- Court refuses to order Ekweremadu’s arrest over alleged refusal to declare assets
Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Rwandan Governance Board (RGB) has said online assets declaration by public office holders is one of the methods that can be used to reduce corruption to a barest minimum in any country, including Nigeria.
This is coming as Justice Binta Nyako of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Thursday declined to order the arrest of the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu over his alleged refusal to declare his assets before the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Assets.
The Deputy Chief Executive Officer of RGB, Dr. Usta Kaitesi, said this when he received the Nigerian delegation on a Post-Conflict Learning visit titled: ‘Readiness for Change’ Thursday in Kigali, Rwanda.
She said the online method was to enable officers add newly- acquired assets and deduct the ones that were no longer in their possession to ensure accurate database.
Kaitesi said Rwandan government had zero tolerance for corruption, adding that anybody caught irrespective of their position would face the law.
She explained that Rwanda was not 100 per cent free from corruption but it was very minimal, adding that only zero tolerance for corruption could guarantee and sustain the fight.
“There is no immunity for public office holders in Rwanda; if you take part in corrupt activities and you are caught, you will be dismissed from office and face the law irrespective of your position.
“You can always run but no matter how long you run, anytime you are caught, you will face the wrath of the law.
“So either you stay and face the consequences then come out to be a better person or you keep running till you are caught.
“We still have some perpetrators of the genocide, who are still at large and we are still searching for them any day they are found they must face the law,” she said.
She explained that resilience on part of government and compliance by citizens was paramount in ensuring sustai-nability of any development project or policy.
The Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, who led the delegation, described Rwanda’s public service as excellent.
Oyo-Ita noted that the visit was enlightening, adding that Nigeria had learnt a lot and would replicate same in Nigeria for better national development.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that the delegation had so far visited 10 Rwandan institutions including ministries to learn their post-conflict survival strategies and mechanisms.
In a related development, Justice Binta Nyako of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on yesterday declined to order the arrest of the Deputy Senate President, Ekweremadu over his alleged refusal to declare his assets before the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Assets.
Justice Nyako declined to issue the order on the grounds that Ekweremadu is already challenging the jurisdiction of the court and the competency of the charge brought against him.
The Obono-Obla-led committee had through its counsel, Celsius Ukpong, applied to the judge to issue bench warrant for the arrest of Ekweremadu to compel his attendance in court to defend the charges of non-declaration of assets brought against him.
The counsel told the judge that Ekweremadu ought to be in court physically yesterday in connection with the criminal charges filed against him earlier in May.
He submitted that Ekweremadu decided on his own not to obey the court summon in spite of the fact that he was duly served with the charge as required by law.
But counsel to Ekweremadu, Chief Solomon Awomolo (SAN), objected to the request for bench warrant on the grounds that the Senator had on November 1, filed an application challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the charge against him, and also the validity of the charge itself.
The counsel submitted that appearance of Ekweremadu in court was not necessary until the issues of jurisdiction and competency of the charge have been resolved by the court.
He added that it would be more honourable for the presidential panel to withdraw the charge against his client in view of the recent Court of Appeal judgment which held that the panel lacks the powers to prosecute alleged offenders.
Awomolo, accordingly tendered a copy of the judgment to the court emphasising that the appellate court had made it clear in the judgment that the panel, which filed the criminal charge against Ekweremadu, has no prosecutorial power under the law to prosecute any accused person.
Awomolo therefore urged the court to discountenance the arguments of the complainant.
In a short ruling the judge held that it was not necessity to issue a bench warrant against Ekweremadu and subsequently, adjourned till February 26, 2019, for hearing of the objection filed by Ekweremadu against the court’s jurisdiction and the competence of the charge against him.
The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, had on Monday held that Chief Okoi Obono-Obla-led panel lacked prosecutorial power and hence cannot initiate criminal proceedings against any accused person.
The appeal was filed by a staff of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, Tijani Tumsah.