Justice Abdul Aboki of the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal, on Thursday reserved, judgement in the appeal filed by Senate President Bukola Saraki challenging his trial at the Code of conduct Tribunal (CCT) over allegations of false and anticipatory declaration of assets preferred against him by the Federal Government.
The Senate President is contending in the appeal that the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) did not give him the opportunity to react to the alleged discrepancies in his assets declaration form submitted to the bureau before charges were filed against him.
Saraki is also challenging the jurisdiction of the CCT to try him on charges bordering on false and anticipatory assets declaration, operating foreign accounts and receiving the salary of a governor after his tenure elapsed.
The Senate President had approached the appellate court challenging the March 24, 2016 ruling of the two-member panel of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, led by Danladi Yakubu Umar, which dismissed his application challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal to entertain the case against him.
When the matter came up for hearing on Thursday, counsel to Saraki, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), told the five-member panel of Justices of the appellate court that, it will be in the spirit of fair hearing that the statement of his client should form part of an indispensable evidence before the tribunal.
He said: “If you bring an accused to court without his statement, it can do damage to his case. A pre-action notice is not unconstitutional. The tribunal had been told to apply the same procedure it adopted in similar cases. Legislation is subject to judicial challenge. If it is a precedent, my client can’t be treated differently.
“Failure to follow this earlier decision is fatal to the case of the accused. It is not in the interest of justice that you bring a man to court 13 years after he had left office. Only the CCB can file action at the CCT and not the EFCC or ICPC.”
On his part, counsel to the Federal Government, Mr. Rotimi Jacob (SAN) told the court to dismiss the appeal for lacking in merit.
“I urge this court to hold that this appeal lacks merit and should be dismissed. Once the CCB finds an infraction in an asset declaration form, the onus is on the defendant to prove his innocence before the tribunal. The issue of fair hearing does not appear in this case”, Jacobs added.
It would be recalled that Saraki’s earlier appeal aimed at ending his trial was dismissed by the Supreme Court in its judgment delivered on February 5, 2016.
The apex court, in the said judgment dismissed Saraki’s appeal and ordered him to submit himself for trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.