Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
Following its inability to substantiate a four-count charge of infraction of the Code of Conduct for Public Servants, the federal government yesterday withdrew the earlier charge filed against a former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Peter Orubebe, and replaced it with a one-count charge.
The federal government had in October last year preferred a four-count charge, bordering on false assets declaration and demanding and collection of bribe of about N 70 million against the former minister.
At previous hearings, the tribunal called on the state to call its witnesses but was unable to produce one and instead applied that the hearing be adjourned.
But at the resumed hearing yesterday, counsel to the federal government and the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Mohammed Diri, in an oral application, withdrew the charges earlier filed against Orubebe and replaced them with an amended one-count charge.
He told the court that the application to amend the charge against the former minister was brought pursuant to section 216 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
Orubebe’s counsel, Selekeowei Larry (SAN), did not object to the amendment of the charge, while the tribunal chairman, Justice Danladi Yakubu Umar, consequently struck out the charge filed on October 8, 2015, and replaced it with the one filed yesterday.
The amended one-count charge against Orubebe read: “That you, Godsday Peter Orubebe on or about June 29. 2015, while being a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in charge of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this tribunal, did make a false declaration of assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) when you failed to declare Plot 2057, Asokoro District, Abuja on assumption of office on September 26, 2007, and on leaving office (at the end of your tenure on June 29, 2011) and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 15 of Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act Cap C15 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under Section 23 ( 2) of the same Act.”
Orubebe pleaded not guilty to the single count charge when it was read to him and the prosecution counsel asked the court for a date to commence trial, adding also that the prosecution intended to call three witnesses to prove the allegation against the former minister.
The federal government had arraigned the former minister for an alleged N70 million bribe and false declaration of assets to which he pleaded not guilty to.
He was also alleged to have while in office asked for and accepted a bribe of N50 million from one Pastor Jonathan Alota, for the contract awarded in favour of his company.
In the fourth count, Orubebe was alleged to have while being the minister in 2013 asked for and accepted N20 million from one Pastor Alota as additional bribe for the contract awarded in favour of his company for the construction of skill acquisition Centre at Edo State for ₦1,799,914,251.88 and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 10 of CCB & T Act as incorporated under paragraph 18 of part 1 fifth schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).