The former speaker of Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Friday Benson, and four others on Wednesday were arraigned on a four-count charge before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for alleged abuse of office.
The others are the former clerk of the Assembly, Aaron Timiye; former accountant of the Assembly, Thomas Tamaraodubo; the clerk of the Assembly, Owudogu Edward and current accountant, Koroye Stephen.
This is contained in a statement on Thursday by the Code of Conduct Tribunal’s head, press and public relations, Ibraheem Al-Hassan.
Mr Al-Hassan said during the arraignment on Wednesday, the accused pleaded not guilty to the charges when read to them.
Count one of the charges reads; That you, Hon Friday Kombowei Benson, being the Speaker of Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Mr Aaron W. Timiye being the Clerk of Bayelsa State House of Assembly (Retired), Mr Thomas Tamaraodubo being the Accountant of Bayelsa State House of Assembly(Retired), Owudogu Edward being the Clerk of Bayelsa State House of Assembly and Mr Koroye A. Stephen being the Accountant of Bayelsa State House of Assembly whilst being public officers in the service of Bayelsa State House of Assembly on or about 29 May 2015 till date in abuse of your offices arbitrarily excluded and refused to pay Hon. Israel Sunny Goli Member Representing Brass Constituency1 his furniture allowances having paid all other members of the State House of Assembly an Act that is prejudicial to the right of Hon Israel Sunny Goli knowing that such act is unlawful and contrary to government policy and you thereby committed an offence contrary to paragraph 9 of the Fifth Schedule, Part 1 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended and as Incorporated under Section 13 of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act Cap C15 LFN 2004 and punishable under paragraph 18 (1) and (2) of the fifth schedule of the same Constitution also as incorporated under Section 23(1) and (2) of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act Cap C15 LFN 2004.”
Before the arraignment, the defence lawyer led by a senior advocate, Diriyai Dambo, asked that the matter be struck out because the issue at hand has been amicably resolved.
Mr Dambo said payment had been effected leading to the withdrawal of the petition by the petitioner, Mr Goli.
The statement added that the three-member panel led by the CCT chairman, however, overruled Mr Dambo, saying that the matter before the tribunal is criminal in nature.
The CCT chairman added that only the Attorney General of the Federation has the right to withdraw such cases, not the petitioner, the statement added.
Mr Al-Hassan further said a member of the panel, Julie Anabor, made a further clarification to Mr Dambo that the matter was brought to the tribunal on the strength of the investigation carried out by Code of Conduct Bureau not the strength of the petition.
She urged the senior counsel to wait for hearing of the matter to commence for the court to determine his claim, the statement added.
The statement said the prosecution, Peter Danladi, told the court that the letter written by the petitioner suggesting withdrawal of his petition has no effect to the trial and as such the matter would continue.
The matter was subsequently adjourned to December 17 for hearing.
Meanwhile, in a similar case, Emmanuel Onwe, a senator, was also arraigned on one-count charge over an alleged refusal to return his form after filling it at the appropriate time.
Mr Onwe was a Commissioner for Information and State Orientation of Ebonyi State, during Governor David Umahi’s first term in office.
The CCT statement added that upon his arraignment on Wednesday, the prosecution, Mr Danladi, asked for a leave of the court to adjourn the matter pending the return of the counsel who is in charge of the case whom he said is currently attending a course.
The matter was adjourned to December 18.