On Sunday, March 31, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson stunned the world with his surprise announcement that he would not seek re-election.
The announcement came at the end of this TV speech concerning the situation in Vietnam where increasing numbers of young American soldiers were being killed amid the recent escalation of the war by the North Vietnamese.
In January 1968, the Tet Offensive had occurred in which North Vietnamese troops staged a surprise attack on 36 provincial capitals and five major cities in South Vietnam including an attack on the U.S. embassy in Saigon and the presidential palace.
Filmed footage of the attacks and the resulting carnage appeared on nightly news programs watched by the American public. Unlike previous wars, news personnel in Vietnam were not censored and thus often took graphic frontline combat footage.
Year after year of TV news reports showing bloodied Americans and dead Vietnamese civilians led many Americans to question the necessity of the ordeal. By 1968, demonstrations and unrest had erupted on college campuses with demands for an immediate end to the war.
Amid the mounting death toll and continuing erosion of popular and political support for the war, President Johnson was faced with having to decide America’s future course in the conflict. His choices included possible escalation in an effort to win the war, or the pursuit of peace with an enemy who now seemed determined to fight and win no matter what the cost.
Good evening, my fellow Americans:
Tonight I want to speak to you of peace in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.
No other question so preoccupies our people. No other dream so absorbs the 250 million human beings who live in that part of the world. No other goal motivates American policy in Southeast Asia.
For years, representatives of our Government and others have traveled the world—seeking to find a basis for peace talks.
Since last September, they have carried the offer that I made public at San Antonio. That offer was this:
That the United States would stop its bombardment of North Vietnam when that would lead promptly to productive discussions—and that we would assume that North Vietnam would not take military advantage of our restraint.
Hanoi denounced this offer, both privately and publicly. Even while the search for peace was going on, North Vietnam rushed their preparations for a savage assault on the people, the government, and the allies of South Vietnam.
Their attack—during the Tet holidays—failed to achieve its principal objectives.
It did not collapse the elected government of South Vietnam or shatter its army—as the Communists had hoped.
It did not produce a “general uprising” among the people of the cities as they had predicted.
The Communists were unable to maintain control of any of the more than 30 cities that they attacked. And they took very heavy casualties.
But they did compel the South Vietnamese and their allies to move certain forces from the countryside into the cities.
They caused widespread disruption and suffering. Their attacks, and the battles that followed, made refugees of half a million human beings.
The Communists may renew their attack any day.
They are, it appears, trying to make 1968 the year of decision in South Vietnam—the year that brings, if not final victory or defeat, at least a turning point in the struggle.
This much is clear: If they do mount another round of heavy attacks, they will not succeed in destroying the fighting power of South Vietnam and its allies.
But tragically, this is also clear: Many men—on both sides of the struggle—will be lost. A nation that has already suffered 20 years of warfare will suffer once again. Armies on both sides will take new casualties. And the war will go on.
There is no need for this to be so.
There is no need to delay the talks that could bring an end to this long and this bloody war.
Tonight, I renew the offer I made last August—to stop the bombardment of North Vietnam. We ask that talks begin promptly, that they be serious talks on the substance of peace. We assume that during those talks Hanoi will not take advantage of our restraint.
We are prepared to move immediately toward peace through negotiations.
So, tonight, in the hope that this action will lead to early talks, I am taking the first step to deescalate the conflict. We are reducing—substantially reducing—the present level of hostilities.
And we are doing so unilaterally, and at once.
Tonight, I have ordered our aircraft and our naval vessels to make no attacks on North Vietnam, except in the area north of the demilitarized zone where the continuing enemy buildup directly threatens allied forward positions and where the movements of their troops and supplies are clearly related to that threat.
The area in which we are stopping our attacks includes almost 90 percent of North Vietnam’s population, and most of its territory. Thus there will be no attacks around the principal populated areas, or in the food-producing areas of North Vietnam.
Even this very limited bombing of the North could come to an early end—if our restraint is matched by restraint in Hanoi. But I cannot in good conscience stop all bombing so long as to do so would immediately and directly endanger the lives of our men and our allies. Whether a complete bombing halt becomes possible in the future will be determined by events.
Our purpose in this action is to bring about a reduction in the level of violence that now exists.
It is to save the lives of brave men—and to save the lives of innocent women and children. It is to permit the contending forces to move closer to a political settlement.
And tonight, I call upon the United Kingdom and I call upon the Soviet Union—as cochairmen of the Geneva Conferences, and as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—to do all they can to move from the unilateral act of deescalation that I have just announced toward genuine peace in Southeast Asia.
Now, as in the past, the United States is ready to send its representatives to any forum, at any time, to discuss the means of bringing this ugly war to an end.
I am designating one of our most distinguished Americans, Ambassador Averell Harriman, as my personal representative for such talks. In addition, I have asked Ambassador Llewellyn Thompson, who returned from Moscow for consultation, to be available to join Ambassador Harriman at Geneva or any other suitable place—just as soon as Hanoi agrees to a conference.
