By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – An Abuja High Court at Apo, on Thursday, dismissed a suit challenging source of campaign funds of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the 2015 Presidential election.
Justice Olukayode Adeniyi threw out the suit which was filed by one Chief Akinmoju Jero.
Jero had joined a businessman, Mr Benedict Peters and a firm, northern Belt Oil and Gas Company of Nigeria limited, as defendants in the matter.
The plaintiff alleged that the 1st defendant, Mr. Peters, paid a bribe of $115million to electoral officers to influence outcome of the 2015 Presidential election.
According to a sworn affidavit deposed to by the plaintiff, it was alleged that the eletoral officers who received the bribe, made confessional statements with all their bank accounts blocked.
He also accused the 1st defendant of donating the sum of $60million into PDP campaign fund for the 2015 Presidential election, contending that it was far above N1million that was recommended by the electoral act.
He said the defendant made the donation having received preferential treatment in the award of contract from the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Allison Madueke.
However, in his response to the allegation, Peters, in a process before the court, denied giving bribe to electoral officials to influence the outcome of the elections.
In an Affidavit deposed to by one Andrew Onyearu, the 1st defendants, said that being a wealthy man, he donated to all political parties before the election and also to their candidates.
According to the affidavit, Peters has been the subject of unjustified media attacks premised on unfounded rumour and prosecuted by a vicious campaign of calumny based on false belief by some uninformed people.
Delivering judgement in the matter, Justice Adeniyi held that the case of the plaintiff lacked merit.
According to the Judge, “The online publication relied upon by the plaintiff is not admissible in law. The evidence is clearly unrelated to the allegation of bribery adduced in this case.
“I have not seen any concrete or factual basis by the plaintiff to support the allegation made against the defendant in this case. The plaintiff has failed to show to the court that the money was donated to influence the outcome of the 2015 Presidential elections.
“The donation made to any political party does not offend any provision of the Electoral Act. The plaintiff has failed to show that the defendants spent $115million to influence the outcome of the election.
“The defendant did not violate any law by way of his donation to political parties which is allowed in law.
“The purported allegation of bribery against the defendants is unfounded. The plaintiff’s case lacks merit and it is hereby dismissed.”
Meanwhile, A Civil Society Organization, the Anti-Corruption and Integrity Forum has called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the Nigerian Police and other relevant security agencies to investigate allegation of fraud leveled against its former Board of Trustees Chairman, Prince Kpokpogri.
The group accused Kpokpogri of using the organization to intimidate the Chairman and Chief Executive of Aiteo Group of Companies, Mr. Benedict Peters.
The group had earlier suspended Prince Kpokporgri over allegations bothering on abuse of office.
In his place, it appointed Ambassador Chris Onwueme as the interim chairman.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja, the newly appointed chairman of the Forum said it was unfortunate that the group’s image and integrity was being tarnished.
The Forum accused Kpokporgri of abusing his office when he wrote a letter to Mr. Peters, an action it said was a deliberate attempt to intimidate Mr. Peters and make him vulnerable to extortion .
According to Onwueme, Kpokpogri, had in a letter to the EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies, asked the Commission to issue an Interpol arrest warrant on Mr. Peters to enable him to appear before it to answer allegations of massive fraud in the crude oil swap and offshore processing agreement between Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and AITEO.
The Onwueme led group said the petition against Peter was dated November 28.
“That the letter purportedly written to Mr. Benedict Peters by our association dated 28th November, 2017 with the caption: “PROPOSED MASSIVE PROTEST TO COMPEL EFCC TO ISSUE AN INTERPOL ARREST WARRANT ON BENEDICT PETERS TO APPEAR BEFORE IT TO ANSWER ALLEGATIONS OF MASSIVE FRAUD IN THE CRUDE OIL SWAP AND OFFSHORE PROCESSING AGREEMENT BETWEEN NNPC AND AITEO” was covertly written without the consent and approval of the Forum as there was never a decision taken to that effect by the Forum.
“That the claim of writing to the EFCC, the Presidency, the Interpol and the threat of embarking on a massive street protest against Mr. Benedict Peters and his companies was never discussed or agreed on by the Forum.
“That we have commenced the steps for the removal of Mr. Kpokpogri as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees with the Corporate Affairs Commission as he has been expelled from the Forum.
“That I, Ambassador Chris Onwueme, has been appointed to take over as the new Chairman of the Forum to give the Forum a new direction and restore its integrity pending the formal election of new officers in our next General Meeting in July, 2018.
“That we accordingly call on the EFCC, the Nigerian Police Force, the DSS and all other relevant security agencies to investigate, arrest and prosecute Mr. Kpokpogri and his proxies”, read a statement that was issued by the group.