The trial of a former Minister of Niger Delta, Godsday Orubebe, was stalled on Thursday as the Federal Government failed to proceed with the trial of the minister alleged to have received bribe of N70 million and false asset declaration.
Prosecution counsel, Mr. Peter Danladi, rather than open their case billed for hearing asked to amend the four counts preferred against Orubebe.
The former minister was arraigned on November 9, and the matter adjourned till November 26 after the prosecution had asked for two weeks to prepare its witnesses.
The prosecution at the resumed hearing rather than call its first witness, proposed to orally amend counts two, three and four, an application which the defence lawyer, Mr. Selekowei Larry SAN opposed.
According to Danladi, section 216 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, allows for the prosecution to amend or alter the charges it filed at any time before judgment was delivered.
He said, “The matter was adjourned till today for hearing. But before we proceed, we are applying to amend counts two, three and four.
“The application is brought pursuant to section 216 of the ACJ Act and pursuant to the inherent jurisdiction of this honourable tribunal.”
However, defence counsel, raised an objection, arguing that any amendment could only be done through motion on notice and not orally.
“This is a serious business. You can’t just jump up and say you want to amend the charges. You have to notify us about what you want to do. You have to do it through a motion on notice. You cannot come and take us by surprise. We have to know what you are doing.
“This is a court of record. Whatever they (prosecution) want to do, let them do it properly by way of a motion on notice,” Larry said.
Ruling on the matter, the tribunal chairman agreed that the prosecution had the right to amend the charges as it wished, but it needed to put the defence on notice.
The matter was then adjourned till January 27, 2016.
Orubebe, in counts one and two of the charges preferred against him, was accused of failure to declare his assets at Plot 2722, Kyamu and Plot 2059 in Asokoro District both in Abuja on assumption of office as a minister on September 26, 2007.
In count three, he was accused of accepting a N50m bribe from one Pastor Jonathan Alota on September 19, 2012 for the award of a contract in favour of his (Alota’s) company, Chemtronics Nigeria Limited.
In count four, he allegedly accepted additional N20m bribe from Alota in 2013 for the award of a contract to Chemtronics Nigeria Limited for the construction of a N1.8bn skill acquisition centre in Edo State.
Orubebe is said to have committed the offence of false asset declaration under section 15 of Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act Cap C15 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.