Code of Conduct Tribunal admits error in freeing Tinubu, okays Saraki’s trial

Posted by News Express | 25 March 2016 | 2,607 times

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Senate President Bukola Saraki yesterday lost another application to stop his trial over an alleged false declaration of assets as the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) ruled that it has the jurisdiction to prosecute the case.

The tribunal consequently fixed April 5, 2016 for the commencement of the trial in a charge brought against him by the Federal Government.

While insisting on the trial of Saraki, the CCT admitted error in discharging former Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu some years ago.

The tribunal had on the preliminary objections to his trial, dismissed Saraki’s application challenging the legality of the charges against him.

The Chairman of the tribunal, Mr. Danladi, Yakubu Umar, stated yesterday that the failure of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to meet certain conditions precedent to putting Saraki on trial was not weighty enough to discharge him and strike out the trial.

He said that Section 3(b) of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act which makes it a requirement for any defendant to be invited for confirmation or denial of discrepancies in the Assets Form had been overtaken by the provision of Section 3 (e) of the 1999 Constitution.

According to him, the Constitution is the supreme law. Umar added that Section 3(e) of the 1999 Constitution, which does not make provision for the condition precedent as in the case of CCB Act, has rendered the CCB Act unconstitutional, null and void, having been inconsistent with the constitution.

The tribunal also held that the failure of the CCB to invite the defendant in the instant case has not ousted the jurisdiction of the tribunal.

On the failure of the CCB to obtain a written admission by Saraki on the alleged discrepancies in his Assets Declaration Form before referring him to the tribunal for trial, the chairman noted that the issue was crucial but could be raised in the substantive matter.

Umar said that it was premature for the issue to be raised at the preliminary objection stage.

“On the failure of the CCB to obtain a written admission of discrepancies in the Assets Declaration Form of the defendant before referring him to this tribunal, we hold that this is crucial but the issue can be raised in the substantive matter as doing so now at the preliminary stage is premature. For us therefore, it will be out of place to give legal weight to that failure without hearing the substantive matter.

“On the discharge of the former Lagos State governor by the tribunal some years ago simply because the CCB failed to fulfill the condition precedent, we have since realised that we acted in error in discharging Mr. Tinubu on that ground and we have since departed from that error.

“In essence, provision of Section 3(a) of the third schedule of the 1999 Constitution which has no provision for fulfillment of certain conditions precedent before the CCB can act, is now the guiding force for the tribunal,” the CCT said.

Concerning the filing of the charges by the government, 13 years after Saraki had left office, the CCT chairman stated that there was no statute of limitation on criminal matters and that it was not out of place for the government to charge him the way it did even though he left office for a long time

But the Senate President, who was again accompanied by a large number of supporters, especially his colleagues from the National Assembly, told the tribunal that he was fully ready for trial to prove his innocence. He, however, pleaded for more time to allow him call his witnesses.

Speaking through his lead counsel and former Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), Saraki said although he would have wished that due process of law was followed by government before putting him on trial, nevertheless, he was ready to engage his accusers legally.

“We are the ones being suspected of wrongdoing and we are ready to establish the fact that we are innocent of the charges even though we are convinced that the right thing has not been done as far as the charges are concerned,” Agabi said.

The Senate president had challenged the competence of the false assets declaration criminal charges brought against him by the government, maintaining that they were politically motivated and in bad faith.

In his objection filed by Agabi, Saraki stated that the charges could not be sustained in law since due process was not observed before they were initiated.

He therefore, asked the Code of Conduct Tribunal to quash or strike out the charges contained in Charge No. CCT/ABJ/01/2015 filed in September against him.

The Senate president also asked the tribunal to discharge him from the charges on the ground that the charges were not competent and lawful in the eyes of the law.

His grounds of objection to the trial include the fact that the tribunal headed by Umar has no jurisdiction to entertain the charge because a condition precedent to the exercise of jurisdiction was not fulfilled.

He also anchored his objection on the fact that the charge was brought in bad faith, not in the interest of the public and justice and that the charge constituted a gross abuse of legal process.

•Adapted from a Guardian report. Photo, also courtesy of The Guardian, shows Senate President Bukola Saraki exchanging pleasantries with his lawyers during his appearance before the Code of Conduct Tribunal . . . Thursday in Abuja.

Source: News Express

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