Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
A former Minister for the Niger Delta, Mr. Godsday Orubebe, has asked the Court of Appeal to set aside the judgment of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) which ordered the forfeiture of his property at Plot 2057 Asokoro District in Abuja.
The tribunal had in a judgment delivered on October 4, found Orubebe guilty as charged and punished in accordance with Section 23 of Code of Conduct Bureau Act.
In the notice of appeal filed by his lawyer, Mr. Selekeowei Larry (SAN), the former minister.
He raised three grounds of appeal, arguing among others, that the tribunal misdirected itself in reaching its decision that was not supported by evidence led by the prosecution.
Orubebe argued that the tribunal erred in law when it held that the prosecution proved its case and ordered the forfeiture of the property in issue, Plot 2057 Asokoro District, to the federal government, “without any proof of the offence, thereby occasioning gross miscarriage of justice.”
According to him, that Plot 2057 was not acquired corruptly nor even purchased by him, but was a gift to him by the federal government. “It is a piece of empty land in the bush.”
Orubebe said he led credible evidence to prove that he had sold the property to a company called Divention Properties Limited, and that the company’s Managing Director, Akinwumi Ajibola, testified to that effect during trial.
He said despite the fact that the prosecution did not disprove the evidence, the tribunal still went ahead to convict him.
He faulted the CCT for holding that he remained the owner of the plot of land on the grounds that Divention, to whom the property was sold, did not effect change of ownership.
“Not only were the deed of assignment, deed of sale and power of Attorney tendered and admitted in evidence, defence witnesses one and two (Ajibola and Orubebe) testified to the transaction without any contradiction. There is no time limit for regularisation of title at the Land Registry,” he said.
Orubebe further argued against the decision of the CCT, to the effect that it erred in law when, rather than keeping itself within the evidence before it and the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal (CCB/T) Act, it went and relied on the Land Instrument Registration Act (LIRA), without hearing from counsel on both sides.
“The tribunal has no power beyond the provisions of the CCB/T Act as incorporated under the 5th Schedule of the Constitution.
“The tribunal lacks the jurisdiction to interpret and sanction under the LIRA, 2007, which neither provides a time limit for the registration of title, nor any sanction for delayed registration,” he said.
Orubebe further argued, through his lawyer, that “the judgment did not in any way contemplate our law. Our law does not ascribe ownership of a plot of land to a person, who had divested his/her interest by selling to another person.
“In fact it was made very clear to the tribunal that the transaction was completed well before his last declaration of assets alleged to be in breach of the CCB/T Act.
“Assuming, without conceding) that Orubebe did not declare the said Plot 2057 Asokoro, it would still not amount to an infraction of the Act, because it (the plot) was a gift to him by the federal government.
“For a non-declaration to amount to an infraction of the Act, the property in question must have been acquired with some income reasonably attributable to corruption. In one sentence, the judgment by the CCT is a travesty of justice,” he said.