Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Foreign accounts trial: Tinubu refuses toenter dock•As ex-gov begins defence…Tribunal rules on objection to case, Nov. 30

Former governor of Lagos State and national
leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria
(ACN), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, would on
November 30, 2011 know whether the Code of
Conduct Tribunal can prosecute him for
allegedly operating 16 foreign accounts while
in office.
The tribunal would also make a
pronouncement on the former governor’s
application to quash the three-count charge
filed against him by the Federal Government
even as Tinubu refused to be docked. Tinubu
first appeared before the tribunal on
September 21, 2011, but returned to the court
sitting in Abuja, yesterday. He ruled the state
between 1999 and 2007.
The development came as the 28 executives of
Osun State ACN arrested by security
operatives on Tuesday, demanded an apology
for their alleged unlawful detention even as
the National Publicity Secretary, Lai
Mohammed, alleged growing harassment of
the opposition. In Abuja yesterday, Tinubu,
accompanied by hordes of supporters, opened
his defence at the tribunal by querying the
court’s jurisdiction to adjudicate on the
When the trial resumed, Tinubu refused to
enter the dock on the strength of his
application challenging the jurisdiction of the
tribunal. Unlike the previous session of
September 21, 2011 when he was docked for
three hours, his counsel, Chief Wole
Olanipekun (SAN), leading other Senior
Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) objected to the
invitation by the tribunal Chairman, Justice
Umar Yakubu for Tinubu to enter the dock.
Citing legal authorities to support his position,
Olanipekun argued that until his client was
arraigned before the court, he cannot be put
in the dock.
“My lord, with due respect, I will be objecting
to the request by the accused to enter the
dock. Was it right for the court to command
an accused person to go into the dock when he
has not been arraigned? Besides, he is
challenging the competence of the charges.
The objection is on the legality or validity of
the charge.”
He referred the court to the case of Edet Vs
state (2008) 14 NWLR part 1106 at page 52
to argued further that the defendant does not
even need to be in court before his application
challenging the jurisdiction of the court and
the competence of the charges would be heard.
Prosecution counsel, Dr. Alex Izinyon
(SAN), argued that the fact that the accused
person was presently at the tribunal does not
translate to his presence in court until he was
arraigned and his plea is taken. He conceded
to the position of Olanipekun that the
accused need not be in court before his
application challenging its jurisdiction of the
court could be argued. “But when he has not
taken his plea, but is in court, he must be in
the dock to show his presence in court.
But going into the fulcrum of his objection,
Olanipekun argued that the charges as
presently constituted are nebulous and empty
as it does not disclose any prima facie case
against the accused person. It was also his
case that the Code of Conduct Bureau
breached the condition precedent principle
when it refused to invite his client to its office
to hear from him before preferring charges
against him. On this leg of submission,
Olanipekun tendered newspaper publications
to show that the tribunal had extended similar
invitations to other ex-governors, but
deliberately shut his client out, adding that
what is good for the goose is good for the
“What the Bureau has done is like putting
something on nothing. Neither the Bureau
nor the Chairman has invited the accused
person in relation to the three-count charge
as stipulated in Section 3 of the Code of
Conduct Act.
“The Bureau must first and foremost call the
accused. The chairman of the Bureau said
they invited other ex-governors. Now the
question is why not extend a similar invitation
to the accused person. What is good for the
goose is good for the gander.” Attacking the
competence of the charges, Olanipekun
contended that the content was speculative
and amounted to hearsay, going by the
provisions of sections 115, 116 and 117 of the
Evidence Act, as the prosecution did not
disclose the name of the informant.
Another leg of the objection was that it was
an abuse of court processes as a similar case
with same subject mater initiated against the
accused person was still subsisting at the Court
of Appeal. He dismissed the contention of
the prosecution that the case had been
withdrawn, adding that withdrawal of the
charges has to be formal with the
pronouncement of the court and not a mere
letter of withdrawal as the one paraded by the
It was his final leg of argument that the
court lacks the territorial jurisdiction to hear
the case in Abuja, saying the appropriate
venue is Lagos where the alleged offence was
“In a criminal trial, the law is that the court
must sit at the a place where the alleged
offence was committed. There is no law that
says the tribunal must sit in Abuja over the
matter.” Olanipekun accordingly urged the
court to decline its jurisdiction to proceed with
the matter and to quash all the three-count
charges against Tinubu. Opposing, Dr.
Izinyon urged the tribunal to throw out the
objections and proceed with the trial. Izinyon
argued that the charge has established a
prima facie case against the accused person
and was competent before the court.
Specifically, he said under section 17 of the
Code of Conduct Act, a nominee, trustee or
any agent of a public officer may be deemed
to have committed an offence, adding that
at this stage, it is too premature to say that
the charges were defective.” Meanwhile, the 28
executives of the ACN who were arrested on
Tuesday night by the Kogi State police
command, have urged the state Police
Commissioner, Amanana Abasakanga to
apologise for their alleged unlawful detention
or face the wrath of the law.
Explaining their ordeal to newsmen at the
party secretariat in Lokoja yesterday, the
spokesman of the group , who is also the Vice-
Chairman of ACN in Osun State, Chief Shola
Oyewumi, said they were arrested at about
6.41 pm at the Murtala Muhammad Bridge,
Jamata while going to Abuja to attend a
crucial meeting. He said they were delayed for
over four hours by the police at the bridge
before theywere moved to their station where
they laid on bare floor like common criminals
before they were released the following
While embarking on the journey to Abuja
yesterday morning, he said the police
intercepted their vehicle again and delayed
them for several hours before they were
eventually left off the hook. Oyewunmi who
expressed worry why the Police have to single
out their vehicle for arrest even though they
conducted a search on both the vehicle and
the occupants without finding anything
unlawful said, this was a clear case of
infringement on their fundamental rights.
He said they were travellig in a marked Osun
State Government vehicle which carries the
vehicle plate number of the Goverment
House , namely OSGH 192, yet, the police still
went ahead and detained them.
Meanwhile, Alhaji Mohammed, in a
statement on Wednesday said the arrest
which should be condemned by all Nigerians,
fits the emerging pattern of a police
clampdown on the ACN and its supporters. It
said the arrested members were taken from
one police station to another apparently just
to frustrate and delay them since they could
not be reasonably charged with any offence
other than being ACN supporters. ACN
recalled that the police also arrested the
party’s supporters on their way to Abuja to
show support for the party’s leader when he
first appeared in court last month.
‘’When this is taken along with the recent
harassment of journalists at The Nation as
well as the arrest and trial of our party
chairman in Jigawa State, Dr. Abubakar
Fulata, for ‘slandering’ the state governor by
saying he has no requisite qualifications to be
governor, one can see an orchestrated and
well-coordinated attempt to suppress the
opposition in the country, with the police as
the arrowhead.

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