A new three-count amended charge has been brought against the former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
He is being arraigned before the Code of Conduct Tribunal for for allegedly operating foreign accounts while in office. He was in court on Wednesday docked at the Tribunal in Abuja.
His legal team, led by Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, asked the tribunal for time to study the amended charge with its chairman, Umar Danladi, obliging the request despite the protestation of the prosecution lead counsel, Dr Alex Izinyon SAN.
Despite being in the dock, Tinubu’s plea-taking was adjourned till October 26, 2011.
Danladi said it was fair that Tinubu should be allowed to study the fresh charge, which was served on him in court on Wednesday.
Olanipekun said his client would need an adjournment to enable him to study the new charges before he could come back to take his plea.
He also said that Tinubu would challenge the jurisdiction of the tribunal to try him.
A source told the Nigerian Tribune that unknown to Tinubu that an amended charge had replaced the initial one, his legal team had late on Tuesday night filed a motion seeking to quash the one-count charge against him.
The motion had to be withdrawn on Wednesday when he was confronted with the amended charge.
In the withdrawn motion to quash the charge, it was learnt that the accused alluded to possibility of double jeopardy if the new trial was allowed to go on, considering the pending case in 2007 before the tribunal, with similar charge.
The tribunal directed him to file the fresh objection, which he planned to bring within 14 days, while Izinyon was given seven days to reply on point of law, with their written addresses expected to be adopted at the next adjourned date.
Izinyon, however, insisted that Tinubu must take his plea before he could challenge the jurisdiction of the tribunal to try him.
It was learnt that the accused may first take his plea at the next adjourned date before the adoption of written addresses.
Izinyon was assisted in the conduct of Wednesday’s proceedings by another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Chuwkwuma Ekomaru.
Olanipekun was supported by other nine SANs; Oluwarotimi Akeredolu; Charles Udoswan; Niyi Akintola; Dele Belgore; Professor Yemi Osinbajo; Kabiru Turaki; Ifedayo Adedipe; Deji Sasegbon and Dele Adesina.
National Legal Adviser of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Dr Muiz Banire was also in town.
After stepping down from the dock, Tinubu told journalists that he did not operate foreign accounts while in office.
Many chieftains of the ACN, including the governors of Oyo and Osun states, Abiola Ajimobi and Rauf Aregbesola, were at the tribunal in solidarity with Tinubu.
Security was provided at the tribunal venue by police officers and operatives of the State Security Service (SSS).
Placard-carrying supporters of the former governor also added colour to what became a mini political carnival, as the tribunal venue was turned into a replica of the Lagos court premises during the trial of jailed former chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George.
In the new charges, Tinubu was said to have operated various foreign accounts between 1999 and 2007 with the following banks: First Heritage Bank in Illinois, Citibank of New York and HSBC in London.
The last count, which is count 3 read: “That you Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State, being a public officer as listed in part 11 of the 5th Schedule to the 1999 Constitution and having subscribed to the oath of office on assumption of office between 1999-2007 and while in office as such you misinform Code of Conduct Bureau by stating in the Form CCB1 that you do not have foreign account contrary to section 15(2) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.”
Tribunal nullifies son-in-law’s election
Meanwhile, the election petitions tribunal sitting in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, has nullified the House of Representatives election in Ekiti Central II Federal constituency won by Mr Oyetunde Ojo of the ACN.
Ojo, an in-law of Senator Tinubu and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were dragged before the tribunal by the candidate of the National Transformation Party (NTP) in the election, Mr Bamidele Peter, praying the tribunal to nullify the election and order a fresh one on the grounds that he was unlawfully excluded from the election.
Peter claimed in his petition that his name and the logo of his party, the NTP, were missing on the ballot papers and other materials for the election and prayed the tribunal to nullify the election and order a fresh one.
Ojo was declared winner of the election conducted on April 26, but the tribunal held that the election was not validly conducted, based on what it said was “the unlawful exclusion” of one of the candidates in the election.
The tribunal, in its unanimous judgment read by Justice Patrick Uhuo, dismissed the grounds of defence of the respondents (Ojo and the INEC), contending that their defence was incompetent, having been based on technicalities and that “the tribunal is concerned purely with post-election matters and will keep to that.”
Justice Uhuo, in the judgment, pointed out that “the evidences before the tribunal show that the first petitioner (Bamidele Peter) was validly nominated by the second petitioner (NTP),” adding that “the tribunal has no doubt that the petitioner was unlawfully excluded from the election of April 26, 2011.”
Uhuo, who was flanked by the chairman of the panel, Justice Ibrahim Bako and another member, Mrs Bukunola Adebiyi, held that “consequently, the election held on April 26, 2011 and the return of Oyetunde Ojo as the winner is hereby nullified, according to the provisions of Section 140 of the Electoral Act.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is hereby ordered to conduct fresh election, including the name and logo of the first and second petitioner within 90 days.”
Reacting to the judgment, counsel for the petitioner, Mr Obafemi Ade-wale, expressed happiness at the judgment, saying that the tribunal had “justified the confidence reposed in it by the petitioner, who approached it for the case of obvious unlawful exclusion of our candidate in the ballot paper.”
Counsel for the respondents, Mr Niyi Idowu, said his client would appeal the judgment.