The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), sitting in Abuja will, on Wednesday, October 5, deliver ruling on the fresh motion seeking to suspend hearing on the 16-count criminal charge pending against Senate President Bukola Saraki.
The Federal Government is prosecuting the Senate President on the allegation that he made false/anticipatory declaration of assets, operated foreign accounts while in office as Kwara State governor between 2003 and 2011.
Saraki was also accused of receiving the salary of a governor, four years after his tenure had elapsed.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), prosecuting for the Federal Government, had on April 6, 2016, opened its case by calling its first witness, Mr. Michael Wetkas, a detective with the anti-graft agency, who had started testifying before the tribunal.
Wetkas was the head of a three-man crack team the anti-graft agency constituted in 2014 to investigate six separate petitions against Saraki.
Meanwhile, after cross-examining the star witness for 12 days, Saraki, through his team of lawyers led by Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), asked the chairman of the two-member panel of the tribunal, Danladi Yakubu Umar, to disqualify himself from presiding over his trial.
Saraki maintained that some of the remarks the CCT chairman made in the open court clearly portrayed his bias against him.
He said Umar, had in the course of the proceeding, threatened to ensure he faced the full consequences of the charge, despite whatever delay tactics he (Saraki) chose to employ in the course of the trial.
The Senate President insisted that the statement eroded confidence he had in the ability of Justice Umar to grant him fair hearing.
He therefore prayed the CCT chairman to suspend further hearing and hands-off the matter.
However, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), in his submission, urged the tribunal to dismiss the motion on the ground that it constitute an abuse of judicial process.
Jacobs contended that the motion was a deliberate ploy by the defendant to stall the trial of the Senate President.
Meanwhile, Justice Gabriel Kolawole of a Federal High Court in Abuja will on November 26, 2016 commence hearing in a fresh suit filed by the Senate President, seeking to stop his on-going trial at the Tribunal.
The enforcement of fundamental human rights suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/117/2016, filed by one Timipa Jenkins Okponipere, on behalf of the Senate President is seeking the court’s declaration that the plan to resume Saraki’s trial at the CCT is a breach of his fundamental right to fair hearing as guaranteed by Section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
He is also praying for an order compelling the CCT and AGF to suspend indefinitely, any plan to resume the trial.
Among the grounds relied on by the Senate President, include that the trial at CCT was commenced at the wrong time; four years after Saraki allegedly committed the offences.
According to him, “Having regard to the aims and objectives of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and its functions in sections 2 and 3 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal (CCBT) Act, Senator Saraki ought to have been prosecuted by the respondents long before he returned to public life again in 2015 as an elected Senator.
“Indeed, the CCBT Act never contemplated that an incumbent public office holder was already corrupt before he attained public office, otherwise, people like Senator Saraki, who had a case to answer regarding his activities between 2003 and 2011 would not have been permitted to return to public life.
“However, four years later in 2015 Senator Saraki not only returned to public life as a Senator, he went on to become the President of the Senate, Chairman of the National Assembly and Nigeria’s number three citizen
“It is nobody’s fault that the 1st and 2nd respondents were not vigilant enough to stop or prevent Senator Saraki from attaining public office. If truly the respondents were proactive institutions of government, they ought to have prosecuted Senator Saraki immediately after he left office as Governor of Kwara State in 2011, but they never did.
“The failure, refusal and/or negligence of the respondents to prosecute Senator Saraki for the offences he allegedly committed between 2003 and 2011 before he returned again to public life as a Senator, vitiated all his past alleged misdeeds such that, as of June 8, 2015 when he was inaugurated as a Senator, he was assumed to be a public office holder without blemish in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of the respondents, otherwise they would have long since initiated proceedings against him.
“The subsequent attempt to put Saraki on trial over offences allegedly committed between 2003 and 2011 are not only tainted with political mischief and desperation, they constitute a breach of his fundamental right to fair hearing”.
Responding to the suit, the AGF, in a notice of preliminary objection, faulted the suit and urged the court to dismiss it for lacking in merit.
The AGF noted that the subject matter of the suit did not fall within the provisions of chapter four of the Constitution, containing the guaranteed fundamental human rights.