I call upon President Ho Chi Minh to respond positively, and favorably, to this new step toward peace.
But if peace does not come now through negotiations, it will come when Hanoi understands that our common resolve is unshakable, and our common strength is invincible.
Tonight, we and the other allied nations are contributing 600,000 fighting men to assist 700,000 South Vietnamese troops in defending their little country.
Our presence there has always rested on this basic belief: The main burden of preserving their freedom must be carried out by them—by the South Vietnamese themselves.
We and our allies can only help to provide a shield behind which the people of South Vietnam can survive and can grow and develop. On their efforts—on their determination and resourcefulness—the outcome will ultimately depend.
That small, beleaguered nation has suffered terrible punishment for more than 20 years.
I pay tribute once again tonight to the great courage and endurance of its people. South Vietnam supports armed forces tonight of almost 700,000 men—and I call your attention to the fact that this is the equivalent of more than 10 million in our own population. Its people maintain their firm determination to be free of domination by the North.
There has been substantial progress, I think, in building a durable government during these last 3 years. The South Vietnam of 1965 could not have survived the enemy’s Tet offensive of 1968. The elected government of South Vietnam survived that attack—and is rapidly repairing the devastation that it wrought.
The South Vietnamese know that further efforts are going to be required:
· —to expand their own armed forces,
· —to move back into the countryside as quickly as possible,
· —to increase their taxes,
· —to select the very best men that they have for civil and military responsibility,
· —to achieve a new unity within their constitutional government, and
· —to include in the national effort all those groups who wish to preserve South Vietnam’s control over its own destiny.
Last week President Thieu ordered the mobilization of 135,000 additional South Vietnamese. He plans to reach—as soon as possible—a total military strength of more than 800,000 men.
To achieve this, the Government of South Vietnam started the drafting of 19-year-olds on March 1st. On May 1st, the Government will begin the drafting of 18-year-olds.
Last month, 10,000 men volunteered for military service—that was two and a half times the number of volunteers during the same month last year. Since the middle of January, more than 48,000 South Vietnamese have joined the armed forces—and nearly half of them volunteered to do so.
All men in the South Vietnamese armed forces have had their tours of duty extended for the duration of the war, and reserves are now being called up for immediate active duty.
President Thieu told his people last week:
“We must make greater efforts and accept more sacrifices because, as I have said many times, this is our country. The existence of our nation is at stake, and this is mainly a Vietnamese responsibility.”
He warned his people that a major national effort is required to root out corruption and incompetence at all levels of government.
We applaud this evidence of determination on the part of South Vietnam. Our first priority will be to support their effort.
We shall accelerate the reequipment of South Vietnam’s armed forces—in order to meet the enemy’s increased firepower. This will enable them progressively to undertake a larger share of combat operations against the Communist invaders.
On many occasions I have told the American people that we would send to Vietnam those forces that are required to accomplish our mission there. So, with that as our guide, we have previously authorized a force level of approximately 525,000.
Some weeks ago—to help meet the enemy’s new offensive—we sent to Vietnam about 11,000 additional Marine and airborne troops. They were deployed by air in 48 hours, on an emergency basis. But the artillery, tank, aircraft, medical, and other units that were needed to work with and to support these infantry troops in combat could not then accompany them by air on that short notice.
In order that these forces may reach maximum combat effectiveness, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have recommended to me that we should prepare to send—during the next 5 months—support troops totaling approximately 13,500 men.
A portion of these men will be made available from our active forces. The balance will come from reserve component units which will be called up for service.
The actions that we have taken since the beginning of the year:
· —to reequip the South Vietnamese forces,
· —to meet our responsibilities in Korea, as well as our responsibilities in Vietnam,
· —to meet price increases and the cost of activating and deploying reserve forces,
· —to replace helicopters and provide the other military supplies we need, all of these actions are going to require additional expenditures.
The tentative estimate of those additional expenditures is $2.5 billion in this fiscal year, and $2.6 billion in the next fiscal year.
These projected increases in expenditures for our national security will bring into sharper focus the Nation’s need for immediate action: action to protect the prosperity of the American people and to protect the strength and the stability of our American dollar.
On many occasions I have pointed out that, without a tax bill or decreased expenditures, next year’s deficit would again be around $20 billion. I have emphasized the need to set strict priorities in our spending. I have stressed that failure to act and to act promptly and decisively would raise very strong doubts throughout the world about America’s willingness to keep its financial house in order.
Yet Congress has not acted. And tonight we face the sharpest financial threat in the postwar era—a threat to the dollar’s role as the keystone of international trade and finance in the world.
Last week, at the monetary conference in Stockholm, the major industrial countries decided to take a big step toward creating a new international monetary asset that will strengthen the international monetary system. I am very proud of the very able work done by Secretary Fowler and Chairman Martin of the Federal Reserve Board.
