Non Assets Declaration: Tumsah Brothers Challenge Powers of Presidential Panel

The Director of Finance and Accounts in the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, Ibrahim Tumsah and brother Tijani Tumsah, on Tuesday challenged powers of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property to prosecute them.
Both brothers were re-arraigned on October 31, 2018, before Justice Edward Ekwo of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja over failure to declare their assets.
Specifically, the two public servants are being prosecuted by the Okoi Obono Obla led presidential probe panel for refusing and neglecting to declare their assets to the special panel.
The offences ran contrary to and punishable under Section 3 (3) of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provision) Act, 2004.
However, the commencement of trial could not hold due to a preliminary objection filed by the defendants, challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter.
Abdul Mohammed, representing the first defendant (Ibrahim Tumsah) and Bamikole Aduloju, who appeared for Tijani Tumsah, told the court that the complainant (presidential probe panel) does not have prosecutorial powers to initiate proceedings against them.
The defence counsel insisted that their objection should be heard before trial begins.
Reacting, Celsus Ukpong, counsel for the prosecution submitted: “My lord, the law says that plea must be taken before any objection can be taken. Section 398 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, us very clear on that”.
Justice Ekwo, however, reminded the prosecution counsel that the preliminary objection of the defendants must be decided first.
Consequently, the court fixed January 16 for hearing of the defendants’ motion challenging jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter.
The presidential panel had on February 8, 2018 docked the Tumsah brothers before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The duo had pleaded not guilty to the criminal charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/4/2018.
But in April, 2018, their trial was stalled as the then Federal Government prosecutor, Festus Keyamo SAN, applied to withdraw the charge after out of court settlement was reached.
Consequently, Justice Dimgba struck out the charge.
However, eight months after the initial two-count charge was struck out, the presidential probe panel, led by Okoi Obono Obla, filed another suit, “incidental charge”, alleged due to alleged non cooperation with investigators.
Basically, the fresh two-count charge centres on the refusal and neglect by the two brothers to cooperate with the panel over declaration of their assets.
The fresh charge was contained in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CR/78/2018.
Consequent upon re-arraignment before Justice Ekwo, the Tumsah brothers again pleaded not guilty to the two-count charge.
Meanwhile, the two defendants were granted bail to the tune of N10m each, with one surety in like sum.
They also barred them from travelling abroad without leave of court, with the court directing that they should deposit their valid international passports with the registrar of the court.
In addition, the court ordered that the sureties must be owners of landed properties within the jurisdiction of the court.
Having been granted bail, the court then fixed January 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 2019, for commencement of trial.

Author: News Editor

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