Abuja — The Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Justice Constance Mo-moh, yesterday threatened to issue a bench warrant for the arrest of the embattled former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, if he fails to appear before it on March 9, 2009.
Ribadu was summoned by the tribunal over the allegation that he violated the provision of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act in respect of asset declaration.
But the former EFCC boss failed to appear before the tribunal yesterday to defend himself against the allegation.
His lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, said Ribadu had gone underground because his life was being threatened.
The Code of Conduct Bureau had in a charge alleged that Ribadu failed to declare his asset as a public officer while in office as EFCC Chairman.
But Falana told the tribunal that Ribadu's absence from the tribunal was not deliberate.
During yesterday's proceedings, Falana also apologised to the tribunal for the absence of his client.
He said:" I like to apologise to the tribunal for the absence of the accused person. Absence was not deliberate. He is taking care of his life. His car was shot last year in Jos. He went underground for fear of his life.
"He is presently somewhere safe. Since he has been dismissed from the police, he has to look for another job. He has not been formally given letter of removal as EFCC Chairman."
Falana asked for a long adjournment to enable his client prepare his appearance at the tribunal.
He also asked for a formal order for his protection by the time he is appearing before the tribunal.
The tribunal chairman, however, refused the oral application for an objection to the charge against Ribadu.
Justice Momoh turned down Falana's application on the ground that the accused must be present so that the charge against him could be read to him before Falana could move his motion for objection.
The tribunal chairman said she was not going to excuse Ribadu from appearing before the tribunal.
"Nobody can harass him since he is now before us. If he fails to appear before this tribunal in the next adjourned date, a bench warrant will be issued against him."
The case has been adjourned to March 9, 2009.
Also yesterday, the tribunal dismissed the charges against the former Chairman of the Niger-Delta Devel-opment Commission (NDDC), Ambassador Sam Edem, and the commission's Managing Director, Mr. Timi Alaibe, after the prosecution withdrew the charges against them.
Prosecuting counsel, Thompson Olatigbe, told the tribunal that they were charged in error.
Edem and Alaibe were able to prove through their counsel yesterday that they had filled and submitted their asset declaration forms.
While Edem showed the acknowledgment slip of the form he filled in 2005, Alaibe was, however, unable to show his own.
He insisted that the form was filled and submitted to the bureau.
When the tribunal asked the prosecuting counsel to show the evidence that the form was filled and submitted, Olatigbe said Alaibe's form got burnt when the bureau's office cut fire in 2006.
In her ruling, Justice Momoh said she was releasing the accused reluctantly because the prosecuting counsel could not help the tribunal to show that he filled and submitted the form.