$9.6bn judgement debt: Group petitions against former CJN, Belgore

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A group, Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), has filed a petition at the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) asking it to investigate the role played by a chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Mr. Alfa Belgore in the botched oil contract between Nigeria and an Irish firm, Process and Industrial Development (P&ID) which resulted in the $9.6 billion arbitral fine against the federal government.

The ex-CJN was accused of testifying against the Nigerian government in the matter.

According to The Nation, the CCB had received the petition filed by HEDA whose chairman, Mr. Suraj Olanrewaju, was invited by the bureau to adopt the petition on oath.

The CCB demanded evidence of any alleged infraction that might have been committed by Justice Belgore from HEDA.

The group accused Belgore of alleged conflict of interest and violation of Section 5 of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers of the 1999 Constitution.

“Based on the foregoing, it is succinct to point out the basis for this petition. From the above relayed, there is a clear case of conflict of interest which is backed up constitutionally by the Code of Conduct for Public Officers. Specifically, Section 1 of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers which states that a public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities.

“Section 5 of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers of the 1999 Constitution goes further and directly prohibits former presidents, vice presidents, Chief Justices of Nigeria, governors and Deputy Governors from working for foreign companies or enterprises. The former CJN falls under this category and also is still the chairman of the National Merit Honour Award Committee, which confers him with a sense of patriotism and loyalty to the country.

“It can be concluded, without equivocation, that drafters of the Constitution understand the weight of the offices occupied by the prohibited officers and the potential implication of actions such as that taken by the former CJN.

“The act he allegedly committed is grave and amounts to a breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, thereby violating the provisions of the Constitution.

“By accepting the contract from P&ID and proffering the expert advice for the Irish company for a fee, the former CJN violated the provisions of the Constitution and also exposes privileged and sensitive national information to foreign private company. Also, he ran contrary to this provision by also accepting the appointment as the chairman of Airtel Nigeria,” said the petitioner.

HEDA urged the CCB to investigate and prosecute Belgore if he is found guilty of violating Section 5 of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers.

It said: “We most humbly believe that the former CJN, by this act, runs foul of the Constitution in the circumstances of the Section 23 (1) & (2) of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers of the 1999 Constitution, which provides that the tribunal has the powers to impose punishment.

“(1) Where the Tribunal finds a public officer guilty of contravening any of the provisions of this Act, it shall impose upon that officer any of the punishments specified under subsection (2) of this section.

(2) The punishment which the Tribunal may impose shall include any of the following (a) vacation of office or any elective or nominated office, as the case  may be;

(b) disqualification from holding any public office (whether elective or not) for a period not exceeding ten years; and

(c) seizure and forfeiture to the State of any property acquired in abuse or corruption of office.”

Based on the foregoing, HEDA urged the CCB to investigate and prosecuted the former CJN “immediately for violating Section 5 of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers.”

It also urged that due to such breach, Belgore, upon conviction, should be removed with immediate effect as Chairman of the National Merit Honour Committee

“Our demand is hinged on our resilient and persistent demand for democracy, accountability, transparency and ultimately preservation of the rule of law,” it added.

Belgore is undergoing a separate investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over his alleged roles in the judgment against Nigeria.

The agency is looking into alleged criminal conspiracy trailing the arbitral award.

Confirming receipt of the petition against Belgore, the chairman of CCB, Prof.  Muhammed Isah said: “We got a petition from HEDA but in line with our procedures, we asked the chairman of the group to come and adopt it.

“We have also directed HEDA to provide evidence against the ex-CJN upon which we can take further action. We are awaiting evidence from the petitioner.”

On the 30th September, 2019  petition, signed by  Suraj Olanrewaju,  HEDA  said it based its petition on a report on the purported  testimony for P&ID before an arbitration tribunal.

The group said: “The report confirmed that the former Chief Justice of Nigeria between 2006 and 2008, Justice Alfa Belgore(rtd)  is still a member of the National Council of State and Chairman of the Nigerian National Honours Award Committee.

“He was allegedly reported to have testified as an expert witness before an arbitration tribunal in the UK’s Business & Property Courts, for an Irish Firm, P&ID.”

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