(Godwin Tsa, ABUJA)
The cold war between the Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki and the chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Danladi Umar heightened yesterday as the Senate president has again asked him to hands off his trial saying he will not get justice under him.
His position is contained in a fresh motion on notice brought pursuant to section 36 of the 1999 Constitution, wherein Saraki insisted that the Tribunal Chairman was in a hurry to convict him without giving him a fair hearing and a fair opportunity to defend himself.
He rooted his claim on what he considered a threat by the Tribunal Chairman that the delay tactics allegedly employed him in his trial on false asset declaration will not reduce the consequences that he will meet from the tribunal at the end of trial.
He argued that the threat made by Umar in the open court was a clear indication that the tribunal had a pre-determined position to convict him at all cost in respective of the evidences at the trial.
He has therefore asked the CCT chairman to step aside from further participation in the trial initiated against him by the Federal government.
The motion filed by lead his Counsel, Mr. Kanu Godwin Agabi (SAN), stated clearly that the threat by CCT chairman was biased and cannot accord him a fair trial.
The motion predicated on eight grounds indicated that the threat of consequences issued by Umar has caused Saraki to lose confidence in the impartiality of the chairman and that he is no longer confidence that he can get justice from the tribunal if the chairman continues to participate in the hearing and determination of the case against him.
Part of the grounds of the motion was that the defendant (Saraki) has lost confidence in the ability of the tribunal chairman to conduct a fair trial and dispense justice according to law.
“The defendant is deeply worried and lives in perpetual fear since the statement was made by the chairman of the Tribunal and no longer believes that justice can be done in the trial”.
Saraki denied the allegation by the Tribunal Chairman that his lawyers have been employing delay tactics to slow down or frustrate the trial.
In a – 26 paragraph supporting affidavit deposed to by one Olufemi Balogun in support of the motion, Saraki was said to be currently facing trial before the CCT on a 16 charge bordering on violation of the provisions of the Code of Conduct for public officers and that one witness Mr. Michael Wetkas called by the prosecution has given evidence and undergoing cross examination.
The affidavit claimed that on June 7, 2016 when the trial came up for continuation, one of Saraki’s lawyers Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN), sought the leave of the tribunal to give a recap of the last proceeding on the last sitting and that the chairman in response openly accused the defense team of employing delay tactics in the following words.
“I am not happy at the delay by the defense counsel and I must say this thing out that this delay tactics will not reduce the consequences the defendant will meet in this tribunal at the end of the trial”.
The affidavit also indicated that the statement of the chairman did not go down well with defence lead counsel Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN), who immediately expressed worries about prejudice as evident from the statement threatening consequences even before all the evidence was in.
At the resumed trial yesterday Saraki counsel Mr. kanu Agabi (SAN) informed the tribunal of the pendency of the motion and the need for the tribunal to determine the motion first because of the fundamental issues it raised.
However, counsel to the federal Mr. Pius Akuta Ukeyima told the tribunal that the motion was not ripe for hearing. He urged the tribunal to proceed with continuation of trial.
Agabi (SAN), however objected to the continuation of the trial because of the fundamental issue raised in the motion prompting the chairman to adjourn hearing of the motion to June 21.
It will be recalled that on June 7, the tribunal chairman Mr. Danladi Umar had threatened Saraki in the open court that he would be made to face the consequences of the delay tactics being employed by his lawyers to delay the trial.
Umar said that he was not happy with the delay and that the defendant should be ready to face the consequences at the end of the trial because the delay tactics will not reduce the consequences that would be imposed on him.