But to make this system work the United States just must bring its balance of payments to—or very close to—equilibrium. We must have a responsible fiscal policy in this country. The passage of a tax bill now, together with expenditure control that the Congress may desire and dictate, is absolutely necessary to protect this Nation’s security, to continue our prosperity, and to meet the needs of our people.
What is at stake is 7 years of unparalleled prosperity. In those 7 years, the real income of the average American, after taxes, rose by almost 30 percent—a gain as large as that of the entire preceding 19 years.
So the steps that we must take to convince the world are exactly the steps we must take to sustain our own economic strength here at home. In the past 8 months, prices and interest rates have risen because of our inaction.
We must, therefore, now do everything we can to move from debate to action—from talking to voting. There is, I believe—I hope there is—in both Houses of the Congress—a growing sense of urgency that this situation just must be acted upon and must be corrected.
My budget in January was, we thought, a tight one. It fully reflected our evaluation of most of the demanding needs of this Nation.
But in these budgetary matters, the President does not decide alone. The Congress has the power and the duty to determine appropriations and taxes.
The Congress is now considering our proposals and they are considering reductions in the budget that we submitted.
As part of a program of fiscal restraint that includes the tax surcharge, I shall approve appropriate reductions in the January budget when and if Congress so decides that that should be done.
One thing is unmistakably clear, however: Our deficit just must be reduced. Failure to act could bring on conditions that would strike hardest at those people that all of us are trying so hard to help.
These times call for prudence in this land of plenty. I believe that we have the character to provide it, and tonight I plead with the Congress and with the people to act promptly to serve the national interest, and thereby serve all of our people.
Now let me give you my estimate of the chances for peace:
· —the peace that will one day stop the bloodshed in South Vietnam,
· —that will permit all the Vietnamese people to rebuild and develop their land,
· —that will permit us to turn more fully to our own tasks here at home.
I cannot promise that the initiative that I have announced tonight will be completely successful in achieving peace any more than the 30 others that we have undertaken and agreed to in recent years.
But it is our fervent hope that North Vietnam, after years of fighting that have left the issue unresolved, will now cease its efforts to achieve a military victory and will join with us in moving toward the peace table.
And there may come a time when South Vietnamese—on both sides—are able to work out a way to settle their own differences by free political choice rather than by war.
As Hanoi considers its course, it should be in no doubt of our intentions. It must not miscalculate the pressures within our democracy in this election year.
We have no intention of widening this war.
But the United States will never accept a fake solution to this long and arduous struggle and call it peace.
No one can foretell the precise terms of an eventual settlement.
Our objective in South Vietnam has never been the annihilation of the enemy. It has been to bring about a recognition in Hanoi that its objective—taking over the South by force—could not be achieved.
We think that peace can be based on the Geneva Accords of 1954—under political conditions that permit the South Vietnamese—all the South Vietnamese—to chart their course free of any outside domination or interference, from us or from anyone else.
So tonight I reaffirm the pledge that we made at Manila—that we are prepared to withdraw our forces from South Vietnam as the other side withdraws its forces to the north, stops the infiltration, and the level of violence thus subsides.
Our goal of peace and self-determination in Vietnam is directly related to the future of all of Southeast Asia—where much has happened to inspire confidence during the past 10 years. We have done all that we knew how to do to contribute and to help build that confidence.
A number of its nations have shown what can be accomplished under conditions of security. Since 1966, Indonesia, the fifth largest nation in all the world, with a population of more than 100 million people, has had a government that is dedicated to peace with its neighbors and improved conditions for its own people. Political and economic cooperation between nations has grown rapidly.
I think every American can take a great deal of pride in the role that we have played in bringing this about in Southeast Asia. We can rightly judge—as responsible Southeast Asians themselves do—that the progress of the past 3 years would have been far less likely—if not completely impossible—if America’s sons and others had not made their stand in Vietnam.
At Johns Hopkins University, about 3 years ago, I announced that the United States would take part in the great work of developing Southeast Asia, including the Mekong Valley, for all the people of that region. Our determination to help build a better land—a better land for men on both sides of the present conflict—has not diminished in the least. Indeed, the ravages of war, I think, have made it more urgent than ever.
So, I repeat on behalf of the United States again tonight what I said at Johns Hopkins—that North Vietnam could take its place in this common effort just as soon as peace comes.
Over time, a wider framework of peace and security in Southeast Asia may become possible. The new cooperation of the nations of the area could be a foundation-stone. Certainly friendship with the nations of such a Southeast Asia is what the United States seeks—and that is all that the United States seeks.
One day, my fellow citizens, there will be peace in Southeast Asia.
It will come because the people of Southeast Asia want it—those whose armies are at war tonight, and those who, though threatened, have thus far been spared.
