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Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Ex-Niger-Delta Minister Godsday Orubebe Arraigned at the Code of Conduct Tribunal

Ex-Niger-Delta Minister Godsday Orubebe was yesterday arraigned at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Abuja on a four-count charge of false assets declaration and acceptance of bribe.

He pleaded not guilty.
Orubebe was accused in counts one and two of failing to declare his ownership of two property in Abuja.
In counts three and four, the ex-minister was alleged to have received N70million bribe from Pastor Jonathan Alota, whose company, Chemtronics Nigeria Ltd, the ministry awarded contracts.
Clad in a white traditional attire and a black hat, he arrived the tribunal’s sitting venue in Jabi, Abuja about 9:20am. He was accompanied by a crowd comprising youths and women.
Some came with drums, while others carried placards condemning the trial, which they described as “injustice” and “an anti-corruption war targeted at Niger-Delta indigenes.”
When the case was called at 10:50am, Orubebe went into the accused box.
He stood in the box briefly before the CCT Chairman, Danladi Umar, directed that a chair be provided for him to sit.
Prosecution lawyer, Musa Ibrahim Usman, told the tribunal that the day’s business was the arraignment of the accused.
Without objection from the defence team led by Selekeowei Larry (SAN), an official of the tribunal read the charge to Orubebe, a count after the other, to which he pleaded not guilty.
Shortly after his plea, the prosecution’s lawyer sought a short adjournment to enable him prepare his witnesses.
Usman said his witnesses, particularly his key witness, were outside the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Larry expressed disappointment that the prosecution was not ready for trial. He said the defence was eager to clear its name.
The defence lawyer’s request that the prosecution should provide a brief rundown of its case against his client was not allowed by the tribunal chairman, who noted that such verbal review of the case was unnecessary where the defence was already served with the proof of evidence.
Upon an application by Larry, the tribunal chairman said under the tribunal’s rules, accused persons were entitled to bail without any condition attached to it, but that such an accused must always attend proceedings until the case is concluded.
He frowned at the inability of the prosecution to open trial even when the defence was not opposed to the beginning of trial.
“You are expected to always be prepared. This is the essence of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015. As at the time of arraignment, you are expected to be ready with your witnesses.
“You do not bring people from far distance to court and not be ready to conduct your case. All your witnesses should be in court on the next date, so that we do not experience any delay,” Umar said.
He adjourned till November 26 for definite trial.
While proceedings were on, it was a carnival-like atmosphere outside the tribunal’s premises, as the crowd of drum-bearing and placards-carrying youths and women drummed and sang Orubebe’s praise.
Although a team of policemen later pushed them away from the tribunal’s entrance, they persisted in their drumming and praise singing until proceedings ended after noon.
The crowd hailed Orubebe as he exited the tribunal’s premises in his car and headed home.

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