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.