The Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, sitting in Abuja, yesterday, found former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe, guilty of the allegation that he falsely declared his assets in 2007.
The tribunal, in its judgement by its Chairman, Justice Danladi Umar, said it was satisfied that Orubebe hid his ownership of Plot 2057 Asokoro District, Abuja.
Umar, who maintained that there was merit in the one-count amended charge the Federal Government preferred against Orubebe, held that the said property should be forfeited to the government.
The tribunal noted that though Orubebe claimed that he had already sold the land before he submitted the assets declaration form, the title documents still had his name six years after.
Even though the tribunal confiscated the land from the defendant, it, however, declined to ban him from holding any public office.
Meanwhile, Orubebe’s lawyer, Mr. Selekowei Larry, SAN, has vowed to appeal the judgment which he described as a “travesty of justice.” Selekowei said that the verdict was a clear example of “convict him at all cost” syndrome. The government had in the course of the trial, called only one witness, an official of the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, that testified against Orubebe. On his part, the defendant, who testified for himself, also called a witness before the tribunal.
Reacting to the judgment, National Coordinator, Niger Delta Peace Coalition, Mr. Zik Gbemre said, “If it was established that he erred, there is nothing wrong in convicting him to forfeit the property.
“What will, however, be wrong with the trial is if it ends with Orubebe. Many politicians across the country are guilty of false assets declaration.
Investigation and trial should be extended to everybody, not just Orubebe.” Ese Komone, a youth activist said: “There is no big deal about this conviction.
The real issue, for me, is the scandal of preferential allocation of public land to government officials that Orubebe’s confession has unearthed.
“These properties being shared among government officials were lands acquired a long time ago by individuals at high cost. Government just came and seized most of them in the guise of improper acquisition and then turned around to share among themselves.
Imagine a minister getting free land from government and selling same for N10 million. It is all corruption.” Chief Godspower Gbenekama, Spokesman to Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South West Local Government Area, Delta State, said: “Is the judgment strange to you? Any Ijaw man summoned by the Federal Government, or its agencies to face trial would expectedly be convicted because he is former President Jonathan’s brother. “This is not good. The President should tread softly.
This blind indefensible vendetta against the Ijaw man or people from the Niger Delta is unhealthy for peaceful coexistence in this country.”