By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Abuja
The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) sitting in Abuja, yesterday, issued a bench warrant for the immediate arrest of the pioneer Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, for refusing to appear before it yesterday to answer to criminal allegations preferred against him by the federal government of Nigeria.
Ribadu is facing trial for allegedly failing to declare his personal assets while in office as the EFCC boss.
The Justice Constance Momoh led Tribunal in its resumed sitting yesterday, issued the bench warrant after Mr Shola Egbeyinka who represented him yesterday, told the court that Ribadu said he would not appear for trial until the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) provides him with the certified true copy of the Asset Declaration form he filed between years 2003 to 2004, which he contended would help him to defend himself over the 3_count criminal allegations preferred against him.
Though the criminal action commenced since January 13, 2009, Ribadu has severally declined invitations from the CCT to appear before it, alleging threats to his life.
He had instructed his lead counsel, Mr Femi Falana, from his London residence, to file a preliminary objection on his behalf, wherein he challenged the jurisdiction of the CCT, to prosecute him in absentia. The Tribunal had on October 22 this year, threatened to commence his extradition process in the event that he fails to willingly appear before it yesterday for arraignment.
Despite spirited efforts made by Mr Egbeyinka yesterday to convince the three_man panel to sheathe their sword, they not only dismissed his arguments as balderdash, but went ahead to make good their threat by ordering his arrest.
According to Justice Momoh who made the order yesterday, â€œAlthough Falana had promised to secure his appearance today for arraignment, we equally made our intention of issuing a warrant should he fail to do so known, we cannot take any more argument on this, we have had too much talk over one person.
â€œThere is limit to human endurance not to talk of adjudicating body like ours, we are hereby formally ordering the arrest on warrant of the accused person, to enable him appear on the next adjourned date to answer to criminal charges against him.
â€œThe warrant will be addressed to the Inspector General of police and security agencies in general for the arrest of the accused person. Upon arrest, if this Tribunal is not sitting, he should be kept in police custody until December 4, which is our next adjourned dateâ€ she ordered.
Nonetheless, counsel to Ribadu while answering questions from newsmen at the end of the proceedings yesterday, dismissed the Tribunalâ€™s order as an effort in futility.
â€œI think the Tribunal was simply carried away by emotions, if you order an arrest that cannot be enforced, it is already a nullity. Let them go to abroad and arrest Ribadu if they canâ€ he added.
It would be recalled that Ribadu had earlier branded the Justice Constance Momoh led panel illegal, alleging that they were merely acting a script handed to them by the presidency, while insisting that he would never appear before it until an order guaranteeing his life and safety was made.