Gen. Useni, Ex-Abuja Minister, Finally Facing Trial For Graft

Thirteen years after he was first
docked before the Code of Conduct
Tribunal on charges of abuse of office
and non-declaration of assets, the trial
of former Nigerian Federal Capital
Territory Minister, Gen Jeremiah Useni
(Rtd), resumed Tuesday before the
Code of Conduct tribunal.
Useni is alleged to have used his office
as the Minister of the Federal Capital
Territory to acquire mind-boggling
landed properties in choice locations
of the Abuja metropolis.
The former military chief held the
position during the regime of late
maximum dictator, General Sani
Abacha, under whose regime Nigeria’s
commonwealth was often privatized
and looted with reckless abandon.
Useni was also alleged to have failed to
declare his assets on assumption of
office as well as on leaving office as
the FCT minister. The retired General
however, did not appear in person as
statutorily required in criminal
proceedings, and has never appeared
before the court at any time during
the 13 years the matter has lingered
before the court. The Chairman of the
Tribunal, Mr. Danladi Umar, who led
two other members of the panel, could
not hide his shock over the discovery
that the former minister has been
treating the Tribunal with disdain
which accounted for his refusal to
grace the court with his appearance.
"The accused person has never
appeared in person in this matter as
required by the law. It has been a tale
of one excuse or the other from the
accused person,” the chairman
Explaining the General’s absence from
the court, his lawyer, Mr. Victor
Odjenu, said his client was on a
"medical emergency" as at Monday
night when he informed him of today’s
sitting. He presented a medical report
to the court, showing the health
challenges of the former Minister. He
could not however tell the court the
specific hospital where former
minister was recuperating, and the
Tribunal Chairman thereafter ordered
that the General must appear before it
at the next adjournment as the
allegations preferred against him are
criminal in nature.
Mr. Odjenu further told the Tribunal
that his presence was with regards to
an application filed on behalf of the
former minister and dated 15 May,
2013 as well as for the preliminary
objection served on him by the
prosecution counsel, Mr. Simon Egede.
In the application, Gen. Useni is asking
the Tribunal to make an order
directing the Attorney General of the
Federation (AGF), to hand over some
property titles confiscated from him,
to the custody of the tribunal pending
the determination of the substantive
suit. President Olusegun Obasanjo had
during his tenure constituted a probe
panel which investigated some
persons, including Useni, and title
documents to some properties
suspected to have been fraudulently
acquired by the former minister were
"It is this tribunal that can make an
order seizing the title documents of
the confiscated properties and
forfeiture of such property. We
therefore urge the court to make an
order that the title documents of the
property be put in custody of the
tribunal," Mr. Odjenuurged the
In a preliminary objection to the
application, Mr.Egede challenged the
jurisdiction of the tribunal to
adjudicate on the issue of the
confiscated title documents. After
listening to their submissions, the
Chairman of the Tribunal adjourned
the matter to July 16 for ruling on the
preliminary objection.