EFCC files fresh charges
THE trial of Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, for false assets declaration continued yesterday on a dramatic note as Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Danlandi Umar, ordered out a lawyer, Ajibola Oluyede, for unruly behavior. Umar even threatened to commit the counsel for contempt of court.
Trouble started when Oluyede who was only announced as one of the defence team on Wednesday, by lead counsel to the Senate President, Kanu Agabi, attempted to move a motion he filed asking the tribunal chairman to disqualify himself from the trial.
This came as the Federal Government yesterday filed a 15-count amended charge against the Senate president.
Drama began shortly after Adebayo Adelodun who led the team in the absence of Agabi conceded the floor to Oluyede to move his motion.
As Oloyede made to commence the body of the motion, Rotimi Jacobs, the prosecution counsel objected saying the business of the day was to cross-examine the witness, Michael Wetkas.
“The business of the day is cross examination of the first prosecution witness. My Lords, yesterday, this counsel attempted to serve me with this application but I declined because he has not appeared before this tribunal on this matter and he filed the motion on his own right,” Jacobs said.
“A look at section 349 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) is instructive who can file motions, so I asked the lead counsel Kanu Agabi (SAN) if he was aware of the motion. Kanu told me he was not aware. Some minutes later, I saw Oluyede serving Kanu with same motion. My Lords, at the time he filed this motion he was not a counsel in the matter,” Jacobs added.
Turning to Adelodun, an angry Umar said: “How could you, Adebayo Adelodun (SAN) allowed this kind of a thing to happen here when you knew the business of the day is cross examination. That motion is refused. It is thrown away.”
Adelodun replied: “My Lord, the Bench should be patient with counsel. It is shameful and unfortunate this is happening. I am not aware that the lead defence counsel was not aware of this motion. In any case, the counsel (Oluyede) was part of the defence team as at yesterday. Motion may be stupid, it is duty of the tribunal to hear it and rule on it.”
At that point, Oluyede rose again to address the tribunal, but the chairman told him to sit down: “I am refusing this motion. Sit down; I say sit down, sit down. I say sit down. I will commit you for contempt.”
“For doing my duty as a counsel?” Oluyede fired.
The chairman then called on the police to walk out Oluyede.
But for Jacobs’ intervention, the policemen would have carried out the order. But when Agabi came in hours after the drama he profusely apologised.
In continuation of the cross-examination, Wetkas gave details of various transfer of funds by the Senate President to his foreign account as governor.
According to Wetkas, Saraki transferred $3,392,365.88 from his GTB account to his American Express Bank account in New York between March 3, 2011 and September 24, 2012.
The witness, however, told the tribunal that the card account number of the telexes involving Saraki’s foreign transfers was not in the document tendered before the tribunal.
Wetkas also told the tribunal that Saraki was not invited or interrogated by the combined investigation team made up of the EFCC and Code of Conduct Bureau over his assets declarations.