There was drama today at the code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Abuja during the continued trial of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe.
It all started when the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, Mr. Mohammed Diri, moved to tender into evidence, the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) and the Right of Occupancy (R of O), of Plot No. 2057 Asokoro District Abuja, which Orubebe was said to have failed to declare as his property.
Orubebe is facing a 4 count charge over allegations of false declaration of assets and acceptance of bribe amounting to N70million.
The DPP had through the star witness the federal government brought, to testify against the former Minister, Mr. Samuel Madojemu, who is an investigative officer at the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, attempted to tender the documents into evidence.
But in a swift move, Orubebe’s lawyer, Mr. Larry Selekeowei, SAN, gave reasons why the documents and an accompanying letter from the Federal Capital Territory Department of Land Administration, should not be admitted into evidence.
While he was giving his submission, one of the Judges on the CCT panel, Mr. Agwaza Atedze, interrupted him, asking him to streamline his argument to specific contents of the document before the tribunal.
Infuriated by the remark, Mr. Selekeowei, reprimanded the Judge for unduly interfering with his submission.
He said: “Why are you interjecting into my submission like this? I am making a point, you have not even allowed me to land! You are interfering with this proceeding and it is wrong!
“You are the Judge, you should allow me to make my submission while you rule. Allow me do my work, yours is to be neutral. Why are you doing this?”
Effort by Justice Umar to pacify Orubebe’s lawyer proved abortive as he kept shouting.
“I am making a submission and someone is interfering and you expect me to keep quite that cannot happen!”
Displeased by his conduct, Chairman of the panel, Justice Danladi Umar maintained that Selekeowei must tender an open apology.
He said, “Are you not sitting before us. Why are you being rude to us? You must apologise. When there is an interjection you are not expected to rudely shout at a Judge the way you are doing.
“You are a member of the silk, you must respect the bench. You are expected to speak humbly and with humility to the bench no matter what. This is not a place to fight, it is a place to settle dispute in an amicable way,” Justice Umar added.
In his response, Selekeowei said, “I apologise, though I still insist that it was wrong for anyone to interject like that”.
Meanwhile, in his evidence-in-chief, the PW-1, narrated how the CCB uncovered that the said plot of land belongs to the former Minister.
He said: “My Lord, I know the defendant because came to make his assets declaration to the Bureau by virtue of his position as a public officer and as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“I was instructed to invite him to the Bureau headquarters for the purpose of obtaining his statement on the allegations and intelligence reports that was being handled by the Bureau concerning him.
“I invited him but he promised to respond by sending his legal representative. He also promised that he may decide to come in person. However, he did not come.
“My lord he was issued with Form CCB-1, which is the standard form for assets declaration. He made the declarations between 2007 to 2011, which is the period under investigation. The CCB issued the defendant forms five times. For those five times he made his assets declaration forms review.
“After we received the forms, we examined them as part of our investigation procedure, to ascertain if there was over declaration or under declaration.
“We also conducted intelligence assessment on the declaration made by the defendant. My lord we discovered that there were some other plots or properties that were allegedly traced to the defendant, Elder Godwill Orubebe.
“We thereafter decided to conduct record examination by writing a letter to the Federal Capital Territory Department of Land Administration. In their response, which was in writing, they stated that Plot No. 2057 Asokoro District Abuja, for which a C of O was issued on April 10, 2011, belongs to the defendant.
“We thereafter decided to compare the information arising from the response from the FCT land administration department with the assets the defendant declared to the Bureau between 2007 to 2011, and discovered that Plot No 2057 Asokoro District, belonging to the defendant, was not declared, even as at May 29, 2011 when he left office.
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“We received the Certified True Copy of the C of O and R of O that was issued to the defendant in respect of the plot.
“As well as the Letter of Authority issued to one Engineer Rodney, by the defendant, authorising the collection of the C of O and R of O from the FCT department of land administration.
“The C of O and R of O was signed by one Funke Audu. It also contains the address of the defendant which is No 2 Drive, Ministers Quarters Mabushi Abuja”, the witness added.
Despite their submission, Orubebe, through his lawyer, opposed the admissibility of the documents.