False Assets Declaration: Saraki Again Appeals CCT Ruling
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has asked the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal to order stay proceedings of his trial on charges of false and anticipatory asset declaration before the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
Saraki filed the motion for stay of proceedings along with his nine-ground notice of appeal on Monday to stop his trial which begins at the CCT on Tuesday (today).
The notice of appeal was filed to challenge the ruling of the CCT which, on March 24, 2016, dismissed the Senate President’s application, challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal to hear the charges against him.
The two-man panel of the CCT, led by Mr. Danladi Umar, had, after dismissing Saraki’s application on March 24, fixed April 5 (today) for the commencement of trial.
But the plan may be stalled by the fresh move initiated by the accused on the eve of the day his trial is scheduled to start.
Our correspondent confirmed on Monday night that both the notice of appeal and the motion for stay of proceedings were served on the tribunal and the prosecution on Monday.
Saraki’s application was argued by a consortium of about 80 lawyers, led by a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN).
His earlier appeal, aimed at ending his trial, was terminated by a judgment of the Supreme Court on February 5, 2016, which ordered him to submit himself for trial.
The fresh appeal is challenging the CCT’s ruling, which had resolved all the issues raised by the Senate President against him and affirmed that it had jurisdiction to hear the case.
The Federal Government is prosecuting Saraki on 13 counts of false and anticipatory asset declaration, which he allegedly made in his four forms which he submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau at the beginning and end of his first and second terms as the Governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.
Umar, who read the ruling of the CCT dismissing Saraki’s application challenging his trial, had directed the prosecution to open its case.
In its ruling, the tribunal ruled that contrary to Saraki’s contention, the AGF was competent to institute charges before the CCT.
It ruled that Saraki’s contention that he was being illegally prosecuted for offences allegedly committed about 13 years ago was out of place.
The CCT chairman agreed with the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), that the argument by Saraki that there must be an official complaint against him within a reasonable time of his submitting the declaration, was baseless.
The tribunal chairman held that there could be no clearance by implication unless it was expressly stated by the statute, noting that time never could never run against the state.
“It is not out of place to charge the accused person now and ask him to answer to the charges against him as there is no statute of limitation in relation to his case,” Umar said.
The tribunal also faulted Saraki’s reliance on its (CCT’s) earlier ruling, dismissing the charges against a former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu.
Saraki had argued that under Section 3(d) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, the CCB ought to have confronted him with the alleged infractions in his asset declaration forms before charges were instituted against him.
The Senate President is being prosecuted by the Federal Government for the alleged breaches in the four forms which he submitted to the CCB as Governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.
He contended in his motion that the CCB’s failure to confront him with the alleged infractions had rendered the charges incompetent.
The CCT held that it had since realised that the ruling discharging Tinubu on the same grounds was made in error.
It ruled, “The accused persons relied on the decision of this tribunal in Federal Republic of Nigerian v. Bola Tinubu that was delivered on November 30, 2011. That decision was givenper incuriam (given without following principles of law).”
He held that the provision of Paragraph 3(e) of Part I of the 3rd Schedule to the 1999 Constitution had removed and omitted the proviso relied on by the Senate President.
“That proviso that is repeated in Section 3(d) of the CCB/T Act cannot be sustained any longer under the 1999 Constitution. The decision in Tinubu’s case was given per incuriam and the tribunal should not follow such a decision,” he said.
The tribunal chairman dismissed Saraki’s claim that he was denied fair hearing because he was not invited to make a written statement before the charges against him were filed.
He held that the argument was premature and could be raised during the hearing of the substantive case.
“The motion by the defendant to quash the charge against him is refused. In the final analysis, the tribunal assumes jurisdiction in this case. The prosecution is to invite its witness,” Umar ruled.