Peace will come because Asians were willing to work for it—and to sacrifice for it—and to die by the thousands for it.
But let it never be forgotten: Peace will come also because America sent her sons to help secure it.
It has not been easy—far from it. During the past 4½ years, it has been my fate and my responsibility to be Commander in Chief. I have lived—daily and nightly—with the cost of this war. I know the pain that it has inflicted. I know, perhaps better than anyone, the misgivings that it has aroused.
Throughout this entire, long period, I have been sustained by a single principle: that what we are doing now, in Vietnam, is vital not only to the security of Southeast Asia, but it is vital to the security of every American.
Surely we have treaties which we must respect. Surely we have commitments that we are going to keep. Resolutions of the Congress testify to the need to resist aggression in the world and in Southeast Asia.
But the heart of our involvement in South Vietnam—under three different presidents, three separate administrations—has always been America’s own security.
And the larger purpose of our involvement has always been to help the nations of Southeast Asia become independent and stand alone, self-sustaining, as members of a great world community—at peace with themselves, and at peace with all others.
With such an Asia, our country—and the world—will be far more secure than it is tonight.
I believe that a peaceful Asia is far nearer to reality because of what America has done in Vietnam. I believe that the men who endure the dangers of battle—fighting there for us tonight—are helping the entire world avoid far greater conflicts, far wider wars, far more destruction, than this one.
The peace that will bring them home someday will come. Tonight I have offered the first in what I hope will be a series of mutual moves toward peace.
I pray that it will not be rejected by the leaders of North Vietnam. I pray that they will accept it as a means by which the sacrifices of their own people may be ended. And I ask your help and your support, my fellow citizens, for this effort to reach across the battlefield toward an early peace.
Finally, my fellow Americans, let me say this:
Of those to whom much is given, much is asked. I cannot say and no man could say that no more will be asked of us.
Yet, I believe that now, no less than when the decade began, this generation of Americans is willing to “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
Since those words were spoken by John F. Kennedy, the people of America have kept that compact with mankind’s noblest cause.
And we shall continue to keep it.
Yet, I believe that we must always be mindful of this one thing, whatever the trials and the tests ahead. The ultimate strength of our country and our cause will lie not in powerful weapons or infinite resources or boundless wealth, but will lie in the unity of our people.
This I believe very deeply.
Throughout my entire public career I have followed the personal philosophy that I am a free man, an American, a public servant, and a member of my party, in that order always and only.
For 37 years in the service of our Nation, first as a Congressman, as a Senator, and as Vice President, and now as your President, I have put the unity of the people first. I have put it ahead of any divisive partisanship.
And in these times as in times before, it is true that a house divided against itself by the spirit of faction, of party, of region, of religion, of race, is a house that cannot stand.
There is division in the American house now. There is divisiveness among us all tonight. And holding the trust that is mine, as President of all the people, I cannot disregard the peril to the progress of the American people and the hope and the prospect of peace for all peoples.
So, I would ask all Americans, whatever their personal interests or concern, to guard against divisiveness and all its ugly consequences.
Fifty-two months and 10 days ago, in a moment of tragedy and trauma, the duties of this office fell upon me. I asked then for your help and God’s, that we might continue America on its course, binding up our wounds, healing our history, moving forward in new unity, to clear the American agenda and to keep the American commitment for all of our people.
United we have kept that commitment. United we have enlarged that commitment.
Through all time to come, I think America will be a stronger nation, a more just society, and a land of greater opportunity and fulfillment because of what we have all done together in these years of unparalleled achievement.
Our reward will come in the life of freedom, peace, and hope that our children will enjoy through ages ahead.
What we won when all of our people united just must not now be lost in suspicion, distrust, selfishness, and politics among any of our people.
Believing this as I do, I have concluded that I should not permit the Presidency to become involved in the partisan divisions that are developing in this political year.
With America’s sons in the fields far away, with America’s future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world’s hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office—the Presidency of your country.
Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.
But let men everywhere know, however, that a strong, a confident, and a vigilant America stands ready tonight to seek an honorable peace—and stands ready tonight to defend an honored cause—whatever the price, whatever the burden, whatever the sacrifice that duty may require.
Thank you for listening.
Good night and God bless all of you.
President Lyndon B. Johnson – March 31, 1968
New Flyover Projects Excite PH Residents
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, last week, flagged off construction of the three flyover bridges which he promised the people of the state during his electioneering campaign for second term in office.
The flyover bridges are sited at Garrison Junction (to be named Rebisi Flyover) in Port Harcourt Local Government Area; Artillery Junction (Rumuogba Flyover) and Rumuokoro (Okoro-Nu-Odo Flyover) both in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the state in order to make for easy traffic flow and reduce inconveniences to motorists, commuters and other road users as is currently being experienced in Port Harcourt and its environs.
