Abuja — The Federal Government yesterday dragged the sitting Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu before the Code of Conduct Tribunal sitting in Abuja for trial over alleged illegal operation of 16 separate foreign accounts.
Maintenance of foreign accounts by public office holders while holding office is an offence under the nation's statute.
In the criminal information filed against Tinubu before the tribunal, he is said to have maintained some of the accounts in his personal name, company's name while some others were opened in the name of his alleged cronies.
The government named his cronies as Oluremi and Oyindamola who are the governor's wife and daughter respectively.
Although the government did not disclose how much was in each of the alleged 16 foreign accounts allegedly maintained illegally by the governor, it however said that Tinubu's conduct contravened the code of conduct for public officers and was triable under the law.
Tinubu is one of the several sitting governors that had been dragged before the tribunal since it woke up from its slumber.
A couple of serving governors are presently facing similar charges before the tribunal.
But Governor Tinubu yesterday dismissed as laughable the allegations preferred against him by the Federal Government on the eve of his tenure of office.
He said it was however unfortunate that no law court has the powers to try him for any criminal offence committed by him while still holding office.
Governor Tinubu who was represented at the tribunal yesterday by one Gbenga Adeyemi said that the subsisting law today in the country was that all public office holders covered by section 308 of the 1999 constitution could not be tried by any law court neither could any criminal summons be issued on such office holder.
He said such public office holders were 74 in number in the country including his humble self.
He further reminded the court that a full panel of the Court of Appeal, Abuja had recently pronounced on the meaning of section 308 of the 1999 constitution which provision clothed himself and 73 others in the country today with absolute immunity.
He said the decision of the Court of Appeal remains the law today since it has not been challenged before any higher law court or upturned.
In fact, Governor Tinubu through his counsel, Mr Adeyemi asked the Code of Conduct Tribunal presided over by Justice Constance Momoh to dismiss the criminal information filed against him in limine.
He said he was sure that the information was filed in ignorance of the Court of Appeal judgment he had just referred to.
But counsel to the Federal Government, Mr Thompson Olatigbe however urged the Tribunal to discountenance Tinubu's argument, saying the Federal Government had since challenged the validity of the Court of Appeal's judgment on the interpretation of section 308 of the 1999 constitution.
He said the appeal was filed by the Chambers of Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) which prosecuted the case from the trial court to the Court of Appeal.
But he could not show the court a copy of the appeal already filed by the Federal Government to challenge the Court of Appeal decision.
His inability to provide a document for the court to hold on to made the tribunal chairman, Justice Momoh to spit fire on the laizzefaire attitude of the Federal Government to the Court of Appeal's verdict.
Justice Momoh said that the Code of Conduct Tribunal is a creation of the 1999 constitution with powers to try any public office holders who has been established to contravene the code of conduct for public officers irrespective of the class of such public officer.
She said she was surprised that since such judgment was given by the Court of Appeal, nothing concrete had been done to challenge the verdict.
(5)Name of Bank: HSBC, 177 Great Portland Street , London , WIW 6QJ
Account Name: Sen Bola Tinubu
Account Nos: 71253670
SORT Code: 40-03-15
(6) Name of Bank: HSBC, 177 Great Portland Street , London , WIW 6QJ
Account Name: Sen. Bola Tinubu- Money Market
Account No: 04320002DN
(7) Name of Bank: HSBC, 177 Great Portland Street , London , WIW 6QJ
Account Name: Tinubu Habibat Oyindamola (Miss)
Account No: 1320960111
(8) Name of Bank: HSBC, 177 Great Portland Street , London , WIW 6QJ
Account Name: Tinubu Zainab Abisola (Miss)
Account No: 172447101
(9) Name of Bank: HSBC, 177 Great Portland Street , London , WIW 6QJ
Account Name: Tinubu Oluremi Shade
Account No: 1916667988
(4) Name of Bank: HSBC, 177 Great Portland Street , London , WIW 6QJ
Account Name: Oluremi Shade Tinubu
Account No: 41421522
Contrary to Section 7 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, Cap 56 LFN, 1990 and punishable under Section 23(2) thereof as incorporated under paragraph 18, part I, Fifth Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
I, Ikechi Iwuagwu, male, Christian, Nigerian citizen of Code of Conduct Bureau Headquarters, Abuja do hereby make oath and state as follows;
- That I am a Deputy Director in the Code of Conduct Bureau Headquarters, Abuja and by virtue of my position, I am conversant with the facts of this case.
- That I have the authority and consent of the complainant to depose to this affidavit.
- That on 4th of March, 2003 before the expiration of the first term in office of Govenor Bola Tinubu, an asset declaration form CCB-I was sent to the accused person as a public officer.
- That the accused person declared his assets and liabilities in the said form and returned the form CCB-I to our office on 6th January, 2004. A copy of the said form CCB-l is hereby attached and marked as Exhibit "A".
- That all the assets declared by the accused person are as indicated in the assets declaration form CCB-l.
Meanwhile, Governors of Enugu and Benue, Chief Ogbonaya Chimaroke Nnamani and Dr George Akume were also before the Code of Conduct Tribunal yesterday challenging its jurisdiction to try them in view of the judgment of the Court of Appeal which held that immune public officer could not be tried by any law court while their tenure lasted.
Nnamani further told the tribunal that he could not be tried because a Federal high court presided over by Justice Faji had earlier held that he could not be prosecuted.
He said that judgment was yet to be vacated.
Akume also said that a similar judgment was delivered in his favour on February 28 by a high court to the effect that the information filed against him was invalid.
In fact, both Governor Akume and Governor Nnamani asked the court to strike out the cases against them.
Governor Nnamani was represented before the tribunal yesterday by an Abuja based lawyer, Chief Chris Uche (SAN) while Akume was represented by one Michael Aondoaka (SAN).
The tribunal is expected to rule on their separate but similar applications today.
Similarly, the tribunal will decide whether or not to hands off the criminal case filed by the Federal Government against Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and two others today.
The two others are Messrs Yusuf Abubakar and Umar Pariya.
The court had specifically said that even if it was to stop prosecuting Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in view of the judgment procured by him, it wondered whether his alleged two accomplices were also covered by constitutional immunity.