The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has scheduled June 30 as the day judgment in the trial of former Niger Delta Minister, Godsday Orubebe.
The tribunal arrived at this date on Thursday after Orubebe concluded his defence having called two witnesses, including himself.
Orubebe was earlier in November 8, 2015 arraigned on a four-count charge of false asset declaration and bribery by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation.
The prosecution, on March 8 this year, announced an amendment to the charge, reducing the counts to one. He pleaded not guilty to the amended charge of false asset declaration on March 8 when he was re-arraigned.
While testifying as the second defence witness yesterday, Orubebe explained that he failed to declare the plot of land in 2011 because he had sold it to his landlord before he made the last asset declaration while leaving office.
Led in evidence by his lawyer, Selekowei Larry (SAN), Orubebe, who said he sold the barren plot of land at N10million, explained that he also did not declare it when he assumed office in 2007 because it was not allocated to him then.
He said the land was allocated to him by the Federal Government, as a Minister, through the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister. He said never visited the plot if land because it was in an undeveloped part of Abuja, and that he sold to pay his rents, at N5m per annum, for two years (2009-2010 & 2010-2011).
He expressed regret that he was subjected to trial over an “empty plot of land in a bush,” which he said, was allocated to him by the government in which he served.
When asked by Larry when he did not declare the plot of land when he assumed office in 2007, Orubebe said: “As at 26 September 2007 when I first declared my assets, I never had a property named plot 2057 Asokoro District, Abuja. So, I could not have declared it as I was coming in as a minister.
“On 29 of June 2011, when I was temporarily dis-engaged from the Federal Executive Council, because the FEC was dissolved, before I was reappointed, I never also had a property known as Plot 2057 Asokoro District, Abuja. So, I could not have declared a property that was not mine.
“As at when I was dis-engaging, I could not declared the land, because it was no longer mine. But I declared other property, including land that were given to me by the government that I served,” he said.
Explaining how he sold the land, Orubebe said: “On 29 June 2011, Plot 2057, ordinary empty land in a bush, that was given to me by the Federal Government that I served, via an offer letter from the Minister of the FCT. I decided to give it out to my landlord, Barrister Akinwumi Ajibola, the Managing Direction of Givention Properties Limited, to settle for my two years house rent.
“In this country, so many people do not know that the annual salary of a serving minister per month, all inclusive, accommodation, transportation, everything inclusive, in 2007 was N1.3m. In 2008 it went down to N990,000 and few kobo.
“So, the annual salary, from then till now, cannot pay a befitting rent for him in befitting places like Maitama, Mabushi, Asokoro, Wuse2. So, when I got the offer letter for the empty land, all ministers were given such lands, I saw this as an opportunity to settle my house rent.
“When they said the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) was ready, I authorised my Senior Assistant (SA) then, Engr Rodney Bawey to collect the CoO and I contacted my landlord, to meet Engr Rodney to collect the C of O for the settlement of my two years house rent.
“They collected C ofO together and later he prepared the sale documents, and I signed the documents, parting with my ownership o the land given to me by the government.
“My lord, I never saw the land, and also did not see the C of O. I parted with it the same day it was given to me. I did not see the C of O. My SA, Engr Rodney came to me and told me he had handed it over to my landlord, Barrister Ajibola. I parted with the land at N10m paid for with my two years rent of N5m per year,” Orubebe said.
He identified the documents, marked as Exhibits D1 to D5, which were earlier tendered through the first defence witness, as the documents signed for Akinwumi, transferring ownership of the plot of land to Givention Properties Ltd.
He said he was never invited in any form by the CCB to clarify why he did not include the plot of land in his asset declaration form.
Under cross-examination by prosecution lawyer, Muhammad Diri, said his take-home as a minister, from 2008 till 2011 was less than N1m per month.
Dirir, who computed the amount said it will amount to N11.880m per annum, and about N47.520m in the four years Orubebe served.
But Orubebe said the official earning of a minister was insufficient for his needs, particularly as a politician.
Ajibola confirmed knowing Orubebe, who was his tenant from 2007 to 2011 in his (Ajibola’s) property at Drive 2 House 3 Ministers Quarters, Mabushi, Abuja.
When asked the amount his company paid, Ajibola said: “My company bought the plot of land at N10m. The land is not inside Asokoro per se. It was on the Road to Karshi, on your way to Sani Abacha Barracks.”
On how the payment was made, Ajibola said: “There were issues on the regular payment of the defendant’s rent. We agreed that the rent for the year 2010 was N5m and 2011 which was also N5m would be the consideration for the property we are buying into. In effect, the rent for two years amounted to N10m, with which we converted to acquiring the land.”
On why he did not register the Deed and C of O with the relevant government agencies, Ajibola said: “In Abuja, you cannot get the consent of the Minister of FCT until you have started developing the plot. But the, the plot was still in a bush. No development had taken place.”
On why he had not done the necessary registrations to reflect the new ownership, Ajibola said: “When we were about to develop between 2011 and 2012, we noticed an encroachment. When we noticed that, we put a hold to the registration of the Deed of Assignment. And till date, the matter is still on-going.”