Politics

The Deputy Senate President, Mr. Ike Ekweremadu, on Tuesday, challenged the powers of the Federal High Court in Abuja

The Deputy Senate President, Mr. Ike Ekweremadu, on Tuesday,
challenged the powers of the Federal High Court in Abuja to grant interim
ownership of his 22 properties to the Federal Government. Ekweremadu, via a
motion he filed through his lead counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN,
maintained that under the 1999 Constitution, as amended, the high court,
lacked the jurisdiction to entertain and exercise judicial powers in matter
related to, connected with and arising from the Code of Conduct and
Declaration of Assets. Ekweremadu It will be recalled that FG had in an
ex-parte motion marked FHC/ABJ/CS/284/2018, applied for an interim order
temporarily attaching/forfeiting Ekweremadu’s properties to it, pending the
conclusion of further inquiry/investigation by the Special Presidential
Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property and/or possible
arraignment of the Respondent. Nine of the properties FG asked the court to
freeze because they were not declared by the embattled lawmaker, are in
Abuja; two of them in London, the United Kingdom; eight in Dubai, the
United Arab Emirates; and three in Florida, the United States. FG
predicated the motion on section 330 of the Administration of Criminal
Justice Act, 2015, section 8 of the Recovery of Public Property (Special
Provisions) Act, section 44 (2) (K) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
However, Ekweremadu, in his counter-motion, told the court that the Chief
Okoi Obono-Oblah led Special Presidential Investigation Panel that is
moving to seize his properties for the government “is an illegal body”,
saying it was not created under any law made by the National Assembly. “The
so called Special Panel was never Gazetted in any publication in the
Federal Government of Nigeria Gazette. The President and Commander-in-Chief
never inaugurated any panel anytime and anywhere in Nigeria”, he argued. He
contended that the Panel lacked the locus standi, competence and legal
vires to receive complaints, investigate and initiate legal proceedings in
matters connected with assets he declared to the Code of Conduct Bureau in
2007 and 2015. “The Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) has laid down
a set of guidelines for the behaviour of public officers. It is known as
the Code of Conduct, which is contained in the Fifth Schedule to the
Constitution. “The Code of Conduct Bureau is an institution created by the
Constitution and charged with ensuring compliance with the Code; whilst the
Code of Conduct Tribunal is responsible for enforcing it. “It is important
to invite the court’s attention to the fact that the Recovery of Public
Property (Special Provision) Act, CAP R4, LFN, 2004 gives jurisdiction to
the Federal High Court under Section 2(2)b which is not only inconsistent
with the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act but inconsistent with
section 251 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which
did not include code of conduct matters under the jurisdiction of the
Federal High Court We refer to Trade Bank Plc vs Lagos Island Local Govt
(2003) supra. “My Lord, we submit that the constitution has already
provided for the body to undertake this investigation and prosecution of
offences related to and connected with asset declaration. It has done so
and we are therefore bound to observe it under the doctrine of covering the
field. “This sole panel has no power to receive complaints, investigate and
initiate criminal proceedings against the respondent concerning issues of
Assets by a public officer. “We submit that the Federal High Court is a
special court with limited jurisdiction as contained in Section 251 of the
1999 Constitution. “Violating the Code of Conduct for Public Officers is
not one of the matters in respect of which jurisdiction has been conferred
on the Federal High Court under Section 251 of the Constitution. “We urge
the Court to dismiss the Ex-parte application filed in the name of the
Federal Republic of Nigeria”. While refuting allegation that he did not
declare all his assets, Ekweremadu, in a nine paragraphed affidavit deposed
to by one John Amoke, alleged that contents of a Will he lodged at the
Probate Registry of the High Court of Justice of Enugu State, was tampered
with and unlawfully altered by retired Chief Judge of the state, Justice
Innocent Azubike Umezulike. He said the Obono-Oblah led Panel never
notified him of its investigation of petition the retired CJ filed against
him based on his distorted Will, saying he was never at any time, queried
by the CCB concerning any discrepancy in assets he declared before it.
