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Absence of counsel stalls Useni`s arraignment

28 November 2013, 17:31

Abuja - The formal arraignment of former FCT Minister, retired Lt.-Gen. Jeremiah Useni before the Code of Conduct Tribunal on Wednesday, was again stalled due to the absence of his counsel, Victor Odjemu.

The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation filed a suit on May 10, 2000 against Useni bordering on abuse of office and non-declaration of assets.

Useni is alleged to have used his office as minister of the FCT to acquire landed properties in choice locations in Abuja metropolis.

At the sitting of the tribunal on Wednesday, the case could not go ahead with the case because Odjemu wrote a letter, seeking an adjournment to enable him appear before the Court of Appeal in Kaduna for another matter.

The case was the only matter in the day’s case list and the tribunal’s sitting could not hold.

Odjemu’s letter, dated November 26, was addressed to the tribunal’s registrar and copied to Simon Egede, the acting Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation.

He said that he was the only counsel available to appear for both cases coming up on the same date in Abuja and Kaduna and that he was served with the Appeal Court’s hearing notice belatedly.

"I will therefore the indulgence of this tribunal for an adjournment regarding which I wish to suggest any date between 28 and 31 January 2014, subject to same being convenient to the tribunal," he wrote.

The tribunal had yet to respond to Odjemu’s letter or fix another hearing date.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Tribunal Chairman, Justice Danladi Umar, had on June 25 and July 16 ordered Useni to personally appear before the tribunal.

Umar first gave the order on June 25 while hearing the motion on notice filed by Useni`s counsel challenging the confiscation of his client’s property by the Federal Government.

At the tribunal's sitting of Nov. 13, after Useni failed to appear due to ill health Umar, who led two other members of the panel, could not hide his shock over the discovery that Useni was not in court.

"The accused person has never appeared in person in this matter as required by law.

"It has been a tale of one excuse or the other from the accused person,” the chairman said.

Umar advised Useni's counsel to ensure his presence in court on the next adjourned date to take his plea.

"If the accused is able to go for treatment at the National Hospital for routine medical check-up, nothing stops him from coming here for some minutes to take his plea.

"If you observe the trial of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, you will observe that he was transported to court in an ambulance, emphasising the importance of the trial.

"It is difficult to rationalise the accused’s inability to take his plea in the past 13 years,"  Umar said.

-  NAN

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