By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—The Federal Government, yesterday, arraigned former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe , before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, sitting in Abuja.
Orubebe pleaded not guilty to the four-count criminal charge that was preferred against him by the government.
He was, meanwhile allowed to go home, as the tribunal chairman noted that there was no reason to deny the former minister bail.
Meanwhile, shortly after he took his plea, Orubebe, through his lawyer, Mr. Larry Selekeowei, SAN, told the Justice Danladi Umar-led tribunal that he was ready for trial, even as he dared the government to go ahead and open its case against him.
At that point, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Musa Usman, told the tribunal that his witnesses were not available.
He urged the tribunal to adjourn the matter for two weeks to enable him to assemble them.
His application infuriated Orubebe’s lawyer, who insisted that the charge was only aimed at tarnishing the hard earned reputation of his client.
Accusing the Federal Government of not being serious with the case, Orubebe’s lawyer said: “My lords, we are really surprised that they are not ready to proceed today (yesterday) despite all the noise they have made for the past 10 days.
“On our part, we are ready for this trial. Though we cannot force them to open their case, but looking at the rules of this tribunal, Rule 5(1) is a part they can fulfil today (yesterday). It clearly mandates them to disclose the evidence they have against the accused person.
“They can at least clear that part before we get to the issue of whether they have witnesses or not. If the witnesses are not here, he should state the evidence. This kind of case should not be for mere jamboree.”
Relying on the provision of section 164 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, Orubebe, through his lawyer, maintained that he was ready for his prosecution.
Cutting his submission short, Justice Danladi asked, “Counsel are you giving us the citation of the accused person?”
Selekeowei answered in the negative, saying “My Lords, I am only praying that my client should be granted bail on self recognition.”
Meanwhile, before adjourning the matter till November 26 for definite hearing, Justice Danladi, slammed the Federal Government for not producing any of its witnesses before the tribunal yesterday.