Our team, comprising Bethel Toby and Gift Tasie, went round the city to sound out residents on these projects. Here are excerpts:
Prophet Chinecherem Oliwe (Politician)
The proposed flyover projects of the present administration in Rivers State will boost economic and communication advancement of the state alongside other states of the South-south and South-East.
I have no doubt in my mind that the three flyover projects will encourage free flow of traffic and curb death tolls on our roads which had claimed many innocent lives.
Issues of this nature had previously produced nothing. Hence, I call on the state government, the contracting firm and the people of these areas to shun the temptation of demanding for kick-backs and marching grounds, and allow the projects to be completed for the public good.
Dr Clementina Njoku (lecturer)
Governor Nyeson Wike of Rivers State, a development field marshal has carved a development niche for himself within the past four and half years in the governance of the state, especially on infrastructural development, such as roads construction, rehabilitation and reviving of the state’s economy that was previously moribund.
On the three flyovers which are to be sited at Garrison, Rumuogba and Rumuokoro, they will definitely curb road mishaps and encourage free flow of traffic.
I have to implore Governor Wike to take bold steps by actualizing the completion of the earmarked projects.
I commend the initiative and enjoin Rivers residents to join forces with the governor to build better leadership in the Treasure Base of Nigeria.
Mr. Emmanuel Jack (Driver)
For me, the planned flyover projects embarked upon by the Rivers State Governor under the leadership of Governor Nyesom Wike is something of joy at this auspicious moment; planning a project is good, but its completion matters a lot.
May I crave the indulgence of those involved in executing the designated projects to ensure their timely completion for the good of road users.
As a driver, there are many deaths on the roads following the federal government’s uncaring attitudes to the state of these roads.
However, I pray that the ongoing flyover projects would definitely encourage free flow of traffic for easy communication among the populace. While the projects are in progress, efforts should be made to create alternative routes for motorists as to reduce inconveniences.
Dr Geneva Igwama (Ophthalmologist)
Most significantly, may I commend Governor Nyesom Wike for his exemplary leadership style all these years, where he had performed excellently despite so many obstacles by the opposition parties.
Embarking on the three flyovers certainly will end the long hours of hold-ups and reduce to the barest minimum the deaths of innocent Nigerians due largely to poor roads both in the city and the rural communities.
I deeply commend the talk-and-do governor, but also advise him to ensure their early completion.
Rev. Livingstone Okere (Cleric)
This idea of Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike’s is a welcome development, but there is need for him to actualize the course of constructing the three earmarked flyover projects, sited at Rumuokoro, Garrison and Rumuogba axis of the state. The projects to me should be seriously followed, and the contracting firm needs to be checkmated for prompt action.
Apart from that, I use this opportunity to call on the governor to concentrate not only in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor LGAs, rather the rural communities especially Oyigbo internal roads that have become an eyesore and death trap all these years.
Miss Gift Adiele (Student)
I think the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has carved a development and leadership niche for himself by embarking on flyover projects at these strategic areas of the state capital. I commend his dexterity, but urge him to also concentrate deeply on other roads especially those of them in the rural communities. Most rural roads are currently moribund and people are suffering. There is need for such concentration for the benefit of the rural folks.
Ms Kate Ogbonna (Businesswoman)
Governor Nyesom Wike’s plan to build three additional flyover projects is a welcome development to help cushion the effect of daily traffic jams at these selected sites.
One thing is certain; the governor should also look into our various internal roads, especially those of them in the rural areas and urgently rehabilitate them for use. Due to poor road networks, some business activities have been paralyzed. Hence, something tangible should be done to enhance the ease of doing business in the state.
Is CCT Right In Slamming Asset Declaration Charges Against CJN?
On January 10, 2019, the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) filed six charges of corruption against the Chief Justice of Nigeria at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), accusing him of asset declaration offences.
The trial commenced, last Monday, at the premises of the Federal Capital Territory High Court in Jabi, commercial neighbourhood in Abuja, with Wole Olanipekun (SAN) leading more than 50 SANs and 70 other senior lawyers in defence of the Hon Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, who became the Chief Justice of Nigeria in March, 2017, less than six months after the homes of several federal judges, including those of the Supreme Court, were searched in an anti-corruption raid in October, 2016.
Two judges of the Supreme Court were amongst those whose houses were raided. They were charged for corruption, but none of them has been found guilty of any wrongdoing.
The government said it was only in 2016 after the controversial crackdown on judges that Onnoghen partially declared his asset, and cash in Union Bank branch in Calabar, but still failed to declare a series of bank accounts, denominated in local and foreign currencies, linked to him at a Standard Chartered Bank branch in Abuja.
The charges, triggered by a group, the Anti-Corruption and Research-based Data Initiative (ARDI), had sent a petition to the Code of Conduct Bureau and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), alleging suspected financial crimes and breaches of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act and provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended against Onnoghen.
