The Special Adviser on Media to the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Mr. Uche Anichukwu, has thrown more light on the legal contention between the Senator and the Special Investigation Panel on Recovery of Public Property, explaining that it was not primarily about ownership of properties, most of which he said, were fictitious.
He said the senator was instead challenging impunity, smear campaign, and an unfolding sinister agenda informed by the politics of 2019 elections.
Anichukwu said it was against natural justice for lawyers of the All Progressives Congress (APC), extraction to constitute themselves into a panel to try members of the opposition, relying on Decree 3 of 1984, now known as the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act, 2004.
He noted that not only was the law already overtaken by the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, 2004, but that the panel was also not gazetted in any publication in the Federal Government of Nigeria gazette or inaugurated by the president.
â€œSo, considering the senatorâ€™s ordeals since his re-emergence as the Deputy Senate President in 2015, and with 2019 election fast-approaching, no one needs any soothsayer to know that the federal government is up to something more sinister and diabolical of which the asset forfeiture lawsuit is a launchpad.
He explained: â€œAs earlier clarified by the senator, the list contains so many fictitious and repeated properties generated by the dismissed Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice Innocent Umezulike, who, in his capacity as the Chief Judge of the state in 2016, colluded with his lawyer, Mr. Tagbo Ike, and some politicians, to steal and doctor his will. They then churned out petitions to many government agencies.
â€œShould proper investigation devoid of bias and witch-hunt not require that Ekweremadu be invited to respond to the petition, assuming the panel had the constitutional powers to dabble into matters relating to assets declaration?
â€œBut the panel instead approached the court by way of motion ex-parte, which would allow it obtain an interim forfeiture order against the senator, without hearing him, just to achieve a maximum smear effect.
â€œThe fact that the petition was authored by a former chief judge, who was sacked by the National Judicial Council (NJC) for corruption and gross abuse of office and is currently facing corruption trial at the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt and High Court of Enugu State, was more reason his petition should have been treated with wariness.
â€œAlso, the fact that the Chairman of the panel, Okoi Ofem Obono-Obla, signed, on behalf of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), the very letter referenced HAGF/ENUGU/2000/I and dated February 4, 2016 directing the Inspector General of Police to investigate Umezulike and the Director of Litigation over alleged forgery of a court judgment and order in Suit No. E/170/76 dated the June 25, 1985, is the more reason the panel should have been circumspect.â€
Anichukwu said simple verifiable matters were rather totally ignored, citing the Congress Estate, which he said, did not exist anywhere in Nigeria as well as the Kyami Layout plot, Abuja, which he said Ekweremadu neither accepted nor paid for as required by governmentâ€™s offer letter in 2008.
He also explained that a thorough look at Ekweremaduâ€™s assets declaration form, which the panel obtained from the Code of Conduct Bureau, could have shown that the House on Evans Enwerem Street, Apo Legislators Quarters, was declared with the plot number by which it was originally known and monetised to the senator.
â€œBesides, it is on record, as recently reported by some national dailies, that the AGF had in a letter dated November 1, 2017 and signed by the Solicitor-General of the Federation, withdrawn notices of investigation, which Obono-Obla sent to some judges of the Federal High Court, requesting them to fill assets declaration forms all over in clear overreach of his purported powers.
â€œSo, Ekweremaduâ€™s case is treated differently because the main purpose of the suit, which is another overreach by the panel, is to intimidate, smear, and embarrass Ekweremadu to give the impression that he illegally acquired and hid properties from the government, which is clearly not the case,â€ Anichukwu concluded.