motion urging all the people of Western Nigeria origin of voting age to vote for your re-election by virtue of your people-oriented and welfarist APC political programmes and performance. We are happy the people complied.
“We are also here to commend Your Excellency for your recognition of June 12 as a landmark in the political history of Nigeria and for naming the National Stadium in Abuja after Chief MKO Abiola, the hero of Nigeria’s pro-democracy struggle.
“We are equally glad to note and commend Your Excellency for your efforts to empower the 36 states in Nigeria to have control of the police as a measure of improving security.’’
Durojaiye said Afenifere was also delighted over the “giant stride” of the Buhari administration in the field of agriculture, social intervention, revival and modernisation of rail transportation, continuing efforts to complete the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway among other achievements.
He, however, highlighted some major issues of paramount interest to the people of the South-West region in particular and the unity, progress and happiness of the entire country in general.
The group’s visit comes on the same day that another faction of the Afenifere, led by Reuben Fasoranti, blasted Osinbajo for ascribing some of the kidnapping cases in the country in recent times to politics.