After laying bare the suspected transactions in the accounts between March, 2011 and August, 2016, the group accused Onnoghen of “Non-declaration of assets immediately after taking office in several capacities prior to becoming the Chief Justice of Nigeria contrary to section 15 of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act; Non-declaration of assets immediately after taking office as the Chief Justice of Nigeria contrary to section 15 of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act; Non-declaration of assets at the statutory intervals after taking office throughout his career as a federal judicial officer contrary to section 15 of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act; and False declaration of asset, and in particular, concealment of significant and declarable assets in the form of sundry bank accounts and the balances therein, contrary to section 15 of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act.”
The group also requested the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to conduct comprehensive statistical analysis of cash transactions on all the accounts for cases of suspicious transactions; and determine whether Standard Chartered Bank has not breached statutory duties to the Nigerian State in favour of, or in connivance with, His Lordship on Suspicious Transactions Reporting (STR). It also urged the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), the Supreme Court of Nigeria and the National Judicial Council (NJC) to determine whether the disclosed financial transactions are justified by His Lordship’s lawful remuneration.
Onnoghen was alleged to have failed to declare his asset upon assumption of office as provided in Section 15 (1) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act C15, punishable under Section 23 (2) (a) (b) and (c) of the same Act.
His reaction to the allegations, Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter S. N. Onnoghen, described his non-declaration of the domiciliary accounts as a mistake.
In a statement addressed to the CCB investigators, last Friday, Onnoghen also explained that the undeclared foreign currencies found in his Standard Chartered Bank were sourced from his estacodes and medical allowances, including funds from his days in private practice between 1979 and 1989.
He further explained that the withdrawals from his Pound Sterling and Euro accounts were for the school fees and upkeep allowances of his children abroad.
“My Asset Declaration Form No SC N 00014 and SCN 00015 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,” the CJN stated.
“Following my appointment as Acting CJN in November, 2016, the need to declare my asset anew made me to realise the mistake.”
The CJN further explained that he did not include the funds in his domiciliary accounts because he believed the accounts were not opened during the period covered by the declaration.
Here are some Nigerians’ reactions.
Reacting, Human Rights Lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), asked the Federal Government to urgently withdraw the charges against Justice Walter Onnoghen as such move will amount to prosecutorial misadventure.
According to Falana, “The charge against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen ought not to have been instituted at the Code of Conduct of Tribunal in view of the case of Nganjiwa v FRN (2017) LPELR 43391 wherein the Court of Appeal held that a judicial officer who has not been investigated by the National Judicial Council and sanctioned for misconduct cannot be arraigned in any criminal court in Nigeria.
“As all authorities are bound by the Court of Appeal verdict, the case should be withdrawn by the Attorney-General of the Federation without any delay because it is likely to be a prosecutorial misadventure,” Falana added.
In a swift statement condemning the action, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Candidate in the 2019 elections, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar said, “I have received the news of the sudden charges about to be filed against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, with apprehension and suspicion especially as such a move against the head of an arm of our government is coming so close to an election in preparation of which the Buhari administration has shown growing desperation.
“My suspicions are further exacerbated by the fact that the Buhari government is pressuring an independent and self governing arm of government with the aim of getting CJN Walter Onnoghen to resign or be pushed aside.
“I stand on the side of the rule of law and believe that a person is innocent until proven guilty.
“If Justice Walter Onnoghen is guilty of the charges about to be preferred against him, let his guilt be determined by a competent court of law and not by the Buhari administration. The executive cannot usurp the role of the judiciary. Nigeria is still a democracy and not a fascist dictatorship as President Buhari may wish.
“Any attempt to force Justice Walter Onnoghen to vacate his office, 4 weeks to an election for which the unpopular Buhari administration has shown every intention to manipulate, is a move pregnant with negative meaning.
“I see no reason whatsoever for the ongoing pressure by the Buhari government to force Justice Walter Onnoghen to vacate office when he has not been convicted for any offence.
“I, therefore, call on the President to respect the principle of separation of powers and abide by the rule of law on this matter and stop any interference or pressure on Justice Walter Onnoghen or the judiciary and allow the law and the Constitution take its full course”.
In his reaction, Elder Statesman and Leader of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and South-South Forum, Chief Edwin Clark, condemned the Federal Government decision to arraign the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, over assets declaration offences.
Clark said the arraignment of the CJN is a shock as Onnoghen has been carrying out his responsibilities as Nigeria’s top jurist diligently, adding that “PANDEF will resist any form of harassment of the CJN.
“The news of the arraignment of The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, before the Code of Conduct tribunal (CCT) on Monday has come to us as a shock because there is nothing to show that this man has not been doing his job properly,” Clark said.
”There is nothing to show that he is corrupt; simply because they want to rig this election, they want to remove him to put somebody who will do their bidding after the election otherwise there is no basis for harassing the judiciary.
