The prosecution in the case against former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Godsday Orubebe opened its case Thursday, with its first witness giving details of how the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) discovered a property owned by the ex-minister in Abuja, which he allegedly refused to disclose.
Orubebe is being tried at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on a one-count charge of false assets declaration.
The witness, Samuel Madojemu, an official of the CCB, said Orubebe failed to declare the property on Plot 2057, Asokoro District, Abuja, while he was minister between 2007 and 2011.
Madojemu said his job includes “intelligence on observed breaches of the code and asset tracing investigation”.
He said Orubebe submitted five asset declaration forms to the CCB between 2007 and 2011. Copies of the forms were admitted by the CCT as exhibits.
On how the CCB discovered that the ex-minister owned the property, the witness said the Certificate of Occupancy (C/O) obtained from the Department of Land Administration of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) showed that it was issued to Orubebe on April 10, 2011.
But Madojemu noted that the former minister failed to declare it when leaving office on May 29, 2011.
The witness was led in evidence by lead prosecution lawyer Mohammad Diri, who is also the director of Public Prosecution of the Federation.
The witness said Orubebe ignored the CCB’s invitation to him to make statements during investigation.
He said: “The defendant declared his assets to the bureau by virtue of his position as a public officer and as a minister.
“I was instructed to invite him to the bureau for the purpose of obtaining his statement on allegations and intelligence report that was being handled by the bureau concerning him.
“I invited him. He promised to respond by sending his legal team. He also promised that he might come in person, but he did not come.
“My lord, the bureau issued him with Form CCB 1, which is the bureau’s asset declaration form and he made his declaration between 2007 and 2011 – the period of investigation.
“The Code of Conduct Bureau issued the defendant the Form CCB 1 five times. For those five times, he made his asset declaration to the bureau.
“My lord, after we received the form, we examined the form as part of our procedures’ investigation to ascertain if there was over-declaration or under-declaration.
“We conducted intelligence assessment on the declaration made by the defendant. We discovered that there were some other plots or property that were traced to the defendant, Godsday Orubebe.
“We conducted record examination by writing a letter to the Federal Capital Territory’s Department of Land Administration.”
He added: “My lord, in their response, which was in writing, it was indicated that Plot 2057 Asokoro District for which the Certificate of Occupancy was issued on April 10, 2011, belonged to the defendant.
“We thereafter compared the information arising from the response from the FCT Land Administration Department with the information on asset declaration forms submitted to the bureau between 2007 and 2011 and discovered that Plot 2057 Asokoro District belonging to the defendant was not declared even as at May 29, 2011 when he left office.
“Apart from the letter from FCT land admin registry, we also received a Certified True Copy of the Certificate of Occupancy in respect of Plot 2057 issued to the defendant.
“We also received the CTC of the Right of Occupancy for that same Plot No 2057 issued to the defendant.
“Also received from the FCT land administration registry, was a letter of authority, given to one Engineer Rodney by the defendant authorising him to collect the Certificate of Occupancy and the Right of Occupancy from the FCT land registry. It was supported by the (international passport) page of the defendant.”
“My lords, the question we wanted to ask the defendant was why he did not declare plot 2057 for which the C of O was issued to him on April 10, 2011. Whereas for the period under consideration, 2007 to May 29, 2011, when he made those declarations, he did not make the declaration of the property at the end of tenure asset declaration form 2011. He acquired the property while he was still in office.
“But my lord, he promised to send legal representative to the bureau or come in person, but he did not come. We afforded him the opportunity, but he did not come,” Madojemu said.
Orubebe’s lawyer Selekowei Larry (SAN) objected to the move by Diri to tender copies of the C/O, the Right of Occupancy (R/O), the letter of authority referred to by the witness, which were attached to a letter dated February 18, by the Department of Land Administration of the FCT.
Larry contended that the letter with the documents attached to it was inadmissible under Section 83(3) of the Evidence Act, because it was authored by “a person interested” while the case against his client was pending in court.
The letter dated February 18 was authored by Assistant State Counsel of the Lands Administration, Mrs. Funke Audu, of the Federal Capital Territory.
“These are documents procured during the pendency of this case. The letter is dated February 18, 2016, whereas the suit commenced on October 18, 2015,” Larry said.
Tribunal Chairman Danladi Usman overruled Larry and upheld Diri’s argument that Audu, who was an employee of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, could never be a party interested.
While the witness spoke, Orubebe, dressed in white traditional attire and a black hat, sat quietly in the accused box.
Further hearing has been fixed for April 14 for the defence to cross-examine the witness.