Faced With Disppointment At The Court Of Appeal And A Bench Warrant For His Arrest Following A Hide And Seek With The Law, Senate Pesident, Bukola Saraki, Has Agreed To Be Docked At The CCT Today
Having failed to secure a reprieve from the Court of Appeal against his arraignment for violations of the asset declaration law, embattled Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, yesterday said he would appear before the Code of Conduct Tribunal today.
The tribunal chairman, Danladi Umar, was yesterday forced to issue a formal bench warrant against the Senate president for refusing to appear before him on two occasions. Saraki was expected to appear at the tribunal last Friday to answer to 13 charges brought against him for concealment of assets in his asset declaration in 2003. His failure to appear led to a short adjournment to yesterday.
However, when the tribunal began sitting yesterday, the senate president was conspicuously absent, leading to exchange of legal arguments between his counsel, Joseph Daudu (SAN) and the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN). While Daudu hinged his argument on procedural issues which he said had necessitated an appeal, Jacobs insisted that the senate president ought to be in court in the first instance before other issues could be raised.
A statement signed by his Special Adviser to Senate President on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu said while the Senate President had stated and maintained that he is ready to submit himself to due process of the law on any issue concerning him, he also believes that he has an inalienable right to resort to the same judiciary for protection when he feels his fundamental rights are about to be infringed upon.
According to the statement “the Senate President is a law abiding citizen and his absence from tribunal was based on legal advice he received from his counsel that it is not necessary for him to appear before the tribunal at this stage since the jurisdiction of the tribunal and the process of initiating the matter are being challenged before the Federal High Court Abuja.
“Following the adjournment for the determination of the motion on notice and the substantive suit before the Federal High Court to 30th of September and the appeal pending before the Court of Appeal adjourned to the 29th of September 2015, the Senate President has decided, as a law abiding citizen, to appear before the Tribunal in the interim. “Dr. Saraki has taken the decision to attend the Tribunal sitting to demonstrate his respect for the rule of law in spite of his personal reservation on the process of his trial and the purpose it may be intended to serve. “Dr. Saraki wishes to assure Nigerians of his absolute belief in the judicial process and is therefore confident that the course of justice would be served at the end of this matter”.
Saraki’s decision followed the refusal of the Court of Appeal to halt proceedings at the Conduct tribunal against Saraki. Saraki had approached the Court of Appeal seeking an order quashing the arrest order on him and also halting further proceedings. But ruling on his appeal, the presiding judge, Justice, Morre Adunmein, held that the court was not inclined to grant the appellant’s prayers without diligently giving room for other respondents to state their positions.
He said: “We have read the motion exparte and have also averted our minds to the decision of the Code of Conduct Tribunal on the matter. “We are of the view that the respondents be put on notice and therefore, the prayers are refused and the application struck out. “The matter is adjourned to Sept. 29 while the team of counsel to the appellant should within the period effect services on the identified respondents,’’ he said.
Speaking after the session, counsel to Saraki, Mr Adebayo Adeludo (SAN) said the court ought to have used its discretion in favour of his client. According to him, the respondents have been served with the notice of the application already.
He also said the court should have protected the Senate President from the daily harassment and threat of the police, adding that his client’s appeal was before a superior court. “We are going to meet over this and come out with the next line of action”, he said. Earlier, the CCT chairman, had ordered Daudu to produce his client, as promised, before the tribunal at 10.00am today. Umar who expressed disappointment at the inability of Saraki’s counsel to produce him, said it was regrettable that Daudu had breached the trust reposed on him by the tribunal.
Expressing displeasure at Senator Saraki’s absence, Jacobs, noted that it was wrong for the Senate President to refuse to appear before the tribunal and instead elected to file a case seeking to stop the trial in a Federal High Court. Citing section 393 of the Criminal Justice Act, Jacobs said it was a cardinal rule of the administration of criminal justice that an accused must first take a plea before raising any objection.
He said therefore that Senator Saraki erred in seeking to prevent the tribunal from going ahead with the case instead of appearing before it and consequently raising whatever objections he had to his trial. He urged Justice Umar to discontinue with his trial until Daudu produced his client.
While responding to the comments of the tribunal chairman and prosecuting counsel, Daudu said the tribunal erred by going ahead with the trial despite a Federal High Court ruling that he stays action on the trial pending the determination of a suit on the matter brought before it by the Senate President. The tribunal chairman further responded by saying he was not aware of any such order by any High Court. Meanwhile, the battle to save Saraki’s job appear to have shot up as senators met last night at their various caucuses and groups plotting way forward. Saraki, who also met with some senators loyal to him, was alleged to have also reached out to PDP senators for possible counter offensive.
– Emeka Ekpunobi, Teddy Nwanunobi and Kingsley Madaki, Abuja