The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, continued his battle for survival yesterday, hinting at agriculture as the source of his wealth with a petition to the acting Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, over alleged threat to the lives of workers on his farm in Masaka, Nasarawa State.
Onnoghen was suspended a couple of weeks ago by President Muhammadu Buhari and has a February 13 date with the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), where he is being arraigned for alleged asset declaration offences.
He has, however, asked the CCT Chairman, Mr. Danladi Umar, to stand down from the panel of three on the grounds of likelihood of bias.
In an apparent bid to force the CJN out of office, the federal government had acted speedily on a petition by a non-governmental organisation alleging that the apex court justice had failed to declare his assets fully, complaining that he failed to disclose some domiciliary accounts habouring huge forex.
Few days later, the media was awash with details of the said hidden accounts with insinuation that the hefty cash could be proceed of illicit transactions.
In a nationwide broadcast, the president complained that while he was being upbraided for unlawfully suspending the CJN, no one was talking about the funds found in Onnoghen’s account.
Analysts said yesterday that Onnoghen’s petition complaining about ‘herdsmen’ attack on his farm, might be his strategy of explaining the source of his wealth already being assailed by the federal government.
Under the 1999 Constitution as altered, public officers are allowed to engage in farming.
In the petition dated February 2 and filed February 4, his counsel, Mr. Ogwu Onoja, SAN, said his client, the CJN informed him that “some men who appeared to be herdsmen were at the farm yesterday afternoon and also later at night, inquiring about the owner of the farm and issued frightening threats to the farmers.
Onoja stated that the workers are now living in dreadful fear and have consequently stopped all farming activities.
According to Onoja, the farm, which belongs to the family of Onnoghen, is a large commercial venture that provides employment to a large number of people who live on the farm and tend to the commercial poultry, piggery, livestock as well as cash and food crops on the farm.
While the petitioner said the threat of the herders was being considered as an indication of imminent attack on the lives and property on the farm, he called on the IG and police to urgently move in and forestall any possible destruction of lives and property at the farm.
He said in part: “We implore you, in the discharge of your constitutional duty as the Chief Police Officer of the nation, to deploy your men to secure the farm to avoid a breakdown of law and order, the possible unleashing of mayhem on the workers, destruction of the farm, including the property thereon and the disruption of ongoing farming activities particularly in this season of harvest.
“We also call for a thorough, exhaustive and stringent investigation into this matter so as to unearth the identities of the persons behind this menace.
“We trust that you will use your good offices to quash this impending threat and help restore confidence of the people in the farm and its immediate environ.”