Two of a kind: BAT refused docking; Bello refuses to appear in Court.

By Bolaji O. Akinyemi.

Leadership is often said to be by example, consequently, Leaders of tomorrow are mentees of Leaders on the stage of Today. In 2011, Yahaya Bello was just a 36 year old young politician watching the big political game from the side of the field. 4 years later, fortune smiles at Yahaya Adoza Bello, the cruelty of death on Abubakar Audu gave room for the perversion of Party’s constitution, country’s constitution, the conscience of the judiciary and even common sense. Everything logical was traded to make APC new sign on a first team shirt holder in the game of corruption. I have heard many commentators excusing the older politicians from the disgrace that Bello’s saga constitutes to us as a nation. Struggling to limit it to the immaturity of the youth for political leadership. Bello is not a conclusion that the Nigerian youths are too young to run, but a proof of the fact that they might have been too ruined to reason correctly in leadership.

We are really not new to dramas relating to corruption, sometimes it is made to look like our politicians are in competition with Nollywood at entertaining the world. Script written for our accused politicians and directed, maybe by their lawyers and their accomplices.

Deserving due diligence of thorough investigation is about 170 Governors, but just 58, made the Looters list said to have emanated from EFCC according to an online platform; dockaysworld. Though EFCC has denied the information, Unchecked propaganda may further ruin the chance of Olukoyede’s EFCC if care is not taken. EFCC needs to take a stand against propaganda of this nature without denying the reality of our misadventures with looters whose total embezzlement summed up for ₦2.187 trillion. This amount does not include properties seized worldwide or those currently being investigated, which may also amount to trillions.

With a trip across the South Eastern States, one is forced to ask if the region is part of Nigeria. But against the background of the total budget of the region for 2024 put at 2.29 trillion when compared with the looted 2.2 trillion for which EFCC is saddled to help us recover and the fact that T.A Orji and Sons; a company belonging to former Governor of Abia State top the EFCC list as the undisputed heavyweight looting champion of our common patrimony with just ₦551 bn, the next contender for the title is Yahaya Bello trailing far behind at a little over 80 billion. I am forced to conclude that MUCH MORE of the development of the region are in the pockets of their looters than with the Federal government “marginalisation agenda” of the region. Abia State from where Orji looted so much is today lit up by a responsible government as the state with the best power supply in Nigeria. Our Governors and Local Government Chairmen should be held responsible for infrastructural development more than the Federal Government.

Back to the drama, unfortunately however are those who went out of line with their scripts but gave great interpretation of their role that earned them entertainers in their own rights. Let’s begin with the former MD of NDDC, Daniel Pondie, who feigned fainting before the National Assembly, he is yet to be resuscitated to face the Committee and conclude his drama.

To Godswill Akpabio for whose sake the microphone was turned off during a senate session, he is back in the Senate and rewarded with a microphone. He gives the same at his discretion and determines who should speak and who should not. He is absolutely in control of the microphone switch, to turn it off and on. Nigerians were recently aggrieved by the issue of the padding of 2024 budget. Unknown to many was the rumble in the Senate calling for the impeachment of the Senate President who was rumoured to have helped himself to a whopping 1.3 trillion under a sharing formula of the budget “pad” for which many Senators were angry. Would Akpabio change with an endorsement by the President for him to continue as the Senate President? Corruption, it appears doesn’t mean what it means to Mr President, for which corrupt characters are having a free day in his Government. Leaving EFCC as the most unfortunate agency of the Government from which too much is expected.

Few of our looters in chief convicted had their investigations initiated under the previous administration before APC, which includes; Tafa Balogun, the IGP who was nailed by Nuhu Ribadu an officer far junior to him but protected and supported by the then establishment to fight corruption. James Ibori, who like Yahaya Bello attempted to evade justice but met the long arm of the law in a far away country. He had served his term and is back in the country calling the shots politically in Delta State. The question is; can Yahaya run faster than Ibori? Even, our today’s President was at a time out of line at the CTC, docked at his first appearance in court but refused to enter the dock in the same court days later.

