- As Saraki, Ngwuta, others may forfeit alleged undeclared assets
Substandard goods, particularly used tyres, electrical appliances and food items worth over N150m may have been confiscated in 2016 in the South West area of Nigeria, the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) indicated, yesterday.
The SON Southwest Regional Coordinator, Mrs Oyenike Owoyele who confirmed this in Osogbo also highlighted that the confiscation exercise covered operations undertaken in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti and Osun States.
“Over the years, lack of conformity assessment programme covering all products manufactured in Nigeria has prevented fair competition and distinction between quality and sub-standard products”, Owoyele said, warning that SON would not compromise in entrenching quality, life through standardisation of products across the country.
She emphasized that importers and manufacturers must adhere to the code of practice and standard for the good of Nigerians; and that manufacturers must comply with the Mandatory Conformity Assessment Programme (MANCAP) put in place by SON to ensure that local products conform to relevant industrial standards, as substandard goods whether produced locally or imported, is a denial of value for money, in the heart of the buyers.
“This deprives both genuine manufacturers and consumers the opportunity and value for money for goods and services provided in Nigeria”, she further posited, pleading with importers and manufacturers in the country to always follow approved standards in production and importation.
Owoyele said SON had currently trained and registered more than 600 agro-alied industries in the region on economic diversification.
“The training is done to ensure that the abundance agro-production in the country are no longer wasted but converted to products that can be used locally and for export.’’
In the meantime, Senate President Bukola Saraki and Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court, among other defendants currently being prosecuted before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, may have their properties, which are subject of the charges preferred against them, temporally forfeited pending the final determination of their cases.
This is according to the CCT’s new Practice Direction, 2017, released last week.
The 26-paragraph Practice Direction, with commencement date of February 16, 2017, is signed by the CCT’s Chairman, Danladi Umar, and the other member of the tribunal, William Atedze.
Paragraph 12 of the document, which deals with ‘Seizures’, gives the prosecution the discretion to apply (through ex-parte motion) for temporary forfeiture of assets which are subject of the trial pending the final determination of the case.
It allows the prosecution to make the application for property seizure at the commencement of the trial or “at a reasonable time thereafter”.
According to legal experts, since the new practice direction is a procedural framework, it will take immediate effect on ongoing cases.
Paragraph 12 reads, “The prosecution may, at the commencement of the trial or at a reasonable time thereafter, apply to the tribunal for an interim order of seizure, forfeiture and confiscation of the property, the subject of the charge pending the final determination of same by the tribunal.
“An application for temporary seizure may be heard in chambers or in open court by the tribunal.
“Application for temporary seizure shall be made motion ex parte supported by an affidavit and schedule of the property to be so attached.”
Saraki is being prosecuted by the Federal Government before the CCT on 18 counts including mostly false assets declaration.
Some of Saraki’s properties which are the subject of the charges preferred against him are located at 15, 17, 17A and 17B Mcdonald Street, Ikoyi, Lagos. Others are located at Plots 2481 and 2482 Cadastral Zone A06, Maitama, Abuja, (otherwise known as 1 and 3 Targus Street, Maitama, Abuja).
Saraki is also accused of obtaining a N375m loan from Guaranty Trust Bank Plc on February 11, 2010, which he allegedly used to buy property in London.
The Senate President was said to have failed to declare the London property.
On his part, Justice Ngwuta was arraigned on eight counts before the CCT on April 20.
Properties, which are subject of the case, are listed in seven of the counts.
In count one to seven, the prosecution accused Ngwuta of false declaration of assets by failing to declare a parcel of land and properties in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, as well as some luxury cars, all belonging to him, when he declared his assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau between June 2, 2011 and July 19, 2016.
The offence is said to be contrary to Section 15 of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act, Cap C15 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under Section 23(2) of the same Act.
The Justice of the apex court is also accused in count eight of engaging in private business as a public officer, contrary to Section 6(b) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.
Specifically, in count one to three he is accused of failing to declare his parcel of land measuring 1,722.952 Square Metres located at Umkpufu, Off Onwe Road, Azuiyiokwu, and properties at Plot 36, Onwe Road Layout as well as Plot 35, GRA Extention (Onwe Road) Layout, allin Abakaliki, Ebonyi State.
In count four to seven, the Justice of the Supreme Court was accused of failing to declare between June 2, 2011 and July 19, 2016, the following cars as part of his assets:
*A Wrangler Jeep with Vehicle No: VRG5553562034689, Chassis No: IJ4GA591581626734 and number plate RSH526AJ; a BMW 5 Series Saloon with Vehicle No: 7779067484832 and Chassis No: WBSWL91060P323876, marked KUJ510FU; a Hummer Jeep with Vehicle No: VRG77746900444362 and Chassis No: 5GRGN2389H101515 and number plate KWL881JE; a Liberty Jeep with Vehicle No: VRG77746817425807 and Chassis No: 1J8GP28KX9W550564, marked RBC570DP.
Forfeiture of property, which is the subject of a trial, has been part of the three types of sentences imposable on the defendant found guilty since the establishment of the tribunal.
But giving room to the prosecution to request the seizure of the said property before the final determination of the case is novel at the CCT.
The other two sentences the tribunal can pass on a defendant, convicted by the CCT, are vacation of office and disqualification from holding public office for 10 years.
The new practice direction explains in its First Schedule that one of the sentences or combination of two or all the three sentences can be passed on a convict depending on the level of harm of the offence on the victim and the level of culpability of the defendant in the offence.
The document also now divides the trial before the tribunal into four stages, which are arraignment, pre-hearing, the trial and sentencing procedures.
Additional report from Punch