Consequently, Ekweremadu, prayed the court to dismiss FG’s ex-parte motion
for being incompetent. Meantime, FG, on Tuesday, argued that Ekweremadu
lacked the right to be heard by the court since its application was brought
ex-parte with the aim of preserving all the assets in issue. FG’s lawyer,
Mr. Bala Dakum who is from the chambers of Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN, argued
that the fact Ekweremadu got wind of motion to freeze his assets, did not
grant him the entitlement to be heard. More so, FG, via its own
five-paragraphed affidavit that was deposed to by one Yohanna Shankuk,
alleged that Ekweremandu has already sold some of the properties in
question. It said Ekweremadu’s motion was only “a delay tactics to
frustrate the substance of this suit”, saying “there are reports that the
Respondent is already hurriedly selling off the assets”. FG said its motion
was to stop the Respondent “from dissipating the assets in question whilst
investigations are ongoing”. Justice Binta Nyako subsequently fixed April
26 to determine whether or not Ekweremandu should be heard before the court
could grant ex-parte orders with regards to the assets in dispute. Assets
FG wants the court to freeze over Ekweremadu’s alleged failure to declare
them, are located at No. 11, Evans Enwerem Street, Apo Legislative
Quarters, Apo, Abuja, Plot 2633 Kyami, Abuja, Housing Estate (Plot 1106
CRD, Cadastral Zone 07-07, Lugbe, Abuja, Plot 2782 Asokoro Extension,
Abuja, Houses at Citi Park Estate, Gwagwalada, Abuja, Plot 1474 Cadastral
Zone BD6, Mabushi, Abuja, Congress Court, Abuja, Flat 1, Block D25,
Athletics Street, (24th Street) Games Village, Abuja and Plot 66, 64
Crescent, Gwarimpa Estate, Abuja. Those in London are Flat 4 Varsity Court,
Harmer Street, WIH 4NW, London, 52 Ayleston Avenue, NW6 7AB, London. Other
properties in Dubai and USA are; Room 1903, The Address Hotel, Downtown
Dubai, The Address Boulevard, 3901, Dubai, 2 Flats of Burij Side Boulevard
(the signature), Dubai, Emirate Gardens Apartment No. EGG1/1/114, Dubai,
Emirate Gardens Apartment No. EGG1/115, Dubai, Apartment No. DFB/12/B 1204,
Park Towers, Dubai, Flat 3604, MAG214, Dubai and Villa No 148, Maeen 1, The
Lakes Emirates Hills, Dubai. As well as 4507 Stella Street, Bellavida
Estate Kissime, Florida, USA, 2747 Club Cortile Circle, Kissime, Florida,
USA and 2763 Club Cortile Circle, Kissime, Florida, USA.

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– The Senate President, Mr. Ike Ekweremadu, on Tuesday, challenged the
powers of the Federal High Court in Abuja to grant interim ownership of his
22 properties to the Federal Government. Ekweremadu, via a motion he filed
through his lead counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, maintained that
under the 1999 Constitution, as amended, the high court, lacked the
jurisdiction to entertain and exercise judicial powers in matter related
to, connected with and arising from the Code of Conduct and Declaration of
Assets. Ekweremadu It will be recalled that FG had in an ex-parte motion
marked FHC/ABJ/CS/284/2018, applied for an interim order temporarily
attaching/forfeiting Ekweremadu’s properties to it, pending the conclusion
of further inquiry/investigation by the Special Presidential Investigation
Panel for the Recovery of Public Property and/or possible arraignment of
the Respondent. Nine of the properties FG asked the court to freeze because
they were not declared by the embattled lawmaker, are in Abuja; two of them
in London, the United Kingdom; eight in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates;
and three in Florida, the United States. FG predicated the motion on
section 330 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, section 8
of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act, section 44 (2)
(K) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended. However, Ekweremadu, in his
counter-motion, told the court that the Chief Okoi Obono-Oblah led Special
Presidential Investigation Panel that is moving to seize his properties for
the government “is an illegal body”, saying it was not created under any
law made by the National Assembly. “The so called Special Panel was never
Gazetted in any publication in the Federal Government of Nigeria Gazette.
