The Federal Government has charged the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, and Senator Bassey Akpan with alleged refusal to declare their assets to the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property.
Akpan represents the Akwa Ibom North-East Senatorial District in Akwa Ibom State,
On Wednesday, Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court in Abuja where two separate sets of charges were instituted against the senators, ordered that the charges and other accompanying papers be served on two of them through the clerk of the National Assembly.
The judge, after granting the orders for service through substituted means, fixed October 22 for the next hearing in respect of Ekweremadu’s case and November 19 for Akpan’s.
The Okoi Obono-Obla-led SPIPRPP had, on behalf of the Federal Government, filed the two separate criminal suits containing two counts each against the senators.
It filed the criminal suit marked FHC/ABJ/CR/62/2018 against Ekweremadu on May 11, 2018, while it instituted the one marked FHC/ABJ/CR/88/2018 against Akpan on June 13, 2018.
The SPIPRPP had also in different applications applied to the Federal High Court in Abuja for the interim forfeiture of properties which both senators allegedly failed to declare as their assets.
The SPIPRPP had sought the orders of interim forfeiture of the properties linked to the senators pending the conclusion of investigations.
However, in one of the two counts it subsequently filed separately against the senators, the Federal Government, through its prosecuting counsel, Dr Celcus Ukpong, alleged that the two senators, upon notice to declare their assets in the manner prescribed by the SPIPRPP, “refused to declare” their assets “without reasonable excuse.”
In the second count which is reflected in each of the separate suits filed against them, the defendants were alleged to have “neglected to declare” their assets “without reasonable excuse upon the notice to declare” their assets “in the manner prescribed by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property.”
Ekweremadu allegedly committed the offences on or about March 28, 2018 while Bassey was said to have committed the same set of offences on or about April 12, 2018.
However, Ekweremadu said there was an attempt by Obono-Obla to smear his name “in the midst of the current political activities.”
He said, “Let me reaffirm to Nigerians and my supporters that I have no assets declaration case to answer. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria requires public office holders to declare their assets every four years, a requirement which I fulfilled. The panel requested and obtained copies of my Assets Declaration Form from the Code of Conduct Bureau where everything is stated in black and white.
“For emphasis, all my assets were fully and comprehensively declared to the Code of Conduct Bureau. What is at issue here is that the SPIP had forwarded fresh assets declaration forms to me to fill contrary to the position of the 1999 Constitution, a demand I refused to oblige because it is clearly unconstitutional. It is this refusal to disobey the Constitution that I am now being charged with.”
Ekweremadu said it was left to Nigerians to see “the politics of the so-called charges in my case.”
He added, “The Office of the AGF should not allow itself to be used in filing malevolent and unconstitutional charges that destroy our democracy and make a mockery of our judicial system.
“I expect the Attorney General to channel his energy into prosecuting Obono-Obla over his established case of forgery of his Senior School Certificate result instead of this politically-motivated prosecution and smear campaign.”
The court fixed October 22 for Ekweremadu’s case and November 19 for Akpan’s.
Credit: Punch Newspapers
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