18th March, 2016
Rotimi Jacobs, a senior advocate of Nigeria and the Federal Government prosecuting counsel in the 13 count charge of false assets declaration trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki on Thursday said the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) was misled to discharge former Governor of Lagos State Bola Ahmed Tinubu when he was arraigned before it in November, 2011.
He was charged with operating foreign bank accounts, contrary to the constitution.
The tribunal had then dismissed the case against former Lagos state governor based on arguments that the bureau did not establish a prima facie case and also engaged in abuse of process in filing the charges against him.
Tinubu was accused of operating 10 foreign accounts during his tenure as governor between 1999 and 2007 in the charges filed against him by CCB at the tribunal.
But the three-man panel of the Tribunal dismissed the case at the second appearance of the former governor at the court as it declared that “there is no significant basis to proceed against Tinubu as the charges were “defective and shoddy.”
The tribunal also said that the prosecution abused the process of court by not seeking leave of the Tribunal to file two additional counts and that the filing of two sets of charges simultaneously constitutes an abuse of process.
The Chairman of the tribunal, Danladi Umar who is also presiding over the ongoing case against the Senate President had also noted that the charges did not disclose a prima facie case against the accused person as there was no proof of evidence attached to the charge.
He added that the charges against Tinubu did not show that the accounts were held by the accused persons. “some (of the foreign accounts) even bear female names…how can the accused be made to answer such charges?”
Also, the Tribunal said in its judgment that contrary to the rules, the Bureau had not afforded Asiwaju Tinubu an opportunity to be confronted with the complaints against him and be allowed to admit or deny before the charges were filed against him.
The Tribunal said opportunity to admit or deny was given to ten other Governors and public officers charged with violation of the code of conduct, but was not given to Asiwaju Tinubu.
“The accused should have been invited to either admit or deny the charge. The complainant has no evidence to show that they invited the accused.” Justice Umar said.
On Friday, Kanu Agabi, the lead prosecution counsel to the Senate President had made reference to the decision of the Tribunal in the Tinubu’s trial, asking that the former Kwara State Governor should also be allowed to go home.
This, according to him was because Saraki was also not informed on the charges or asked to defend himself against the allegations before the CCB brought him before the Tribunal.
“The result of the investigation by Bureau is expected to be presented to Your Lordship. Where is it?” Where is the reference? We don’t have it, you can strike it out and let them start afresh.
“He has not been invited, he should be invited like Tinubu. He is the Senate President of this country. We have not been invited, it is not discriminatory.
“My Lord, the reason you said you allow Tinubu to go home was that ten other governors was invited, but he was not invited, the defendant is a former governor,” Agabi said while asking the Chairman of the Tribunal to strike out the charges against the Senate President.
But while countering the argument, Jacobs told the Tribunal that the CCB did not need to invite the defendants to make any clarification on the discrepancies in his assets because section 3, part one of third schedule of the 1999 Constitution has removed such conditions.
He said the argument was only applicable under the 1979 constitution, arguing that the defendants was relying on old law to canvass his argument.
As such, the prosecution counsel urged the court to reject Agabi’s plea that his client should also be discharged like the former Lagos Governor as the Tribunal was misled to discharge him based on this old provision of the law.