Senators Throw Weight Behind Bukola Saraki Who Is Admitted To Bail After Pleading Not Guilty To 13 Count Charges
Embattled Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Olubukola Saraki, will return to the Code of Conduct Tribunal sitting in Abuja on October 21 to face witnesses who have been lined up by the prosecution, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), to prove that indeed, he is guilty of charges against him.
Over 50 senators and House of Representative members accompanied him to the Tribunal. Also, hundreds of his supporters from Kwara State, most of whom had been lodged in different hotels in Abuja since Friday, were at the tribunal to lend support.
Addressing the Tribunal moments after Saraki had entered a no guilt plea, from the dock, to the 13 charges read out to him, Jacobs informed the Tribunal that he had lined up only five witnesses to prove the case against the defendant. He said “some of the witnesses are here, my lord” as we made a case to open trial and let the witnesses confront Saraki.
According to Jacobs, Saraki made four asset declarations between2003 and 2011 none of which however, captured properties he acquired while holding office as governor of Kwara State.
He also informed the tribunal that he would lead evidence to “show how he transferred money out of this country to the United Kingdom and other places while in office”.
Prior to his address, Saraki had informed the court, in a breach of protocol which the tribunal allowed, that he was coming in contact with the charges for the first time. Jacobs objected insisting that “it cannot be true my lord”.
He said he was at the tribunal as the senate president to subject himself to the law, pointing out that the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) Act 2001 mandated it to inform a public officer of a breach of the code of conduct rules first, before taking the matter to the CCT.
Saraki also said he was neither informed nor notified that he had supposedly breached the rules by the CCB, but only learnt of it later when the matter came before the tribunal insinuating that his ordeal may be political. His submission earned him a thunderous applause from his supporters in court. Jacobs informed that Saraki was served with processes in the trial long before he was given a trial date.
But Saraki, in his address, insisted that in accordance with the Tribunal Act, he was entitled to adequate time to prepare for the matter.
Joseph Daudu, who leads the Saraki defence team, peopled with several SANs and professors had applied for the senate president to be admitted to bail, and oral application which the prosecution did not object to. He also insisted that the defendant deserved to be given “adequate time and facility” to prepare his defence.
He also told newsmen that the adjournment would enable the defence team to prepare its case and launch a strong challenge. He also said he hoped that during the period, other preliminary matters before the Federal High Court Abuja and the Court of Appeal would have been sorted out.
Earlier issues raised by Daudu on the jurisdiction of the tribunal to entertain matters that are criminal in nature were rebuffed by Danladi Umar, tribunal chairman, who insisted that the tribunal was the proper place to be. Prior to commencement of proceedings, Umar had announced a ban on live coverage of the trial by the television stations.
Meanwhile, senators have rallied round Saraki insisting that he has their support, and rebuffing any insinuations of impeachment on account of his trial. A statement issued by Senator Ibrahim Abdullahi Danbaba, “on behalf of the Eighth Senate”, said Saraki enjoyed the support of senators in his ordeal.
The statement reads: “After majority of us, Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, witnessed the appearance of our President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal this morning, we are happy that he appeared at the Tribunal after availing himself of the opportunity to defend his Fundamental Human Rights.
“We also want to state here, on behalf of our colleagues, that the Senate remains solidly behind Senator Saraki and we express our unalloyed support for his leadership. We reiterate the fact that he is our choice for the post of Senate President and no politically motivated, mischievous and vindictive trial will change our opinion of him.
“By his appearance at the Tribunal, he has demonstrated his firm belief in the rule of law and his respect for our judicial process. We join Dr. Saraki in affirming our commitment to rule of law, constitutionalism and democracy.
“We only hope the other arms of government will ensure that due processes and procedures are followed in this trial and on all other issues. “The Eighth Senate restates its commitment to the programmes and policies of the Buhari administration. It is our belief that at the end of this trial, our democracy, Nigerians and the people will end up as the beneficiaries”.
-Kingsley Madaki, Abuja