Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja wednesday set aside the conviction of a former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe, by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for false declaration of some of his assets when he served as a minister.
Following his arraignment by the federal government in 2015 and his subsequent trial, Orubebe was convicted by the CCT for failing to declare some of his assets as a minister in line with the public service rule.
He was first arraigned on November 9, 2015 on a four-count charge of false asset declaration and accepting bribe.
He was also accused of failing to declare a plot of land in Asokoro, Abuja allegedly owned by him.
However, the three-man panel of the Appeal Court in a judgment delivered yesterday in Abuja, held that the tribunal headed by Danladi Umar, erred in its judgment convicting Orubebe for failing to declare the Asokoro property even when he had already sold the said property.
In the lead judgment read by Justice Abdul Aboki, the panel faulted the CCTâ€™s conclusions in its October 4, 2016 judgment and proceeded to discharge and acquit Orubebe.
The judge held that the issue before the tribunal was not declaration of title, but false declaration of assets and as such the unregistered instrument of transfer are admissible in proof of the payment of purchase price, which showed that Divention Properties Limited had acquired the property.
The CCT had dismissed Orubebeâ€™s claim that he sold the plot of land to the Managing Director of Divention Properties Limited, Akinwumi Ajibola, for N10 million in 2011 and deployed the proceed to pay his rent.
Umar, in the lead judgment said after analysing all the testimonies given by Orubebe, it was difficult to understand why the property he claimed to have sold about six years ago still remained registered in his name at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Land Administration.
Umar said: â€œTo the tribunal, this is very absurd and not credible. The tribunal observed that under the Lands Instrument Registration Law, the DW1 (Ajibola) was under obligation to register/document his right over Plot 2057.â€