…Uwaifo, Nwabueze others fault trial
From Godwin Tsa, Abuja and Lukman Olabiyi, Lagos
THE Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) yesterday dashed the hope of Senate President Bukola Saraki when it threw out his application challenging its jurisdiction to prosecute him Saraki is facing a 13-count criminal charge bordering on falsification of assets broght against him by the Federal Government.
Meanwhile, the Senate president has said he is ready to stand trial but pleaded for time after the prosecution counsel had prayed the tribunal to allow him call his witnesses.
“We are the one being suspected of wrong doing 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 charge is concerned,” his counsel and former Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Kanu Agabi said.
In the failed motion, Saraki had prayed the tribunal to quash and or strike out the charges against him and subsequently discharge him.
and subsequently discharge him. Delivering his ruling, the tribunal chairman, Mr. Danladi Umar said the issues raised in the motion were not weighty enough to oust the jurisdiction of the tribunal.
For instance, Saraki had argued that the conditions precedent under section 3(d) of the Code of Conduct Tribunal Act which made it a requirement for any defendant to be invited for confirmation or denial of discrepancies in the assets had not been met.
The tribunal agreed with the submissions of the prosecution counsel that the proviso under section 3(d) of the Code of Conduct Bureau being relied upon by the Senate President was inconsistent with the provisions of section 3 (e) of the Third Schedule to the 1999 constitution and thereby a nullity by the extent of that inconsistent.
The Tribunal further said that the failure of the CCB to invite the defendant in the instant case has not ousted the jurisdiction of the Tribunal.
However, on the failure of the CCB to obtain a written admission of Saraki on the alleged discrepancies in his assets form, the Tribunal chairman said the issue was crucial but can be raised in the substantive matter adding that it is premature at the preliminary objections stage because the charge against the defendant bothers on alleged corruption.
On the issue of its earlier decision to discharging Lagos State governor some years ago because the CCB failed to fulfill the condition precedent, the tribunal said it has since realised that it acted in error and has corrected itself in one of its judgment delivered in 2014.
However, Eminent jurists including a retired justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Samson Odemwingie Uwaifo, former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Anambra State, Chief Nnoruka Udechukwu (SAN), Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), Emeka Ngige (SAN), and Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) have faulted the ongoing trial describing it as political vendetta.
They spoke at the inauguration of the Ben Nwanbueze Centre and its Constitutional Law Conference.
Chief Udechukwu held that the chairman of the tribunal could not be regarded as a judge based on the office he occupied because he was not recognized by the constitution as a judicial officer.
Justice Uwaifo held that the Supreme Court goofed in its verdict on Saraki’s trial at the CCT. The retired judge said what is currently going on at the CCT is total disrespect for the constitution of the country.
Agbakoba noted that lawyers were not against the fight on corruption but insisted that the battle should be fought with respect for the constitution of the land.
He said the constitution cannot be neglected all in the name of fight against corruption.
On his part, Ozekhome said the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act as presently constituted, was tantamount to a deliberate legislative affront adding that what is currently playing out at CCT was as a result of legislative illegality which amended the Act.