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Assets declaration: Court rejects FG’s request for Ekweremadu’s arrest


The Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday turned down a request by the Federal Government to issue a warrant for the arrest of the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.

The Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property had, on behalf of the Federal Government, urged the court to order the arrest of Ekweremadu following the absence of the senator, who, it claimed, was scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday on charges of non-declaration of assets.

The prosecuting counsel, Mr Celcus Ukpong, informed Justice Binta Nyako that two counts of failure to declare assets were filed against the senator on May 11, 2018.

Ukpong said the summons for the arraignment scheduled for Wednesday had been served on Ekweremadu but he allegedly chose to disobey it.

He said, “He decided not to obey the summons. We therefore apply for a bench warrant to be issued against him.”

But Ekweremadu’s lawyer, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), urged the court to disregard the application for a bench warrant to be issued against his client.

He informed the court that his client had on November 1, 2018 filed a motion challenging the competence of the charges and the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the case.

Awomolo argued that without first resolving the application, the matter could not proceed to the stage of arraignment.

He cited some Supreme Court decisions to back his argument.

Also arguing that the SPIPRPP lacked the power to institute a criminal case against his client, he cited a judgment of the Court of Appeal in Abuja delivered on Monday, which ruled that the panel lacked the power to prosecute alleged offenders for crimes bordering on non-declaration of assets.

“On November 5, 2018, the Court of Appeal delivered a judgment to the effect that the panel had no prosecutorial powers,” Awomolo said.

He argued that with the judgment of the Court of Appeal, the panel should have “honourably” withdrawn the charges.

The senior lawyer passed a copy of the Court of Appeal’s judgment to the judge.

The judge told the defence lawyer to also pass a copy of the judgment to the prosecuting counsel who claimed not to be aware of it.

Justice Nyako then ruled that she would not issue a bench warrant against the defendant until the motion challenging the court’s jurisdiction and the issues concerning the recent judgment of the Court of Appeal were resolved.

She then adjourned the matter till February 26.

The SPIPRPP had in a different application applied to the Federal High Court in Abuja for an order of interim forfeiture of some landed assets linked to Ekweremadu, which he allegedly failed to declare.

Ekweremadu’s properties targeted for interim forfeiture are allegedly nine in Abuja; two in London, the United Kingdom; eight in Dubai, the United Arab Emirate; and three in Florida, the United States of America.

Following its findings on the alleged undeclared assets, the panel in May this year, filed two counts against Ekweremadu, alleging in one of the counts in the case marked FHC/ABJ/CR/62/2018 that upon notice to declare his assets in the manner prescribed by the SPIPRPP, the Deputy Senate President “refused” to make the declaration “without reasonable excuse.”

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