Former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe, has asked the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal to quash his conviction by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, following allegation by the Federal Government that he falsely declared his assets in 2007.
Orubebe, in his Notice of Appeal marked CA/A/633c/2016, is praying the appellate court to not only set aside judgment the Justice Danladi Umar-led tribunal delivered against him on October 4, 2016, but to equally discharge and acquit him of the charge.
The tribunal had in its verdict, said it was satisfied that Orubebe shielded his ownership of Plot 2057 Asokoro District, Abuja. Justice Umar who maintained that there was merit in the one-count amended charge FG preferred against the former Minister, held that the said property should be forfeited to the government.
The tribunal noted that though Orubebe claimed that he had already sold the land before he submitted the assets declaration form, the title documents still had his name six years after.
Even though the tribunal confiscated the land from the defendant after it found him guilty of the offence of false declaration of assets contrary to section 15 of the CCB & Tribunal Act, Cap C15, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2007, it however declined to ban him from holding any public office.
Meanwhile, dissatisfied with the verdict, Orubebe, through his lawyer, Mr. Selekowei Larry, SAN, raised three grounds he said the appellate court should consider and nullify his conviction.
He wants the appellate court to determine “Whether the tribunal was right in convicting the defendant for false declaration of plot 2057, Asokoro District, Abuja.
“Whether the tribunal was right in holding that the said plot 2057 remained or remains the defendant’s property despite exhibits D1, D2, and D3 being documentary evidence of transfer of interest executed in favour of one Divention Properties Ltd by the defendant.
As well as, “Whether the tribunal was right in suo motu raising the issue of non registration of Divention Properties Ltd’s title in respect of plot 2057 Asokoro District, Abuja and convicting the defendant thereon without granting party opportunity to be heard thereon”.
The embattled ex-Minister prayed the tribunal to allow the appeal on the premise that the prosecution woefully failed to prove the false declaration of assets against him.
According to him, “The said plot said not to be declared in the charge on September 26, 2007 was not yet given to the appellant as at then.
“The appellant did not make any declaration of assets on June 29, 2011 as alleged on the charge. He only made a declaration on June 28, 2011, by which time he was no longer the owner of plot 2057. The plot 2057 Asokoro District, Abuja, was a gift of empty land by the respondent (FRN) which he received on June 13, 2011 and parted with the same day.
“Having sold the said plot and executed D1, D2 and D3, he could not be reasonably expected to still declare it as his assets.
“That the tribunal based its decision on an issue that was not put before it, but raised suo motu by it without giving parties opportunity to be heard, thereby rendering it a nullity
“Accordingly, that the decision of the tribunal be set aside, the conviction quashed and the appellant be discharged and acquitted”.