The President and Commander-in-Chief never inaugurated any panel anytime
and anywhere in Nigeria”, he argued. He contended that the Panel lacked the
locus standi, competence and legal vires to receive complaints, investigate
and initiate legal proceedings in matters connected with assets he declared
to the Code of Conduct Bureau in 2007 and 2015. “The Constitution of
Nigeria 1999 (as amended) has laid down a set of guidelines for the
behaviour of public officers. It is known as the Code of Conduct, which is
contained in the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution. “The Code of Conduct
Bureau is an institution created by the Constitution and charged with
ensuring compliance with the Code; whilst the Code of Conduct Tribunal is
responsible for enforcing it. “It is important to invite the court’s
attention to the fact that the Recovery of Public Property (Special
Provision) Act, CAP R4, LFN, 2004 gives jurisdiction to the Federal High
Court under Section 2(2)b which is not only inconsistent with the Code of
Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act but inconsistent with section 251 of the
Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which did not include code
of conduct matters under the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court We
refer to Trade Bank Plc vs Lagos Island Local Govt (2003) supra. “My Lord,
we submit that the constitution has already provided for the body to
undertake this investigation and prosecution of offences related to and
connected with asset declaration. It has done so and we are therefore bound
to observe it under the doctrine of covering the field. “This sole panel
has no power to receive complaints, investigate and initiate criminal
proceedings against the respondent concerning issues of Assets by a public
officer. “We submit that the Federal High Court is a special court with
limited jurisdiction as contained in Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution.
“Violating the Code of Conduct for Public Officers is not one of the
matters in respect of which jurisdiction has been conferred on the Federal
High Court under Section 251 of the Constitution. “We urge the Court to
dismiss the Ex-parte application filed in the name of the Federal Republic
of Nigeria”. While refuting allegation that he did not declare all his
assets, Ekweremadu, in a nine paragraphed affidavit deposed to by one John
Amoke, alleged that contents of a Will he lodged at the Probate Registry of
the High Court of Justice of Enugu State, was tampered with and unlawfully
altered by retired Chief Judge of the state, Justice Innocent Azubike
Umezulike. He said the Obono-Oblah led Panel never notified him of its
investigation of petition the retired CJ filed against him based on his
distorted Will, saying he was never at any time, queried by the CCB
concerning any discrepancy in assets he declared before it. Consequently,
Ekweremadu, prayed the court to dismiss FG’s ex-parte motion for being
incompetent. Meantime, FG, on Tuesday, argued that Ekweremadu lacked the
right to be heard by the court since its application was brought ex-parte
with the aim of preserving all the assets in issue. FG’s lawyer, Mr. Bala
Dakum who is from the chambers of Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN, argued that the
fact Ekweremadu got wind of motion to freeze his assets, did not grant him
the entitlement to be heard. More so, FG, via its own five-paragraphed
affidavit that was deposed to by one Yohanna Shankuk, alleged that
Ekweremandu has already sold some of the properties in question. It said
Ekweremadu’s motion was only “a delay tactics to frustrate the substance of
this suit”, saying “there are reports that the Respondent is already
hurriedly selling off the assets”. FG said its motion was to stop the
Respondent “from dissipating the assets in question whilst investigations
are ongoing”. Justice Binta Nyako subsequently fixed April 26 to determine
whether or not Ekweremandu should be heard before the court could grant
ex-parte orders with regards to the assets in dispute. Assets FG wants the
court to freeze over Ekweremadu’s alleged failure to declare them, are
located at No. 11, Evans Enwerem Street, Apo Legislative Quarters, Apo,
Abuja, Plot 2633 Kyami, Abuja, Housing Estate (Plot 1106 CRD, Cadastral
Zone 07-07, Lugbe, Abuja, Plot 2782 Asokoro Extension, Abuja, Houses at
Citi Park Estate, Gwagwalada, Abuja, Plot 1474 Cadastral Zone BD6, Mabushi,
Abuja, Congress Court, Abuja, Flat 1, Block D25, Athletics Street, (24th
Street) Games Village, Abuja and Plot 66, 64 Crescent, Gwarimpa Estate,
Abuja. Those in London are Flat 4 Varsity Court, Harmer Street, WIH 4NW,
London, 52 Ayleston Avenue, NW6 7AB, London. Other properties in Dubai and
USA are; Room 1903, The Address Hotel, Downtown Dubai, The Address
Boulevard, 3901, Dubai, 2 Flats of Burij Side Boulevard (the signature),
Dubai, Emirate Gardens Apartment No. EGG1/1/114, Dubai, Emirate Gardens
Apartment No. EGG1/115, Dubai, Apartment No. DFB/12/B 1204, Park Towers,
Dubai, Flat 3604, MAG214, Dubai and Villa No 148, Maeen 1, The Lakes
Emirates Hills, Dubai. As well as 4507 Stella Street, Bellavida Estate
Kissime, Florida, USA, 2747 Club Cortile Circle, Kissime, Florida, USA and
2763 Club Cortile Circle, Kissime, Florida, USA./

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