From: Godwin Tsa, Abuja
THE Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) yesterday ordered daily hearing in the ongoing 13-count criminal charge against the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
Tribunal chairman Danladi Umar made the order provisions of sections 376 and 315 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015.
This is even as Senators loyal to Saraki came under knocks from the tribunal which frowned at their continued presence at the trials at the expense of their constitutional duties at the hallowed chambers of the senate.
Mr. Umar, specifically declared that the Senate was not on trial before the tribunal and therefore senators have no reason being in court daily saying it would be in the interest of the nation that the Senators stay back to discharge their constitutional duty.
He spoke after counsel to the Senate President, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN) had requested for an adjournment to enable Senators sit.
Umar explained that it is the personality of the accused, who happened to be the Senate President, that was on trial and not the entire Senate.
Earlier, in opposing to Agabi’s request, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), had said it was shameful and disgraceful that the Senators were in court, as according to him, they were not parties and as such, not needed to be in court.
But Saraki said his trial will not disturb the activities of the Senate.
At the preliminary stage of the trial, senators had always accompanied the Senate President to the tribunal each time the case came up for hearing. But Saraki said now that the trial proper has commenced and the Senate is in session, he would not want the trial to affect legislative business.
“I am the one on trial not the Senate. Even though I have been overwhelmed by the solidarity displayed by my colleagues, it is important that the work of the Senate is not unduly affected by this process, “ he said.
The Senate President affirms that the legislative body being an institution, would not be affected by the absence of any of the principal.
APC Senators strategise
However, worried that the Senate presidency seat maybe snatched by lawmakers of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), following a recent statement by the chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie- Oyegun, Senators from the two warring camps in the Red Chamber – Like Minds and Unity Forum – last night, held a strategic meeting in Abuja.
The meeting convened at the instance of a former governor from one of the North-west states, Daily Sun gathered, was to brainstorm on how to counter plans by the PDP to produce the next Senate President.
A member of Unity Forum who was at the meeting told our correspondent in a telephone interview that the emergency meeting became necessary, following two major events that happened last weekend and yesterday.
“Last weekend, our party chairman, Oyegun said the PDP can take over the Senate. We cannot allow that. That is an open invitation to the opposition. We know how we laboured for this change government and we will not allow the PDP to take over. That was why one of our respected leaders summoned this meeting.
“We are scheduling a meeting with the leadership of the party (APC) and other stakeholders this week to brainstorm on the way forward,” the Senator revealed.
He did not reveal the identity of lawmakers who were in attendance.
Meanwhile, there are apprehensions that there could be a stormy session today, if the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu presides. Some lawmakers like Ahmad Lawan, Kabir Marafa and others who have vowed never to recognize Ekweremadu as Deputy Senate President, may stage a walkout.
There are also fears that today’s session could be cut short in order to enable Senators loyal to Saraki accompany him to the Tribunal.
When trial resumed yesterday, the Prosecution witness (PWI) Mr. Michael Wetkas continued with his evidence in chief disclosing how Saraki rakes in over N131 million annually as rent from some of his undeclared assets.
He told the tribunal in the witness box how Saraki bought properties from the Presidential Implementation Committee on Sale of Government properties using his personal names and names of companies including the property at No. 15 Mcdonald, Ikoyi, Lagos, which he disclosed, was bought from the Committee in the name of one of Saraki’s companies, Tiny Tee Limited.
Wetkas said that in the Assets Declaration Form filled by the defendant, he had declared property at No. 15a and 15b, McDonald, Ikoyi, as his own.
“When we wrote to the Presidential Committee to verify the property, they responded that from their records, the property is No. 15, McDonald, Ikoyi, Lagos and another one, Block 15, Plot 1 to 4, MacDonald, Ikoyi, Lagos. These are the properties they have in respect to Mcdonald, Ikoyi.”
On how Tiny Tee paid for the property, the witness said that 75 per cent payment of that property, which amounted to N123,750,000 was paid through the account of Skyview Property Limited domiciled in Access Bank, the then Intercontinental Bank.
Concerning the property at No. 17, Mcdonald, Ikoyi, the Prosecution tendered drafts totalling N256, 300,000, which he told the Tribunal were payments for a property at No. 17, McDonald, Ikoyi, Lagos.
According to him, there was a draft for N12, 815,000 as payment of the property.
“There was another draft for the total of N24,090,000 broken down into two. The sum of N20 million was from Zenith Bank account of Carlisle Property and Investment Limited while N4,090,000 was from Carlisle Property and Investment Limited account with GTB. Both were part payments of the said property at No. 17, Mcdonald, Ikoyi, Lagos. There was also another draft for N180,675,000 dated April 3, 2007 from Saraki’s personal account with GTB, also part payment for the property at 17, Mcdonald, Ikoyi.
“Another draft for N36,135,000 dated January 10, 2007 and cleared in the name of Carlisle Limited account with GTB, was also part payment for the property at No.17 Mcdonald
Another draft for N12,045,000, dated January 10, 2007 was also drawn from the account of Carlisle Property Limited with GTB being part payment for No. 17, Mcdonald, Ikoyi.”
The drafts, which were payable to the Presidential Implementation Committee for the Sale of Government Houses, were admitted in evidence and tendered as exhibits.
So far, about 43 exhibits have been tendered including cheques, bank statements, bank drafts and letters of Identification. There were also bank opening mandates.