The Federal Government has filed fresh criminal charges against Deputy Senate President, Dr. Ike Ekweremadu, and the Senator representing Akwa Ibom North-East, Chief Albert Akpan, following alleged failure to declare their assets.
In the two sets of charges it lodged before Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, the Federal Government alleged that the two lawmakers refused to declare their assets in a manner prescribed by Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property.
Both Ekweremadu and Akpan were slammed with two-count criminal allegations in separate charges marked FHC/ABJ/CR/62/2018 and FHC/ABJ/CR/88/2018, which were okayed by Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN.
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Meanwhile, trial Justice John Tsoho, yesterday, gave Federal Government the nod to serve the charge on the defendants through substituted means.
Justice Tsoho made the order after he heard an ex-parte motion moved by government lawyer, Dr. Celsus Ukpong.
The court directed that copies of the two charges be served on Ekweremadu and Akpan through the Clerk of the National Assembly.
While it fixed October 22 for Ekweremadu to enter his plea to the charge against him, dated May 10, 2018, government was permitted to dock Senator Akpan on November 7.
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Justice Tsoho, however, rejected Federal Government’s prayer to be allowed to temporarily confiscate some of the property linked to the defendants, pending the investigation of allegation against them “bordering on false allegation of asset, and diversion of public funds, conspiracy, abuse of office and possession of wealth far beyond their legitimate incomes as public officers or suspicious asset.”
Charges laughable, malicious — Ekweremadu
Meanwhile, Senator Ekweremadu has described the suit as laughable and malicious.
He said: “Let me re-affirm to Nigerians and my supporters that I have no assets declaration case to answer. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria requires pubic 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 for.
“I am aware that the Chairman of that panel wrote the same letter to some judges of the Federal High Court, who also declined to fill them. One of such letters to a serving judge dated October 9, 2017 was signed by Mr. M. Sulaiman, on behalf of Obono-Obla, Chairman of the Panel.
“I am also aware that the affected judges petitioned the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mallam Abubakar Malami, who immediately withdrew the provocative letters and fresh asset declaration forms with apologies vide a letter dated November 1, 2017 and signed by the Solicitor-General of the Federation.
“It is, therefore, left to Nigerians to see the politics of the so-called charges in my case. The Office of the AGF should not allow itself to be used in filing malevolent and unconstitutional charges that destroy our democracy and make mockery of our judicial system.”