The absence of the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Umar Danladi,on Thursday stalled trial of the former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe.
According to News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) report, the Head, Press and Public Relations of the tribunal, Ibraheem Alhassan, said the judge’s absence followed the death of his aunty last Monday.
It stated that the tribunal chairman, who travelled yesterday, however, fixed April 20 as the new date for continuation of trial.
Orubebe was arraigned by the federal government on a one-count charge of false asset declaration, which he pleaded not guilty.
At the last sitting, the first prosecution witness, Samuel Madojemu, led in evidence by Mohammed Diri, said Orubebe did not declare Plot 2057, Asokoro District, Abuja, as minister between 2007 and 2011.
NAN reported that the witness said he coordinates the Code of Conduct Bureau’s (CCB) intelligence on observed breaches of the code and asset tracing investigation.
He said between 2007 and 2011, Orubebe served as a minister when he submitted five asset declaration forms to the bureau.
“My Lord, he submitted the five forms to the CCB first as Minister of Special Duties in the administration of the late President Umar Yar’Adua, and later as Minister of Niger Delta Affairs up till 2011 in the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration,” he said.
Madojemu said the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) for the property obtained from the land registry of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) showed that it was issued to Orubebe on April 10, 2011.
He, however, said the former minister failed to declare the asset as at the time of leaving office on May 29, 2011.
Madojemu alleged that Orubebe refused to honour invitation by the bureau during the investigation of an intelligence report obtained concerning his asset.
“I was instructed to invite him for the purpose of obtaining his statement on the allegations and intelligence report that was being handled by the bureau concerning him.
“I invited him, he promised to respond by sending his legal team. He also promised that he might decide to come in person but he did not come.
“My Lord, the bureau issued him with Form CCB 1 which is the bureau’s asset declaration form and he made his declaration between 2007 and 2011 – the period under investigation.
“The Code of Conduct Bureau issued the defendant the Form CCB 1 five times, we received the form and we examined the form as part of our procedures to ascertain if there was over-declaration or under-declaration.
“We conducted intelligence assessment on the declaration made by the defendant and we discovered that there were some other properties that were traced to Orubebe which he failed to declare,” he said.
Orubebe’s counsel, Selekowei Larry, according to NAN, did not oppose the admissibility of the documents sought to be tendered by the prosecution.
Larry, however, opposed the admissibility of the C of O, the Right of Occupancy and the letter of authority referred to by the witness.
He contended that the letter, along with the documents attached to it, was inadmissible under Section 83(3) of the Evidence Act.
Larry said this was because it was authored by CCB “a person interested,” while the case against his client was already pending in court.
The letter dated February 18, 2016, was authored by Funke Audu, an Assistant State Counsel of the Lands Administration of the Federal Capital Territory.
The Chairman of the tribunal, Umar Danladi, overruled him and upheld the argument of the prosecution.
The prosecution had argued that Audu who was an employee of the FCTA could never be an interested party.