The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Wednesday set aside the conviction of a former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe, for false asset declaration.
The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) convicted Orubebe for failing to declare some of his assets during his stint as minister. Orubebe was initially arraigned on November 9, 2015 on a four-count charge of false asset declaration.
He was accused of failing to declare the Asokoro land and accepting bribe. A three-man panel of the appeal court held that the tribunal headed by Danladi Umar, was wrong to convict Orubebe for false asset declaration when he had sold the property he was accused of not declaring.
Justice Abdu Aboki, who read the lead judgment, faulted the CCT’s conclusions in its October 4, 2016 judgement and proceeded to discharge and acquit Orubebe.
The judge held that the issue before the tribunal was not declaration of title, but false declaration of assets and as such the unregistered instrument of transfer are admissible in proof of the payment of purchase price, which showed that Divention Properties Limited had acquired the property.
The CCT had dismissed Orubebe’s claim that he sold the plot of land to the Managing Director of Divention Properties Limited, Akinwumi Ajibola, for N10 million in 2011 and deployed the proceed to pay his rent.
Umar, in the lead judgment said after analysing all the testimonies given by Orubebe, it was difficult to understand why the property he claimed to have sold about six years ago still remained registered in his name at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Land Administration.
Umar said: “To the tribunal, this is very absurd and not credible. The tribunal observed that under the Lands Instrument Registration Law, the DW1 (Ajibola) was under obligation to register/document his right over Plot 2057.”