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CCT orders Onnoghen to appear on Feb 13

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The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) yesterday adjourned till February 13, the trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, insisting that the embattled CJN must appear for trial on the new date.

This is coming as the Senate yesterday ordered the discontinuation of its case before the Supreme Court, seeking the judicial interpretation of the suspension of the CJN by President Muhammadu Buhari, predicating its action on the intervention by the National Judicial Council (NJC).

The adjournment of CCT was a sequel to an oral application by counsel to the embattled CJN, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN).

Onnoghen is yet to be arraigned on a six-count charge bordering on non-disclosure of his assets preferred against him by the federal government.

The tribunal had last Friday fixed yesterday, February 4, for the arraignment of the chief justice as well as the hearing of all pending applications, shortly after the Court of Appeal in Abuja, dismissed Onnoghen’s motion on notice, seeking a temporary stoppage of his trial at the tribunal, pending the determination of his suit challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal.

When the matter was called yesterday, the prosecution counsel, Mr. Aliyu Umar (SAN), informed the court that the matter was adjourned till yesterday for arraignment and hearing of two motions, one on preliminary objection to jurisdiction of the CCT and another one filed by the prosecution, asking for an order for the CJN to step aside.

However, defence team, led by Awomolo, drew the tribunal’s attention to the fact that the same petition forwarded to the Code of Conduct Bureau by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) has been forwarded to the National Judicial Council (NJC).

Awomolo said since the NJC has sent the same petitions to the defendant to reply within seven days, which will lapse on Wednesday (tomorrow), February 6, it is in the interest of justice to allow NJC take a decision before continuing with the proceedings at the tribunal.

Prosecution counsel, however, said he was not opposed to the application for adjournment.

In a short ruling, tribunal Chairman, Mr. Danladi Umar, adjourned the matter till February 13 for the arraignment of Onnoghen and the hearing of all pending applications.

He, however, urged the defence team to ensure that the defendant physically appear in court at the next adjourned date, adding that “plea must be taken before the defendant can raise any objection regarding the case.”

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EFCC

EFCC detains Babachir Lawal

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Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir Lawal was yesterday detained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Lawal will be arraigned today.

The commission had filed a 10-count charge against the former SGF and five others.

Others are Hamidu David Lawal; Sulaiman Abubakar; Apeh John Monday; Rholavision Engineering Limited and Josmon Technologies Limited.

All the suspects will face trial in the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, for alleged N544, 119, 925.36 for the removal of Invasive plant species and simplified irrigation.

But ahead of the arraignment, the former SGF was taken into custody yesterday day.

A source said: “We have detained the former SGF and some suspects in preparation of their arraignment in court on Tuesday.

“They have been served charges and their trial will commence. The EFCC team is ready for the prosecution of the suspects with its witnesses ready accordingly.”

On the charge sheet dated January 30, and filed by Offem Uket, M. S. Abubakar and Abba Muhammed, the EFCC accused Lawal of holding “indirectly a private interest in the contract awarded to Rholavision Engineering Limited and Josmon Technologies Ltd by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) through the Presidential Initiative for North East (PINE).

The contracts are:

Consultancy contract awarded to Rholavision Engineering Ltd for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation to the tune of N7,009,515.96

Consultancy contract awarded to Rholavision Engineering Ltd for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation to the tune of N6,453,318.38.

Contract awarded to Josmon Technologies Ltd but executed by Rholavision Engineering Ltd for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation to the tune of N272,524,356.02.

Contract awarded to Josmon Technologies Ltd but executed by Rholavision Engineering Ltd for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation to the tune of N258,132,735.00.

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Legal

NJC to reconvene over Ononghen, Muhammad

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The National Judicial Council (NJC) will reconvene today to consider the responses of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, and the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad to the queries issued to them by the council.

Justice Walter Onnoghen was suspended by President Buhari for alleged corruption (The Nation)

The council had at its emergency meeting held on January 29 given both top jurists seven days to respond to petitions written against them.

 A statement by the council’s Director of Information, Mr. Soji Oye, said the decision to query the two senior jurists were taken during the emergency meeting held at the council’s chambers in Abuja.

None of the lawyers, who had so far represented Onnoghen, would volunteer information regarding his response to the query.

However, some council members were said to favor a decision that would lead to easing out the embattled CJN.