We need to determine what we want! Should prosecution be for those who are out of line with the law of the country and out of order with the constitution on how things should be done. Or do we leave the narrative for what it is in the perspective of the public and the international community?

Our courts have become amphitheaters of great comedy and our Judges jesters on the benches, seating in decisions of matters of life and death. Existential Issues are ruled for entertaining pieces of drama as our Lords temporal, so pleased!

For the failure of the judiciary and the increasing possibility of purchase of justice, our politicians have been emboldened to hide successfully behind a finger and misinform the public to curry their sentiments. Should I remind us of Fayose’s orthopaedic collar worn upside down, to a neck, I can bet nothing happens to him!

Was the President out of line with the law of Nigeria and out of order on how things should be done while he served as the Governor of Lagos State? The answer should come from the CCB Tribunal.

At the CCB Tribunal sometimes in October 2011, as reported by
Sahara Reporters, former governor of Lagos state and the then leader of Nigeria’s Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, mounted a legal obstacle against his trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal [CCT] for allegedly operating 16 foreign bank accounts between 1999 and 2007 when he was governor of Lagos State.

Former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu who was docked on 21st September 2011 returned to Court a month later on October 2011 seemingly armed with a drama script as he mounted a legal obstacle against his trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal [CCT] for allegedly operating 16 foreign bank accounts between 1999 and 2007 when he was governor of Lagos State as he refused to enter the Dock.

At the dramatic hearing, not only did the former Governor vigorously refuse to take his place in the dock, he filed a preliminary objection challenging the competence of the charge and the jurisdiction of the Tribunal on the grounds that it lacks the territorial jurisdiction to venture into the charge.

His counsel, Wole Olanikpekun, urged the court to decline its jurisdiction to proceed with the matter and to quash all the three-count charges against Tinubu.

When the matter was called, the former governor, who had scores of supporters on hand, refused to step into the dock.

The situation indicated a new strategy for Tinubu. When he was arraigned two months before, on September 21, 2011, he willingly entered the dock and stayed there for about three hours. Pictures of the ACN chieftain looking forlorn in the dock thereafter made the rounds and stunned many observers, as it must have done Tinubu and his lawyers when they later saw them.

His refusal to enter the dock, which is necessary before a plea can be entered, marked a clear departure from that experience.

Citing legal authorities, Mr. Olanikpekun objected to the invitation of the tribunal’s chairman, Justice Umar Yakubu for Mr. Tinubu to step into the dock, arguing that until his client was arraigned before the court, he could not be put in the dock.

He told Justice Yakubu, “My lord, with due respect, I will be objecting to the request by the accused to enter the dock. Was it right for the court to command an accused person to go into the dock when he has not been arraigned? Besides, he is challenging the competence of the charge. The objection is on the legality or validity of the charge.”

Responding, the prosecutor, Alex Aigbe Izinyon, submitted that the accused person should be deemed as being absent from court as his being in the courtroom did not translate into his presence in court unless he took his place in the dock and his plea taken. But he conceded to Mr. Olanikpekun that the accused does not need to be in court before his application challenging the jurisdiction of the court could be argued.

Still, said Mr. Izinyon, “When he has not taken his plea, but is in court, he must be in the dock to show his presence in court.

Mr. Olanikpekun argued that the charges are nebulous and empty, and do not disclose any prima facie case against Mr. Tinubu. He also argued that the Bureau breached the condition precedent principle when it refused to invite his client to its office to hear from him, as it had done with other former governors, before preferring charges against him.

“What the Bureau has done is like putting something on nothing. Neither the Bureau nor the Chairman has invited the accused person in relation to the three-count charge as stipulated in section 3 of the Code of Conduct Act,” he said, adding that what is good for the goose is good for the gander.”

Mr. Olanikpekun described the charges against Mr. Tinubu as “speculative” and amounted to hearsay under Sections 115, 116 and 117 of the Evidence Act in view of the fact that the prosecution did not disclose the name of the informant.

