By NBF News
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Former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, yesterday failed to appear before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) sitting in Abuja despite an invitation  to appear to take his plea.

Many security personnel  thronged the Federal Secretariat Complex, venue of the tribunal  to  lay  ambush for the former anti-graft boss and as soon as Justice Constance Momoh led-tribunal commenced sitting, they positioned themselves round the hall.

They were, however, dissapointed when information from the court  filtered that Ribadu was absent prompting them to  move into about four cars  and hurried drove out of the venue.

Justice Momoh had on April 30 ordered Ribadu  to appear yesterday to take his plea for his alleged failure to declare his asset as required of a public servant while in office.

She issued the order after dismissing the preliminary objection raised by Ribadu through his lawyer, Femi Falana, challenging the competence of the tribunal to try him.

Falana again came to the tribunal yesterday with another motion challenging the manner of service of the court process on Ribadu.

The Chairman of the West African Bar Association (WABA) said his client was not aware of the suit because he had not been personally served the originating process and that the prosecution had not obtained an order to be served through a subsisted means.

He recalled informing the CCT when the matter started on January  28 that his appearance for Ribadu was out of sheer respect for the tribunal because he was not in country when the process was served on his wife.

In the circumstance, he said Ribadu could not be tried in his absence since the matter was criminal in nature.

“Since the prosecution knew that the accused fled the country, there is a procedure for bringing him into the country, there is no provision for trial in absentia under our laws.

“From the record of the court, service was effected on the wife of the accused person on January 20. The service on the wife of the accused has no provision in the Constitution because service is personal”, he said.Referring to paragraph 17 of the rule of the court and Section 349 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA), Falana argued that it is mandatory for the sheriff or other officers of the court to give three-day notice before the date to specify in the notice of trial. He urged the CCT to hold that the method used in serving Ribadu “is alien to law”.

Falana also cited a Court of Appeal decision in Obe V. Gom reported in 2006, Volume 45, Weekly Report of Nigeria page 34 and 39 where it held that the service of the originating process in a criminal case is fundamental to the proceedings. “Where it is not the court cannot assume jurisdiction”, he added. The human rights activist also referred to a Court of Appeal decision in Fawehinmi V. Lagos Attorney General where it held that objection could be taken at any stage of the trial even before the plea.

He urged the tribunal to set aside the purported service on Ribadu through his wife as there cannot be vicarious liability in a criminal charge.

The prosecution counsel, Kyari Ahmed appealed to the tribunal to adjourn till today for him to prepare his reply.