“Yesterday, it was the acting director general of the Department of State Security Services (DSS), Matthew Seyeifa, who was removed and somebody who was retired was appointed to take his place. We deserve some respect. So, we will resist this one, and I understand that our governors had a meeting on this matter too and we will all come together,” he said.
Also speaking, a Journalist and Corporate Administrator, Chief Soye Wilson Jamabo said, “The strength of the Tripod upon which sits the pot of good governance depends on the balance and equality of all legs, but if a leg is unduly elongated and another shortened, its fall is eminent. Such is the move by the Executive to investigate, prosecute and judge the chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).
“The military style fashion, the timing and urgency of the drama smacks of desperation and fear of the unknown, this is impunity stretched too far. And to be silent is to watch the man in us die without any rescue effort.
“None is above the law, but same law that grants the Executive immunity from criminal prosecution recommends the National Judicial Council (NJC) as the constitutional body to handle cases of judicial officers not the CCT, an arm of the Executive. That will make an arm to be a judge in its own case”.
Activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), accused the Federal Government of engaging in unnecessary political witch-hunt.
Ozekhome maintained that the six-count criminal charge FG entered against the CJN over his alleged failure to declare his assets, was politically motivated, querying the time the alleged infractions were discovered.
Noting that the CJN, by virtue of his position, will play a major role in constituting the 2019 presidential election petition tribunal, Ozekhome, insisted that under the 1999 Constitution, as amended, Justice Onnoghen could not be forced to vacate his office, until when his guilt is established.
According to him, “The CJN can be removed from office either if he has been convicted or if under section 291 of the Constitution, the Senate affirms a request by the President to remove him by two-third majority vote.
“Our system of justice being Anglo-Saxon based, which is accusatorial, meaning that the innocence of a person is presumed.
“It is different from the criminal justice system of the French model which is inquisitorial, wherein the guilt of an accused person is presumed.
“This doctrine has been encapsulated in section 36 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, that the person’s innocence is presumed until he has been proven guilty.
“Assuming for example that Senator Bukola Saraki had been forced to resign his office when charges were brought against him before the same Code of Conduct Tribunal almost three years ago, what would have happened and what would have been his fate when the Supreme Court eventually discharged and acquitted him of the charge, following judgments and earlier order of the Court of Appeal and the Code of Conduct Tribunal itself?
“If you ask me, I sense serious political undertones oozing from this so-called imminent arraignment of the noble CJN. Question, when did they discover the alleged offence for which they now want to charge him on Monday?
“Was it just yesterday, was it last week, two weeks or six months ago? The CJN has been in office now for well over one year, how come that this misconduct or whatever offence that he is being alleged, was not seen up to now?
“How come, that it is just less than 40 days to the 2019 Presidential election, when the CJN is going to play the major role in constituting the Presidential election petition tribunal, that he is being moved against? Who is afraid of the Judiciary? Who is afraid of Justice Onnoghen and his impartiality and straight forwardness?
“How come we are reducing governance in Nigeria to one of impunity, one of despotism and one of absolutism.
“Don’t this people know that the world is laughing at us? Did we not see how Dino Melaye was yanked out from police hospital and taken to DSS quarters when he had no business or case with the DSS and DSS had no case against him.
“Did they not see Dino Melaye, a serving Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, sleeping in the open yesterday? Do they go on social media and do they watch international televisions?
“Do they know how the whole world is deriding us in this country? That governance has been reduced to mere witch-hunt, very opaque, very unaccountable, very un-transparent and very fascist! Can’t they see that?”, Ozekhome queried.
Rivers Residents Dissociate Wike From APC Crisis
The crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State is unabating. None of the factions of the party is seemingly prepared to compromise its entrenched position even as the general elections are fast approaching. They are still singing in discordant tunes. More worrisome is the fact that some members of the APC loyal to the Rotimi Amaechi faction are placing the woes inflicting the party on the doorsteps of Governor Nyesom Wike who belongs to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). But residents of the state, who spoke with our correspondent, completely exonerated the Governor. Excerpts.
Hon Prince Israel Wobo, former Chief of Staff, Port Harcourt Local Government Council
In respect of the fact that Governor Nyesom Wike has been a factor of the day, and the political icon of Nigeria, he has nothing to do with APC crisis and the court judgement.
I want to stress the fact that Chief Wike has done his best in terms of infrastructural development in Rivers State despite the fact that they have been caging him, he does not have a hand in what is happening in APC, but something is certain in life, whatever a man sows, that he must reap.
The former Governor of Rivers State, Rt Hon Rotimi Amaechi believes he is the owner of Rivers State. He made a declaration that over his dead body would any one succeed him as governor of the state. Rotimi Amaechi while he was governor of Rivers State, Governor Wike was his Chief of Staff and Wike was very loyal to Amaechi’s-led government then, so why can’t Amaechi drop his pride and be ready to support the development of the state instead of causing problems in the state.
