Friday, 30 October 2015

False Asset Declaration: Saraki’s Trial To Continue November 5 – CCT

The Code of Conduct Tribunal will continue the prosecution of Nigeria’s Senate President, Bukola Saraki on November 5 after an Appeal Court ruled in its favour.

Rotimi Jacobs, representing the Federal Government said the Code of Conduct tribunal has been vindicated and that Saraki’s trial would continue on 5 November.

Earlier today, Justice Moore Agumanen, reading a majority verdict of the Court of Appeal this morning upheld the trial of Senate President, Bukola Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

Agumanen, reading the verdict of two of the three man panel, said the tribunal, which docked the Senate President on 22 September and 21 October was properly constituted, thus trashing one of the grounds of the objections to the trial by Senate President and his lawyers.

The dissenting third judge, Justice Joseph Ekanem however ruled that Saraki’s appeal has merit.

On the contrary, the majority judges, including Justice Mohammed Mustapha, in their verdict said the tribunal led by Danladi Umar could sit with the chairman and one other member.

Agumanen said they relied on section 28 of the Interpretation Act to reach the decision.

He said the Code of Conduct Tribunal and Code of Conduct Bureau Act and the constitution did not talk about a quorum.

In a further blow to the Senate President, the majority judges said the CCT has criminal jurisdiction, though limited.

The judges also ruled that the Code of Conduct Tribunal has powers to issue a bench warrant.

Agumanen said the judgment could not be delivered on 19 October as earlier planned because the justices have to struggle to reach a consensus.

Saraki wanted the appellate court stop his trial at the CCT, where he has been charged on 13-counts with false asset declaration.

Judgment was initially fixed for 19 October, but was postponed at the 11th hour, with the court promising to communicate a new date to parties.

Notices were sent to parties informing them about today’s date.

Arguing the appeal on October 16, Saraki’s lawyer, Joseph Daudu (SAN), urged the appellate court to set aside the entire proceedings before the CCT, including the charge before it.

He argued that the CCT was not properly constituted on when it assumed jurisdiction to entertain the charges because it was made up of two members as against three, which is provided for in Paragraph 15(1) of the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution.

Daudu contended that the provision of Section 28 of the Interpretation Act relied upon by the respondents to argue that the tribunal could validly sit with its Chairman and one other member, was a contradiction of the three-member provision in the Constitution.

He also argued that the tribunal not being a superior court recognised by the Constitution could not exercise criminal jurisdiction.

On 21 October, when Saraki appeared before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, trial was suspended based on the notification about the pending Court of Appeal Judgment.

The tribunal then adjourned till 5 November.

The court further ruled that the solicitor-general can institute proceedings in the absence of the attorney-general since the office of the AGF is statutory and cannot die whether the AGF is in court or not.