By Ise-Oluwa Ige & Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA â€” PIONEER Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, told a three-member panel of the Code of Conduct Tribunal sitting in Abuja, yesterday, that the Government of President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua is plotting his assassination for exposing corruption allegedly involving former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori.
He said but for God, the assistance of well-wishers and good Nigerians, he would have been a dead man by now for daring to come to Nigeria after leaking how Ibori allegedly attempted to bribe him with $15 million to keep sealed lips on how he purportedly looted the treasury of his state during his eight-year rule.
He told the tribunal yesterday that he escaped death by whiskers.
Ribadu spoke through his counsel, Mr. Femi Falana, at the resumed hearing of the quasi-criminal allegation of failing to declare his assets while holding public office.
The proceedings held at the corporate headquarters of the Code of Conduct Tribunal in Jabi, Abuja.
According to him, he came to Nigeria about two weeks ago for two reasons including mourning his role model and â€˜fatherâ€™, late Chief Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi (SAN) and to appear before the Code of Conduct Tribunal as ordered.
He said moments after he arrived the shores of the country, the Federal Government organised a man-hunt for him and declared that he had committed treason. He fingered the Attorney-General of the Federation, Michael Aondoakaa (SAN) as one of the architects of the alleged plot to exterminate him.
Ribadu maintained that he was fingered as the mastermind of the renewed decision by the United Kingdom to prosecute two former governors of Delta and Akwa Ibom states, Chief James Ibori and Obong Victor Attah in the London court and was also accused of plotting to bring down the government of President Yarâ€™Adua by painting it black abroad.
According to him, his well wishers, including his counsel, Falana, assisted him out of the country because they said they needed him alive.
Ribadu pleaded that he had no disrespect for the order of the tribunal but that it is only the living that could stand trial including the alleged spurious allegation against him. He regretted that he would not be able to appear before the tribunal until an order was issued guaranteeing his safety in the country.
FG dismisses Ribaduâ€™s claim
But the Federal Government yesterday dismissed his explanation as nothing but a ploy to ridicule the court by making sure that its order validly made was done in vain.
According to the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr Kyari Ahmed, Ribadu had no respect for the tribunal and that the only way to make him stand trial was to order his arrest.
He said the charge against him had a long history of adjournments over one sole reason of his absence in court. The prosecuting counsel said no one was after his life and that he was in the habit of making spurious allegations.
â€œAll I am applying for is a warrant of arrest. I just want him arrested and nothing more,â€ he said.
But Mr Femi Falana was on his feet to take the tribunal memory lane.
He said that before Ribadu travelled out of the country, two attempts were made on his life; the first one was in Jos while he was a participant at the National Institute of Strategic Studies, NIPSS, Kuru and another one in Abuja before he fled the country.
Falana said even when he was to graduate at the Kuru Institute, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Mike Aondoakaa (SAN) personally ordered that he be disgraced out of the graduation hall.
Ribaduâ€™s counsel said that because the incident attracted negative comments against the government, President Yarâ€™Adua ordered that his certificate be given to him even as he ordered a full scale investigation into what happened.
He however lamented that up till yesterday morning, nothing had been done about it.
Falana said his client was willing and ready to attend his trial but that the tribunal must first guarantee his safety first. He also said that the matter of Ribaduâ€™s appearance before the tribunal was not even an issue now following the developments in the case.
He told the tribunal that Ribadu had already appealed against the ruling of the tribunal which maintained that it had jurisdiction to prosecute him, saying he had filed an application before the Court of Appeal seeking to stay proceedings before the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
The Court of Appeal, according to him, being a superior court of record, must enter its verdict in the case submitted before it before the tribunal would have jurisdiction to entertain same.
He cited the case law of Mohammed vs Olawuni decided by the Supreme Court and reported in 2003 to buttress his argument.
He said that but for the absence in court of lawyers from the chambers of the Attorney-General of the Federation at the Court of Appeal yesterday, the panel of Appeal Court justices was poised to hear the case.
The development in the matter made the tribunal Chairman, Justice Constance Momoh, to ask for the response of the Federal Government to which its counsel said there was none for now until he perused the applications filed by Ribadu before the Court of Appeal.
Efforts by the tribunal to stampede the Federal Government to come back this morning on the issue so that it could decide on whether or not to issue a bench warrant against Ribadu were fruitless as counsel to the Federal Government said he wanted to take his time.
Further hearing in the case particularly on the application to issue a bench warrant against Ribadu was adjourned till October 2.