Tuesday, September 22, 2015


ABUJA — The Court of Appeal and the Federal High Court, both sitting in Abuja, yesterday, refused to shield the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki from being arraigned at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, on a 13-count criminal charge bordering on false declaration of assets preferred against him. The Senate President had approached both courts to provide him shelter and save him from being docked. Also, in a ruling, yesterday, the three-man panel of Justices of the appellate court, equally refused to stop the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Mr. Solomon Arase, from executing the warrant of arrest that was issued against Saraki, by the CCT. Saraki had through his team of lawyers led by Mr. J. B. Daudu, SAN, filed an ex-parte motion for an injunction, shortly after the Justice Danladi Umar-led panel of the CCT, yesterday, insisted that he must be arrested and produced in court today for arraignment. He specifically begged the appellate court to not only set aside the warrant of arrest against him, but to also suspend the proceedings of the tribunal pending the hearing and determination of the substantive appeal he lodged against the Justice Umar-led panel. “We are humbly asking for stay of execution of the ruling and order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal for a bench warrant to be issued against the applicant. We also apply for stay of proceeding of the tribunal’s order pending hearing and determination of our motion on notice pending before this court”, Saraki’s lawyer, Mr. Adebayo Adelodun, SAN, pleaded with the appellate court. He stressed that the Senate President had raised 12 grounds of appeal against the decision of the tribunal, last Friday, saying the appeal was supported by a 16-paragraph affidavit and four exhibits. Besides, Saraki equally deposed to another 17-paragraph affidavit of urgency, wherein he urged the higher court to intervene and protect him from what he described as “a politically motivated witch-hunt”. However, instead of acceding to his prayers, the appellate court panel headed by Justice Moore Adumein directed the applicant to go and put all the parties to the matter on notice. “We have read all the processes before this court and considered submissions by counsel to the applicant. Even though pursuant to section 15 of the Court of Appeal Act, 2004, this court has general power to grant or make an interim order of injunction. “Ordinarily, this court does not grant ex-parte motions. We are, therefore, of the view that the respondents shall be put on notice. Consequently, the applicant’s motion ex-parte is refused and struck out”, the appellate court held. It directed Saraki to go and serve all the parties to the suit with the relevant processes to enable them appear on September 29, the day the case was, yesterday, adjourned to. Other members of the appeal court panel that gave the ruling were Justices Joseph Ekanem and Mustapha Mohammed. Federal High Court to hear suit Sept 30 Meantime, Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday, fixed September 30 to commence hearing on the fundamental rights enforcement suit that Saraki filed against the Federal Government. Justice Mohammed adjourned the matter for hearing on a day all the defendants, including the Federal Ministry of Justice, chairmen of the CCT and Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, as well as a deputy director in the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. M.S. Hassan, who signed the charge against Saraki, adduced reasons the Senate President should be compelled to face trial. The defendants, through their lawyer Mr. Taiwo Abidogun, said their appearance before the Federal High Court, yesterday, was as a result of the summons that Justice Mohammed issued to them, last Thursday, which directed them to appear and show cause why Saraki should be prosecuted before the CCT. Aside filing their memorandum of conditional appearance, the defendants, filed a counter-affidavit to the suit seeking to stop Saraki’s trial, as well as a preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court to meddle in the affairs of the tribunal. It was their argument that Justice Mohammed lacked the competent jurisdiction to in any way, obstruct proceedings before the CCT. They contended that both the FHC and the CCT have coordinate jurisdiction, stressing that the high court has no supervisory power over the tribunal. Before okaying full-blown hearing on the matter, Justice Mohammed, in a ruling, noted that Saraki’s suit was ripe for hearing since all the parties have successfully joined issues. “This court is of the view that considering the constitutional and radical nature of this matter, time should not be dissipated on the consideration of interlocutory matters”, Justice Mohammed ruled. CCT reactivates bench warrant against Saraki Meanwhile, the CCT, yesterday, re-activated the bench warrant it issued against Saraki last Friday. The tribunal, in a fresh ruling, maintained that the IGP, Mr. Solomon Arase, must arrest and produce the Senate President before it today. The Justice Umar-led panel stressed that Saraki had no cogent reason for absenting himself from court yesterday despite an undertaking by his lead counsel that he would be available for trial. Besides, the tribunal said there was nothing prohibiting it from applying the newly enacted Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, in the trial of the Senate President. It noted that contrary to the position of Saraki’s lawyers, Justice Mohammed of the FHC did not request the tribunal to suspend its sittings on the basis of the suit pending before him. Therefore, the tribunal, yesterday, relied on the provisions of Sections 305 and 306 of the ACJA, 2015, and declined Saraki’s plea for his arraignment to be deferred until his substantive suit before the court of appeal is determined. “The application to stay this proceeding is hereby refused. Accordingly, the Inspector-General of Police as we earlier ordered on Friday is still being ordered to arrest and produce the defendant by 10am tomorrow (today) to answer the charge against him”, the tribunal ruled. Saraki challenges CCT’s composition Earlier, Saraki had through his lawyer, Daudu, SAN, challenged the composition of the CCT panel, which he insisted was not properly constituted. He contended that going by the provision of paragraph 15 of the Third Schedule to the CCB and Tribunal Act, the tribunal ought to have been made up of three justices. He pointed out that presently, there are only two men on the tribunal’s panel. “We will not be party to illegality, this proceeding is a nullity”, Daudu, SAN, submitted. Saraki’s argument was however punctured by the new prosecuting counsel in the matter, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, who argued that under section 28 of the Interpretation Act, once the Chairman of the tribunal and one member are present, the panel is deemed to have been legally constituted, a quorum having been formed. More so, Jacobs insisted that under Section 396 of the ACJA, Saraki must appear before the tribunal to enter his plea to the charge against him, before raising objections against the propriety or otherwise of the criminal proceeding against him. While waving aside Saraki’s argument as an attempt to rely on technicalities to defeat the essence of justice, the tribunal chairman, said the panel was properly constituted. “We are all ministers in the temple of justice. We must speak the truth at all times and never hide under technicalities to derail the course of justice. With a chairman and a member, this panel is properly constituted”, Justice Umar held. I will be at the Tribunal today— Saraki However, Dr Saraki said, yesterday, that he would appear at the CCT today to answer to issues raised by the CCB. Answering questions from journalists in Abuja, Senate President Saraki, who noted that he was prepared to submit himself to due process of the law on any issue concerning him said that 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. I have nothing to hide Asked if he would appear at the CCT, Senator Saraki said: “Well, with the ruling of the Appeal Court, I think based on legal advice we have exercised our right and being a law abiding citizen, the directive of the CCB is saying that one should be there tomorrow. I will be there. I have nothing to hide. One was exercising his own right both at the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal. So we will be there.” Most important is that I believe in the process and I will be there before the tribunal.” According to him, following the adjournment for the determination of the motion on notice and the substantive suit before the Federal High Court to September 30 and the appeal pending before the Court of Appeal adjourned to September 29, the Senate President has decided, as a law abiding citizen, to appear before the Tribunal in the interim. Disclosing that his absence from tribunal was based on the legal advice he received from his counsel that it was not necessary for him to appear before the tribunal at that stage since the jurisdiction of the tribunal and the process of initiating the matter were being challenged before the federal High Court Abuja. Also yesterday, a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said, “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.’’ Senate President Bukola Saraki is presently facing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT following a 13- count charge levelled against him by the CCB, bordering on alleged corruption and false declaration of assets in 2003.

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