18th March, 2016
The Code of Conduct Tribunal will on 24 March decide whether it had jurisdiction to hear the 13 counts charges of false assets declaration preferred against Senate President Bukola Saraki.
Mr. Danladi Umar, Chairman of the Tribunal said this after hearing arguments from the prosecution and the defence counsel on the jurisdiction of the Tribunal.
Justice Umar said the hearing of the case will be speeded depending on how the the ruling goes.
Chief Kanu Agabi, Lead lawyer for Senate President, Bukola Saraki demanded his client’s discharge and acquittal by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the way it was done for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, five years ago.
Agabi told the CCT panel that the Code of Conduct Bureau case was flawed as Saraki was not invited, when it had an issue over his asset declaration.
Agabi said his team is not raising any of the issue that has been determined by the Supreme Court.
He said the issue being raised in the fresh application is that failure of the CCB to act 13 years after the defendant filed his forms is fatal to its case.
”If for any reason, the defendant has committed any offence he should be informed. The defendant has not been given any opportunity to defend himself against the charges. The AGF has no jurisdiction to prefer the charges and therefore the Tribunal has no jurisdiction to hear it.
“Under our constitution, the moment a man comes under justifiable suspicion, he must be informed promptly of the reasons for the suspicion”, said Agabi.
He said failure to inform Saraki was against the principle of fair trial. He said failure of duty on the part of the CCB for 13 years operates to the peril of the Bureau.
He said there is no document to indicate that any member of public has complained or that the CCB has conducted any research to implicate the the defendant.
He however agreed that there are aspects of the charges against Saraki that can be prosecuted elsewhere.
“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 struck 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. He has not been invited, it is not discriminatory. My Lord, the reason you said you allow Tinubu to go home was that ten other governors were invited, but he was not invited, the defendant is a former governor. ”
He then asked the Chairman of the Tribunal to strike out the charges.
But Jacobs argued that the application by Saraki amounted to abuse of process as the issues raised has been determined at the suits filed by Saraki from High to Supreme courts.
He said contrary to the argument of Saraki, the AGF is the chief law officer of the federation and can file charges on behalf of government or any of its agencies.
While urging the court to condemn the conduct of the defendant, Jacobs recalled that as AGF, Agabi also used the used the Code of Conduct law to files charges against former Governors Joshua Dariye and former FCT Minister, Jeremiah Useni. Jacobs also recalled that he represented Agabi in court during the hearing of the cases.
He argued that Agabi cannot now work against the law he benefited from as the AGF.
“Can the Attorney General who used the powers now say the EFCC cannot work with the Bureau?,” he queried.
On whether Saraki should have been invited or not before the charges are levied against him, Jacobs argued that the 1999 Constitution has overtaken the provision which he said was in 1979 constitution.
He argued that the Tribunal was misled to discharge former Governor Tinubu based on this old provision.
He added that Saraki made his statement on oath and it was not corrected and he asked, “should he now be allowed to go home?”.
Also, Jacobs said the argument that there is a time limit to make complaints or prosecute Saraki over the false assets declaration is false.
He argued that the events that accumulated in the charges of anticipatory declaration of assets did not manifest until 2007 when the Senate President bought a house.
“So, where is the 13 years. He also argued that the Court of Appeal has already declared the CCT as a court and therefore, there cannot be no argument as to its jurisdiction to hear the case.
“My Lord, I urge you to dismiss this spurious and baseless argument,” Jacobs urged the court.
The day’s proceedings had begun with the tribunal agreeing to take Agabi’s motion on jurisdiction, before hearing the substantive case.
Jacobs had made a strong case against this, but Danladi Umar overruled him.