Today, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi , our own son is there as a Transportation Minister and should support Rivers State for development. Look at how Onne and Port Harcourt sea ports are wasting away, also major federal roads need our leaders’ attention. Why can’t something be done in this direction by Amaechi? I don’t see anything wrong that Chief Nyesom Wike has done to Amaechi.
I want to tell the world that Chief Wike is doing his best to ensure that peace and development are brought to Rivers State, therefore, he should be allowed to continue the good works he is doing. Thanks to Vice President, Osinbajo, who nicknamed Wike, ‘Mr Project,’ God has blessed the governor in all ramifications.
I want to appeal to Amaechi to bring down his wings and obey court procedures, as the crisis rocking APC is an internal one that would require only God’s intervention for the party to have peace because APC has failed Nigerians and God is not happy with APC as a party.
The crisis rocking the party is a natural phenomenon because whatever a man sows, that he would reap. The judgment is that APC cannot benefit from its stupidity and so Chief Wike has no hand in their crisis.
My humble advice to APC is that they should go and ask God for forgiveness. The entire crisis in APC is caused by one man, Rt Hon Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi right from the day he brought a man and declared him aspirant of Rivers State House of Assembly. The Bible says for one man’s sake, I will destroy a nation and for the same man’s sake, I will build a nation.
So, I make bold to say that Amaechi is responsible for the problems and the court judgement declaring the party of not having a governorship candidate and not Chief Nyesom Wike. Generally, I will like to say that the APC crisis is caused by stupidity of the highest order and pride.
Rt Hon Rotimi Amaechi should humble himself and should know that he is not god over other members of his party and to me, APC would only be accepted in Rivers State in the year 2023 when the Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike is prepared to handover.
Alhaji Ibrahim, a Muslim adherent
What I see in the APC is that they know too much and no one is ready to learn or hear from anyone. They don’t have respect for each other and as such, everything happening to them is their own fault and not caused by anyone else.
Take for instance, when APC decided to proceed with primaries in the state despite the court order against its earlier congress, the court on October 10, 2018 declared null and void, the nomination of Mr Amaechi’s man, Tonye Cole, as the governorship candidate of the APC on grounds that Senator Magnus Abe’s supporters were excluded from the party congress.
This is what happens when disobedience dominates one’s life, so they should take it the way the court has judged and not to look for PDP to apportion blames as being responsible for the court judgement
Tejudeen Asifat, a Muslim leader
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has nothing to do with the court judgement. I don’t believe the rumours making the rounds that he has a hand in it, rather, I would say that the problem rocking APC is their internal problem and their fault that the judgement went that way.
Governor Wike cannot control the Federal High Court, so how is the judgement his own fault?
Due to the court judgement, the All Progressives Congress (APC) may end up not having candidates for the governorship, Senate, House of Representatives, and House of Assembly elections in Rivers State in 2019, going by the Supreme Court ruling and other pending legal hurdles before the party.
The Supreme Court’s ruling invalidated the stay of execution order issued by the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt, against an earlier order of a high court in Rivers State which nullified the APC congress in the state.
I see the legal battle happening in APC and the oil-rich state as part of power-struggle within the APC between the Minister of Transportation, Rt Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, and Senator Magnus Abe, while Mr Abe wants to run for the governorship of the state under the APC, Amaechi wants Tonye Cole to go for governorship of the state on the platform of the same party. Things are not done right in a house where there is no understanding and unity.
While Mr Amaechi has allegedly been applying rough tackles to shut Mr Abe and his supporters out of the party, the Senator is using the court to fight back, and he seems to be successful in it, as evidenced by the Federal High Court ruling.
The High Court order on the party’s congress, which has just gotten the Federal High Court’s backing, nullified the APC congress which produced the factional state chairman of the party, Ojukaye Amachree, who is Mr Amaechi’s ally.
All these are responsible for the lots of problems they have and so nobody should link it to the Rivers State Governor as being responsible for the APC crisis.
The APC as a party is not in order and the party members caused this problem for themselves and not Governor Nyesom Wike because if the party were to be in unity, they would have produced one candidate from the beginning to be their governorship flag bearer and not two or three candidates coming from one party. They behave like children that need guidance, yet not ready to be guided.
As you can see, the APC has failed to put its house in order. Look at the comment by Senator Magnus Abe after the court judgement, he hailed the court, saying that the decision taken was “historic,” as it would amount to “political rascality of the highest order” for anyone to continue to parade himself as the APC governorship candidate in the state, afterwards.
Senator Abe is insisting that the APC should do the right thing and what is that right thing since the other primary was done in clear violation of an existing order of a court of competent jurisdiction, that the party should forward his name to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the party’s recognised governorship candidate in Rivers State, which of course, we all know that Rt. Hon Chibuike Amaechi would never allow that to happen. This is why I said the house is not in order. They lack unity and this is a serious problem for them.
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