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Monday, April 24, 2017

Saraki, Ngwuta, others may forfeit alleged undeclared assets


Senate President Bukola Saraki and Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court , among other defendants currently being prosecuted before the Code of Conduct Tribunal , may have their properties , which are subject of the charges preferred against them , temporality forfeited pending the final determination of their cases .

This is according to the CCT ’ s new Practice Direction , 2017, released last week .

The 26 - paragraph Practice Direction , with commencement date of February 16 , 2017 , is signed by the CCT ’s Chairman, Danladi Umar, and the other member of the tribunal , William Atedze.
Paragraph 12 of the document, which deals with ‘Seizures’ , gives the prosecution the discretion to apply (through ex- parte motion ) for temporary forfeiture of assets which are subject of the trial pending the final determination of the case .

It allows the prosecution to make the application for property seizure at the commencement of the trial or “at a reasonable time thereafter”.

According to legal experts , since the new practice direction is a procedural framework , it will take immediate effect on ongoing cases .

Paragraph 12 reads, “The prosecution may , at the commencement of the trial or at a reasonable time thereafter, apply to the tribunal for an interim order of seizure, forfeiture and confiscation of the property , the subject of the charge pending the final determination of same by the tribunal .

“An application for temporary seizure may be heard in chambers or in open court by the tribunal .

“Application for temporary seizure shall be made motion ex parte supported by an affidavit and schedule of the property to be so attached. ”
Saraki is being prosecuted by the Federal Government before the CCT on 18 counts including mostly false assets declaration.

Some of Saraki ’ s properties which are the subject of the charges preferred against him are located at 15 , 17 , 17 A and 17 B Mcdonald Street , Ikoyi, Lagos . Others are located at Plots 2481 and 2482 Cadastral Zone A 06 , Maitama, Abuja, (otherwise known as 1 and 3 Targus Street , Maitama, Abuja ).
Saraki is also accused of obtaining a N 375 m loan from Guaranty Trust Bank Plc on February 11 , 2010, which he allegedly used to buy property in London.

The Senate President was said to have failed to declare the London property .

On his part, Justice Ngwuta was arraigned on eight counts before the CCT on April 20 .
Properties, which are subject of the case , are listed in seven of the counts.

In count one to seven , the prosecution accused Ngwuta of false declaration of assets by failing to declare a parcel of land and properties in Abakaliki , Ebonyi State, as well as some luxury cars, all belonging to him , when he declared his assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau between June 2 , 2011 and July 19 , 2016 .

The offence is said to be contrary to Section 15 of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act , Cap C 15 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under Section 23 (2 ) of the same Act .

The Justice of the apex court is also accused in count eight of engaging in private business as a public officer , contrary to Section 6 (b ) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act .

Specifically, in count one to three he is accused of failing to declare his parcel of land measuring 1 ,722 . 952 Square Metres located at Umkpufu, Off Onwe Road, Azuiyiokwu , and properties at Plot 36 , Onwe Road Layout as well as Plot 35 , GRA Extention (Onwe Road ) Layout, allin Abakaliki , Ebonyi State.

In count four to seven , the Justice of the Supreme Court was accused of failing to declare between June 2 , 2011 and July 19 , 2016 , the following cars as part of his assets :
*A Wrangler Jeep with Vehicle No: VRG5553562034689 , Chassis No: IJ 4 GA 591581626734 and number plate RSH526 AJ ; a BMW 5 Series Saloon with Vehicle No: 7779067484832 and Chassis No: WBSWL91060 P323876, marked KUJ510 FU ; a Hummer Jeep with Vehicle No: VRG77746900444362 and Chassis No: 5 GRGN 2389 H101515 and number plate KWL881 JE; a Liberty Jeep with Vehicle No: VRG77746817425807 and Chassis No: 1 J 8 GP 28 KX 9 W 550564, marked RBC 570 DP .

Forfeiture of property , which is the subject of a trial, has been part of the three types of sentences imposable on the defendant found guilty since the establishment of the tribunal .

But giving room to the prosecution to request the seizure of the said property before the final determination of the case is novel at the CCT .

The other two sentences the tribunal can pass on a defendant , convicted by the CCT , are vacation of office and disqualification from holding public office for 10 years .

The new practice direction explains in its First Schedule that one of the sentences or combination of two or all the three sentences can be passed on a convict depending on the level of harm of the offence on the victim and the level of culpability of the defendant in the offence .

The document also now divides the trial before the tribunal into four stages, which are arraignment, pre - hearing , the trial and sentencing procedures .

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