Saraki’s CCT Trial: How Tinubu’s Case Puts Tribunal In Tight Corner…Fixes March 24 For Ruling
Trial of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki over alleged false assets declaration has been adjourned till Thursday, March 24, 2016 when the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) will deliver ruling on his motion seeking to quash the charge brought against him.
Chairman of the Tribunal, Mr. Danladi Yakubu Umar fixed the date yesterday after a prolonged arguments between Saraki’s lead counsel, Chief Godwin Kanu Agabi [SAN] and the prosecution counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs [SAN] for and against the motion.
At the resumed hearing yesterday, the Senate President who increased the number of his defence lawyers from 66 to 80 appealed to the tribunal to quash the charge against him on the ground that the charge was not competent in law.
Canvassing arguments in support of the motion which was vehemently opposed by the prosecution counsel, Agabi premised his argument on the ground that the conditions precedent for arraignment of Saraki, by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) were not fulfilled.
In addition, the former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice claimed that his client was not invited by the Code of Conduct Bureau as required by law to deny or admit the alleged discrepancies in the asset declaration form submitted to the Bureau.
He contended further that up till now, Saraki as a defendant has not made any statement to the Bureau upon which he can be effectively put to trial.
Besides, he argued that the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) was wrong in law in initiating the charge against Saraki because the Code of Conduct Bureau Act vested power to accept asset declaration form, investigating assets form and prosecuting the offender on the Bureau and not on any external force like the AGF, ICPC or EFCC.
He said the failure of the CCB to fulfill the conditions precedent of summoning Saraki to first make statement on discrepancies in his declared assets was fatal to the charge before the tribunal and cannot operate to the detriment of the defendant.
“CCB is a peculiar institution; it has the duty to accept, to examine, to keep custody of assets declaration forms submitted to it and also has power to accept complaints from the public on the discrepancies that may arise from any form submitted to it.
“In the instant case, there is no petition or complaint before the CCB and that the power of the CCB to refer any offender to the CCT for trial cannot be delegated to the AGF”.
Agabi recalled the trial of former Lagos State Governor, Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who was accused of false declaration of assets but was set free by the tribunal because of the failure of the CCB to fulfill necessary conditions of inviting him first to make statement on the alleged discrepancies before referring him for trial.
According to him, such measure should also apply to Saraki because he was not first invited by CCB to make statement of denial or confirmation of discrepancies in his assets declaration form.
Agabi who was a former AGF and Minister of Justice also recalled the cases of ten other former governors who had the opportunity of being invited to defend their asset declaration before CCB and were not referred to the tribunal after taking explanations on their declared assets.
He there urged the tribunal to dismiss the charge against Saraki for being incompetent, baseless and having been filed without observing the due process of the law.
However, in a strong opposition to the application to quash the charge, counsel to the Federal Government, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), accused the defendant of engaging in abuse of court process and that what Saraki was asking for had been determined by various courts.
He said the Ministry of Justice referred the trial of Saraki to the CCB on the strength of joint investigation carried out by EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) in which the defendant was found to have procured assets that were not declared in his form.
He further told the tribunal that the CCB did not need to invite the defendant to make any clarification on the discrepancies in his assets because section 3, Part One of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution had removed such conditions as was applicable only in 1979 Constitution.
The Prosecution counsel also stated that CCB did not need to obtain any statement from Saraki before referring him to the tribunal for trial because the defendant had already made a statement on oath while declaring his assets.
On the claim that the trial was initiated 13 years after Saraki had left office as governor of Kwara State, Jacobs said that there was no time limit for the prosecution to investigate or charge anybody to court. He then urged the tribunal to dismiss the motion for being spurious, unfounded and baseless.
On the issue of Tinubu that was set free by the tribunal on the failure of the CCB to fulfill the conditions precedent, Jacobs fumed that the tribunal was in error in arriving at that decision to set Tinubu free.