A’Court President Constitutes New Panel to Hear Case on Ondo PDP Crisis

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  • N10m bribe: EFCC seeks to tender evidence against CCT boss

Tobi Soniyi and Alexander Enumah in Abuja

The President of the Court of Appeal (PCA), Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, has constituted a new panel of justices to handle all the appeals emanating from the legal tussle over the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ondo State between the Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee and Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff’s faction of the party.

The constitution of the new panel followed the withdrawal of the earlier panel led by Justice Jummai Hannatu Sankey.

The three justices bowed out of the cases following a petition written by a factional Chairman of the PDP in the state, Prince Biyi Poroye, who alleged that the justices had been compromised.
In a letter with reference number, PCA/Abuja/VII/2016, Justice Bulkachuwa named Justice Ibrahim M. Saulawa as chairman of the panel, which has Justices Ignatius Igwe Agube and Godwin Mbaba as members.

The new panel will now handle appeals by the PDP and Chief Benson Akingboye and two others, Hon. Diri Kelly Adonye and another; the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and two others; Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi and another, Prince Biyi Poroye, and 10 others; and the appeal by Mr. Clement Faboyede and another.

“You are hereby empanelled to sit and determine the above appeals in the Abuja Division expeditiously. Fixation of dates to be worked out with the presiding Justice of the Abuja Division,” Justice Bulkachuwa’s letter to the justices read.

The leadership tussle in the Ondo State chapter of the PDP led to the substitution of Mr. Eyitayo Jegede for Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim by INEC, following a Federal High Court ruling that declared Ibrahim the rightful candidate of the PDP in the November 26 governorship poll.

Jegede had emerged PDP governorship candidate of the faction led by Makarfi while Ibrahim emerge the candidate of the party faction led by Sheriff.

Meanwhile, the meeting of the National Judicial Council (NJC) is ongoing and may stretch to today to discuss several issues bordering the nation’s judiciary.

The meeting will among other issues consider the appointment of a substantive secretary for the NJC.

The two contenders for the job are the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Mr. Ahmed Gambo Saleh and the Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal, Mr. Aliyu Ibrahim.

NJC, it was learnt, would consider them for the appointment in line with the regulations and guideline, which stipulate the issues of seniority and experience as major yardsticks in determining the best candidate for the job.

EFCC Seeks to Tender Evidence
Meanwhile, the last may not have been heard of the alleged demand for a N10 million bribe by the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) Mr. Danladi Umar, as the Economic and Financial Crimes (EFCC), which had preciously exonerated him of the charge, has now made a request for the statement indicting him in the bribery scandal to be admitted by the court as exhibit.

A retired Nigerian Customs Service Comptroller, Mr. Rasheed Taiwo Owolabi, had accused Umar’s personal assistant and protocol officer, Mr. Ali Gambo Abdullahi, of collecting bribe on behalf of Umar.

Following his petition, the commission had invited Abdullahi for questioning and in the course of making his statement implicated his boss.

Abdullahi, however, later claimed that the statement implicating his boss was made under duress and inducement by the EFCC.

At the resumed hearing of the matter wednesday, the commission, while making its final submission at the conclusion of trial within trial before Justice Chizobia Oji of an Abuja High Court, insisted that Abdullahi’s statement was freely made by him.

In its written argument presented by its counsel, Mr. Andrew Akoja, EFCC informed the court that Abdullahi was invited by it following a petition by Owolabi that he channelled the bribe through the defendant to the CCT boss.

Akoja added that the defendant freely visited the EFCC and voluntarily made the statement that the bribe money was benefited by Umar and was allowed to go home the same day.

He also said defendant in his evidence in court never claimed that the bribe money was falsely or wrongly paid into his account by the retired customs officer in all the statements he made to EFCC.

Speaking further, the counsel stated that the retraction made much later by the accused to purportedly exonerate his boss was an afterthought that should not be given probate value by the court.

“All the witnesses of EFCC before this court testified to the fact that the statement of the accused was freely made in an open interrogation room,” the EFCC counsel argued.

“The accused alleged that he made the statement under duress and inducement, but in spite of the fact that the burden and onus to prove his allegations shifted on his head, he has not called any witness or discharged the burden in any form.

Akoja said: “The accused never told this honourable court that he was tortured to make his statement. He never denied in this court that no money was paid into his account or even paid in error. A suspect who personally walks into EFCC to make statement and was allowed home the same day cannot be the same to claim that he was tortured, beaten, influenced or induced without evidence.

“It is on record that two directors from the tribunal came to the EFCC office to bail the accused when the need arose.

“Our position is that the statement was freely made, voluntarily made and it complied with the rules of the Evidence Act and we urge the court to admit it and reject the afterthought of the accused that the bribe money was paid to him to cater for his sick father,” the counsel added.

Responding, counsel to the defendant, Francis, who failed to prepare a written argument, adopted the testimony of the defendant as his argument and urged the court to hold that the statement was not freely made but done under duress and inducement.

Trial judge, Justice Oji fixed February 13, 2017 for ruling on the admissibility of the disputed statement.