By Alex Enumah in Abuja
The arraignment of the immediate past Speaker of Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Hon Friday Benson, and four others at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Abuja over alleged abuse of Office charges brought against them by the federal government has been stalled again.
Benson alongside the four other defendants was initially scheduled for arraignment at the tribunal on May 22 but the arraignment was shifted till June 18, due to their absence in court to take their plea.
However at Tuesday’s scheduled arraignment, Chairman of the CCT, Danladi Umar, was said to be indisposed prompting the tribunal, the prosecution counsel and the defence team to shift the arraignment till July 4.
The other defendants billed for prosecution alongside the former speaker are ; former Clerk of the House, Aaron Timiye, former Accountant of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Thomas Tamaraodubo, the incumbent Clerk of the House, Owudogu Edward, and incumbent Accountant, Koroye Stephen.
The five defendants who were in court to take their plea left the tribunal with their lead counsel, Biriyai Dambo SAN, when it was officially announced the arraignment has been shifted till next month.
The federal government had on May 22 slammed a four count charge bordering on gross abuse of office on the five defendants.
Part of the charges were that the defendants allegedly engaged in abuse of their offices by arbitrarily excluding and refusing to pay a lawmaker representing Brass Constituency, Israel Sunny Goli, his furniture allowances having paid all other members of the House of Assembly, an offence said to be contrary to government policy and contrary to paragraph 9 of the 5th schedule of the 1999 Constitution and as incorporated under section 13 of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act and punishable under paragraph 18 of the constitution and section 23 of the CCB Act.
The federal government also accused the five defendants of abuse of office by excluding the said lawmaker from approved trip and payment for the trip meant for all members to attend the commonwealth parliamentary assembly in Mauritius.
Besides, the defendants were also alleged to have refused to pay Goli the sum of N8m being his constituency office maintenance allowance as enjoyed by all other lawmakers.
The federal government also charged them with abuse of office by refusing to pay the said Goli, the sum of N2m being his constituency tour allowance as paid to all other lawmakers in the house of assembly.