The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has filed fresh charges of bribery against the chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Danladi Umar.
The charges, prepared by Festus Keyamo, an EFCC prosecutor, came two years after the anti-graft agency last absolved Mr. Umar of any wrongdoing in a case of judicial bribery and racketeering.
According to court filings made available on Friday evening by Mr. Keyamo, Mr. Umar collected N10 million from Rasheed Taiwo, a former Customs official who was facing false assets declaration charges before the Code of Conduct Tribunal sometimes in 2012.
The prosecution also accused Mr. Umar of receiving N1.8 million of the N10 million bribe sum through one of his personal assistants, Gambo Abdullahi.
The two counts of fraud contradicted Section 12(1) (a) and (b) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2003, Mr. Keyamo stated in charge affidavit prepared on January 25 and stamped on February 2 at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The charges read in part: “That you, Danladi Yakubu Umar, being the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal and presiding over a case with Charge No. CCT/ABJ/03/12, involving one Rasheed Owolabi Taiwo, sometime in 2012, at Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did ask for the sum of N10million from the said Rasheed Owolabi Taiwo, for a favour to be afterwards shown to him in relation to the pending Charge (No. CCT/ABJ/03/12) in discharge of your official duties and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 12(1) (a) & (b) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2003.
“That you, Danladi Yakubu Umar, being the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal and presiding over a case with Charge No. CCT/ABJ/03/12, involving one Rasheed Owolabi Taiwo, sometime in 2012, at Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did receive the sum of N1,8million from the said Rasheed Owolabi Taiwo, through your Personal Assistant by name Alhaji Gambo Abdullahi, for a favour to be afterwards shown to him in relation to the pending Charge (No. CCT/ABJ/03/12) in discharge of your official duties and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 12(1) (a) & (b) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2003.
With five witnesses already lined up, the EFCC said it would rely on a petition dated 20th June, 2013, by Rasheed O. Taiwo; the statement of the CCT chairman; the Zenith Bank Statement of Taiwo Rasheed Owolabi.; the Zenith Bank Statement of Ali Gambo Abdullahi and a copy of Zenith Bank Cheque of Taiwo Rasheed Owolabi; a copy of Zenith Bank Cheque of Ali Gambo Abdullahi and all processes and documents in Charge No. CCT/ABJ/03/12.
The ex-Customs officer was arraigned before the tribunal in Suit CCT/ABJ/03/12 for alleged failure to declare his assets.
But the judge was alleged to have asked for the bribe to throw away the case.
The CCT chair could face up to seven years’ imprisonment if convicted of the charges.
However, spokesperson for the CCT, Ibrahim Al-Hassan said he could not immediately give a reaction to the development when pressed for comments. He said he needed time to study the court filings against his principal, promising to revert by Monday.
The EFCC first cleared Mr. Umar of the bribery allegations in March 2015. When the trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki reached its peak in 2016, the anti-graft office wrote another letter clearing the jurist of any wrongdoing in Mr. Taiwo’s case.
‘‘We would like to reiterate the Commission’s position in regard to this matter as earlier communicated to you and stated that the allegations levelled against Justice Umar were mere suspicious and consequently insufficient to successfully prosecute the offence,” the EFCC said in an April 20 letter to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, which supervises the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
In the same letter, the EFCC concluded that there was no strong case against Mr. Umar but that there was prima facie evidence to prosecute Mr. Abdullahi, his personal assistant “who could offer no coherent excuse for receiving N1.8 million naira into his salary account from Taiwo who is an accused person standing trial at the Tribunal.”
The EFCC was compelled to clear Mr. Umar after he came under intense scrutiny since the commencement of the trial of Mr. Saraki, over alleged false assets declaration, with many accusing him of being equally tainted and calling on him to excuse himself from Mr. Saraki’s case.
In December 2016, a group, the Anti-Corruption Network, had also alleged that Mr. Umar used his office to purchase N34.9 million exotic vehicles, furniture and other household items without following due process.
The first clearance notice was written on March 5, 2015 through the office of the then-SGF, Pius Anyim.
The anti-graft agency wrote another letter in April 2016 following concerted attempts by Mr. Saraki and his associates to force Mr. Umar’s hands to stand down from the top lawmakers’ false assets declaration trial.
In June 2017, Mr. Umar ultimately found Mr. Saraki not guilty on all the 18 counts of false assets filings when he was governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.
In December, the Court of Appeal in Abuja affirmed the conclusion of the tribunal on all but three counts, a decision the Senate President immediately appealed to the Supreme Court.