The defence counsel said the CCB Tribunal was an abuse of court process as a similar case with the same subject matter initiated against the accused person was still subsisting at the Court of Appeal, and dismissed the contention of the prosecution that the case has been withdrawn. He said a withdrawal of the charges has to be by means of a formal pronouncement of the court and not a mere letter of withdrawal as the one paraded by the prosecution.

Finally, Mr. Olanipekun challenged the territorial competence of the court in Abuja as the appropriate venue is Lagos where the alleged offence was committed.

“In a criminal trial, the law is that the court must seat at the place where the alleged offence was committed,” he said. “There is no law that says the tribunal must seat in Abuja over the matter.”

Dr. Izinyon urged the tribunal to throw out the objections of the defence and proceed with the trial of the accused person, insisting that a prima facie case has been established against Mr. Tinubu and that the court is competent to hear it.

Drawing the attention of the court to Section 17 of the Code of Conduct Act, he stressed that a nominee, trustee or any agent of a public officer may be deemed to have committed an offence adding that at this stage, it is premature to say that the charges are defective.”

With reference to the defence’s argument concerning an abuse of court process, Mr. Izinyon said the earlier charges against Mr. Tinubu were withdrawn by the Attorney General of the Federation using his powers under Section 174 of the amended 1999 constitution, and urged the court to reject the argument.

On the issue of non-fulfillment of conditional precedence, Mr. Izinyon said the Bureau had the discretion as to whether or not to invite people to make statements before it.

Finally, on the subject of jurisdiction, Izinyon argued that the Tribunal was clothed with federal jurisdiction and can therefore conduct its sittings in any part of the country.

The Tribunal reserved until November 30, 2011 its decision as to whether or not it has territorial jurisdiction to try Mr. Tinubu. On that day, it would also announce its verdict on Tinubu’s application to quash the three-count charge preferred against him by the Federal Government.

Finally on November 30, 2011, the court ruled that the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, but before quashing the charges, the court dismissed the motion by the former governor’s legal team challenging its jurisdiction to hear the case.

Many rulings in our courts leave the “unlearned” public with questions only learned friends and colleagues can answer. Can a court accused of lacking jurisdiction rule in its own case? Can it affirm and assert its authority and go ahead to dismiss the case against it to pave way to rule in favour of the client of the legal team that challenged its authority?

Mr Tinubu’s camp, which has all along blamed his trial on political witch-hunting and challenged the jurisdiction of the court erupted in spontaneous celebration moment after the judgement was pronounced by the court lacking “jurisdiction”.

Will Bello’s refusal to appear in court like Tinubu’s refusal to be docked finally end in celebration? Not the EFCC, no matter how hard the agency tries, the best they can achieve is to provide nails but hammer with which Bello can be nailed is still with our jaundiced judiciary. The fate of Bello therefore, only time will tell!

Ours is a very dramatic society! Leadership examples are there for young Yahaya Bello to follow and the precedences are overwhelming our justice system.

Except a sacrificial example is made to the end that no one is above the law to restore the dignity of the lady of the law, the symbol of justice; I don’t see how we hope to fight the enemy of our nation identified by Prof Wole Soyinka as an hydra headed monster!

Our salvation seems to lie with the one who said; “for this purpose I was born, to be the President of Nigeria. Will he be like others before him who understood the purpose of their lives and gave themselves as sacrifice for it? If we agree that Tinubu was born for the salvation of Nigeria and liberation of Africa; could it be that the path that destiny had chosen for Mr President is that of becoming the sacrifice for our emancipation? Will Tinubu apply for the withdrawal of his immunity and become an example to all that no man should be above the law? This is the most noble path to end our judicial drama and bring lesser mortals past and present to accountability. A difficult path, but will the President choose it to save our nation from corruption?

Dr. Bolaji O. Akinyemi is an Apostle and Nation Builder. He’s also President Voice of His Word Ministries and Convener Apostolic Round Table. BoT Chairman, Project Victory Call Initiative, AKA PVC Naija. He is a strategic Communicator and the C.E.O, Masterbuilder Communications.Email:bolajiakinyemi66@gmail.comFacebook: Bolaji Akinyemi.X: Bolaji O AkinyemiInstagram: bolajioakinyemiPhone: +2348033041236