Mr Godsday Orubebe, ex-minister of Niger Delta, on Wednesday approached the Court of Appeal Abuja to set aside judgment of the Code of Conduct Tribunal that convicted him for non-declaration of an asset. The notice of appeal filed on Oct.12, was made available to newsmen by lead counsel to the appellant, Mr Selekeowei Larry (SAN).
Mr Danladi Umar, Chairman of the tribunal, delivering the judgment on Oct. 4, ordered the forfeiture of the asset, a plot of land located in Asokoro part of the FCT to the Federal Government. Umar also held that the appellant surreptitiously hid the asset from the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) for selfish reasons.
He held that the claim of the appellant that he (Orubebe) divested the property to a third party was an act to cover up the criminal act. But counsel to the appellant said the tribunal erred in law when it held that the appellant was found guilty as charged.
He said the tribunal equally erred in law when it on the above premise ordered the forfeiture of Plot 2057 at Asokoro District, which did not belong to the appellant.
The appeal said the property was neither acquired corruptly nor purchased by the appellant, adding that it was a gift from the respondent (Federal Government).
The notice of appeal said the tribunal further erred when it held the appellant remained the owner of the property despite evidence of transfer to a third party.
“The learned trial tribunal erred in law when it held that the appellant remains the owner of Plot 2057, Asorko District, when evidence clearly shows various deeds of transfer.
“Not only were the deed of assignment, deed of sale and power of attorney tendered and admitted in evidence, the two defence witnesses testified to the transaction without contradiction.
“There is no time limit for regularisation of title at the Lands Registry,’’ it said.
The notice of appeal also said: “Under the law, the first defence witness (Divention Properties Ltd) is the holder of equitable interest in the said plot having paid for it.
“The finding of the tribunal is perverse and should be vacated in the interest of justice,’’ it said.
Advancing argument, the appellant counsel said “the judgment does not in any way contemplate our law’’.
“Our law does not ascribe ownership of a plot of land as in this case to the person who had divested his interest by selling to another.
“Orubebe had divested his interest in the said Plot 2057 Asokoro District, an empty land in the bush when he sold it to Mr Akinwumi Ajibola who claimed same in his evidence.
“In fact, the appellant made it very clear to the tribunal that the transaction was well made before his last declaration of assets held to be in breach of the law,’’ Larry said.
Larry also said: “Let us even assume without conceding that Orubebe did not declare the property, it would still not amount to infraction because the Plot 2057 was a gift by the respondent.’’
“In one sentence, the judgment of the tribunal was simply a travesty of justice,’’ he added.
Orubebe was a minister under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan and became popular when he tried to disrupt the collation of the 2015 presidential election results.