From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Tempers flared yesterday between Mr. Larry Selekeowesi (SAN), counsel to former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe, Mr. Larry Selekeowesi (SAN) and a member of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Mr. Agwaza Atedze when they engaged in hot exchange of words.
Orubebe is standing trial over allegation of false declaration of his assets in 2007.
The war of words was over moves by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Mr. Mohammed Diri, to tender into evidence, the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) and the Right of Occupancy (R of O) of Plot No. 2057 Asokoro District Abuja, belonging to Orubebe, which he allegedly failed to declare as his property.
Trouble started when the prosecution counsel applied to tender the said document into evidence through his witness, Mr. Samuel Madojemu, an investigative officer at the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).
Shortly before the altercations, counsel to Orubebe was making his submissions why the documents and an accompanying letter from the Federal Capital Territory Department of Land Administration, should not be admitted into evidence.
Mid-way into his submission, Atedze, interjected and asked the defense lawyer to be specific in his line of argument.
This did not go down well with Selekeowei and he quickly queried the tribunal member fuming: “Why are you interjecting into my submission like this? I am making a point, you have not even allowed me to land! You are interfering with this proceeding and it is wrong! “You are the Judge, you should allow me to make my submission while you rule. Allow me do my work, yours is to be neutral. Why are you doing this,?”
Attempts by CCT Chairman, Danladi Umar, to pacify Orubebe’s lawyer failed. Infuriated by Selekeowei’s conduct, Umar urged him to tender an open apology for his verbal attack on the bench. A reluctant Selekeowei apologise, “though I still insist that it was wrong for anyone to interject like that”.
Justice Atedze simply said: “Larry, all I will tell you is to calm down”.
The former minister had, through his lawyer, vehemently opposed the admissibility of the documents which he said were obtained in gross violation of section 83(3) of the Evidence Act. The defense counsel contended that the documents were procured while the charge was pending before the tribunal.
The prosecution told the tribunal that FG has lined up three witnesses to testify in the matter. FG had, at the last adjourned day, dropped N70million bribery allegation it levelled against Orubebe in the initial four-count charge it lodged before the tribunal. It alleged, in the charge that was struck-out, that Orubebe collected the bribe from one Pastor (Dr.) Jonathan Alota, the owner of a company, Chemtronics Nigeria Limited. The firm was said to have benefited from contracts that were awarded by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, whilst Orubebe held sway as minister. FG alleged that the defendant received bribe of N50million in 2012 and another N20million in 2013, an offense contrary to section 10 of the CCB and Tribunal Act, 2004, and punishable under Section 23 (2) of the same law.