Others are quick to argue that Justice Muhammad too should go having accepted to be sworn in by President Muhammadu Buhari in the absence of council’s recommendation to the president.

A judge of Abia State High Court was punished in similar circumstances when for no fault of his, the Abia State governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, appointed him acting chief judge of the state after the governor had illegally suspended the then chief judge.

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Politics

2019 elections: Court orders no elections for APC in Rivers state

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The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State will not participate in the 2019 general election.

All Progressives Congress

This follows a ruling by the Supreme Court upholding the decision of a federal high court in Rivers State

The high court had annulled the candidature of all the candidates of the Rivers APC in a ruling.

The Court of Appeal last week ruled that the Rivers APC could present candidates overruling the judgement of the high court.

However, it will be no show for the Rivers APC in 2019 after the apex court’s judgement sustained the judgement of the high court.

This decision by the Supreme Court means the Rivers State APC will not present candidates on the Feb 16th National Assembly elections and the Governorship and House of Assembly elections on the 2nd of March.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court this morning finally sacked Tonye Cole and all products of the factional APC indirect primaries conducted in Rivers State.

The minister of Transportation Chibuike Amaechi led faction of APC in Rivers State had gone to the Supreme Court to challenge the validity and right of the state legal adviser of the APC to make legal representation onbehalf of the party at the state level.

They had gone to court seeking to declare the judgment of the state High Court null and void for purported faulty legal representation in the matter brother by Ibrahim Umar and Ors at the trial Court.

Delivering its ruling this morning, the Supreme Court says its state legal adviser Barr Chinweikpe Chieme, and not Fagbemi SAN, that should represent the APC in any matter having to do with members of Rivers APC.

The Apex Court said that is the purport of the APC constitution, stressing that letter from any national officer of the party, no matter how highly placed, can abrogate the party’s constitution.

The Supreme Court further reaffirmed the validity of the judgment of the Rivers State High Court that nullified all the congresses and Indirect Primaries conducted by Amaechi faction of APC in Rivers State, adding that it was a consent judgment.

Senator Magnus Abe and a the Direct Primary candidates are the authentic candidates by the judgement of the Supreme Court today

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EFCC

EFCC to continue Fayose trial

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A Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday fixed Feb. 7 for the continuation of the trial of the immediate past Governor of Ekiti, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, over alleged N6.9 billion fraud.

Ekiti Governor, Ayodele Fayose

The case which was earlier fixed for today for the continuation of cross-examination of the fifth prosecution witness has been shifted to Thursday.

On the next adjourned date, both the prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), and the defense counsel, Mr. Olalekan Ojo (SAN), will address the court on the admissibility of an extrajudicial statement made by a party who is not standing trial.
Fayose was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Oct. 22, 2018, alongside a company Spotless Investment Ltd on 11 counts.

He had pleaded not guilty to the charges and the court had granted him bail in the sum of N50 million with one surety in like sum.

EFCC had opened the case for the prosecution on Nov. 19, 2018, and called four witnesses.

On Jan. 21, the prosecution called its fifth witness, Sen. Musliu Obanikoro, a former Minister of State for Defence.

At the last adjourned date on Feb. 5 (Tuesday), Obanikoro was still under cross-examination by second defense counsel Ojo, who was expected to continue on the next date.

According to the charge, on June 17, 2014, Fayose and Agbele were said to have taken possession of the sum of N1.2 billion, for purposes of funding his gubernatorial election campaign in Ekiti, which sum they reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.

Fayose was alleged to have received a cash payment of the sum of five million dollars, (about N1.8 billion) from Obanikoro, without going through any financial institution and which sum exceeded the amount allowed by law.

He was also alleged to have retained N300 million in his Zenith Bank account and took control of the aggregate sums of about N622 million which sum he ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.

Fayose was alleged to have procured De Privateer Ltd and Still Earth Ltd, to retain in their Zenith and FCMB accounts, the aggregate sums of N851 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.

Besides, the accused was alleged to have used the aggregate sum of about N1.6 billion to acquire properties in Lagos and Abuja, which sums he reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.

The accused was also alleged to have used the sum of N200 million, to acquire a property in Abuja, in the name of his elder sister, Moji Oladeji, which sum he ought to know also forms crime proceeds.

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