Chuks Okocha, Alex Enumah and Udora Orizu in Abuja
Ahead of Tuesday’s inauguration of the National Assembly and election of principal officers, a new twist has emerged as a major contender to the office of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has been dragged to court for allegedly lying under oath.
He has subsequently been served criminal summons by an Abuja Grade 1, Area Court in Karshi, to appear on June 10 to clear his name.
His accusers said he failed to disclose in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Form CF 001, which he filled, that he had been previously convicted by a court in the United States.
A political party, African People’s Party, (APP), had approached the court seeking leave to serve the defendant criminal summons by substituted means for allegedly lying under oath.
The complainant also prayed the court for an order to serve the summons on the defendant through the office of the Clerk of the National Assembly.
Granting the order, the presiding judge, Hon. Anas Mohammed, said: “An order is hereby granted giving the complainant leave to serve the defendant the summon through the office of the Clerk of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
The complainant had brought direct criminal complaint pursuant to Sections 88 and 89 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
The grouse of the complainant was that Gbajabiamila lied under oath in his INEC Form CF001 and thereby committed perjury.
The complainant contended that Gbajabiamila was convicted for fraud in the US but lied under oath when he denied in his INEC form that he had never been fined for any offence involving dishonesty or fraud or any offence imposed by a court or tribunal.
The APP who attached the defendant’s INEC Form CF001 to the suit, also submitted that the defendant lied when he said that he had not in the last 10 years been convicted for an offence involving dishonesty.
It attached a copy of the decision of the US Supreme Court, which convicted Gbajabiamila in support of his case.
It contended that Gbajabiamila refused to state the correct position of his conviction and punishment in his INEC form but rather pretended as if nothing happened.
Speaking on the allegations against Gbajabiamila yesterday in Abuja, the National Publicity Secretary of the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) Mr. Ikenga Ugochinyere, said the documents from the Supreme Court of the State of Georgia showed that Gbajabiamila had been convicted and indicted by the Supreme Court of Georgia for a dishonesty act.
The document dated February 26, 2007, and titled case No. S060829, “In the matter of Femi Gbaja”, signed by Theresa Tee Barnes, Clerk of the Supreme Court of Georgia, revealed that in his petition, Gbaja admits violating rule 1.15 (I) of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct, which led to his 36 months suspension by the presiding justices.
The document read in part, “Gbaja who has only been a member of the Bar since 2001, admits that he accepted payment of $25,000 as settlement of a client’s personal injury claims, deposited those funds in his attorney’s trust account in January 2003, failed to promptly disburse those funds to his client, withdrew those funds for his own use, closed practice and moved out of the country.”
Ugochinyere accused President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) of fighting a fake anti-graft war, which he said was being used to intimidate political opponents.
He said: “How can a so-called clean president be lobbying, coaxing, coercing and mobilising House of Representatives members-elect to step down and support a man who has been convicted in the USA by the Supreme Court of the State of Georgia for willful dishonesty?
“How could the president be demanding that Femi Gbajabiamila, a man convicted of dishonest acts, be anointed and imposed to occupy the speakership of the House of Representatives?
“CUPP is not interested in who parliamentarians decide to elect to lead the Ninth Assembly, what we are saying is that a man who has been convicted of dishonest acts and who is constitutionally ineligible to even come near where leadership questions are asked and answered should not be rail-roaded into the speakership of the Nigerian Parliament.”
He said his group had secured the nod of the FCT court to commence criminal proceedings against Gbajabiamila for the offence of perjury and giving false information under oath.
He said: “This criminal case is instituted because in 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and most recently 2018, preparatory to the 2019 elections, Femi Gbajabiamila in answer to questions contained in the INEC form CF001 gave false evidence and information on oath to the commission when he denied and claimed that he had never been indicted by a tribunal, court panel for fraud or dishonesty. Yet it is the finding of the Supreme Court of the State of Georgia which in a unanimous decision found him guilty and sentenced him to 36 months disbarment as against the punishment of lifetime disbarment because he pleaded guilty and repaid the money to his client, which was done after three years of running away with the money.”
Ugochinyere called on all lawmakers-elect to reject the candidature of Gbajabiamila by not electing him as speaker.
He also said the reversal of the secret ballot system used in 2015 election of principal officers of the National Assembly was non-negotiable.
Efforts to get Gbajabiamila to respond to the allegation were unsuccessful yesterday.
But an associate of the federal legislator told THISDAY last night that there was nothing to the summons, saying it had always been Gbajabiamila’s position that he had never been convicted by any court of law for any crime.
“This is a worn-out matter that his opponents resuscitate in every election circle to embarrass him,” his associate said, adding that it was a mere blackmail his accusers hoped to use to stop him from contesting the position of speaker of the House of Representatives.