In a bid to save his position as the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, yesterday, begged the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, sitting in Abuja, to reconsider its decision to conduct day-to-day hearing on the 13-count criminal charge the Federal Government entered against him.
Saraki, through his consortium of lawyers, led by former Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, prayed the tribunal to at least allow him to conduct legislative duties three days in a week.
The Justice Danladi Umar-led tribunal had at the resumed sitting on the case, yesterday, said it would henceforth try the defendant on daily basis. Justice Umar said the decision of the tribunal was based on provisions of Sections 376 and 315 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015.
“Let me state it here for both the prosecution and the defence that the trial of the defendant shall proceed on a day-to-day basis till the conclusion of this matter and it will begin from 10am to 6pm,” Justice Umar held.
The panel, however, said it would on each day of the trial, allow a break period at 1pm and 4pm.
Remarkably, the day-to-day trial order came on the heels of an intensified bid by the Senate to amend the Code of Conduct Bureau/Tribunal Act, a move that has continued to elicit negative reactions from different quarters.
Saraki begs tribunal to reconsider stance
Meanwhile, perturbed by what the application of the order could portend for his office, Saraki, subsequently urged the tribunal to reconsider its stance.
“My lord, we pray that you consider the position of the defendant as the Senate President. The Senate sits on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We beg you to allow the defendant and his colleagues, who accompany him to this court, to, at least, conduct their legislative duties,” Agabi begged.
His submission infuriated the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, who contended that the fact that Saraki was on trial was not a ground for his colleagues to abandon their legislative duties.
He said: “My lord, this is very bad and should be condemned. We are not trying the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it is the defendant. It is a shame and national embarrassment for such excuse to be given.
“It is the defendant that is on trial before this court, his colleagues absolutely have no business to be here.”
His position was also re-echoed by the CCT panel which said it could not shelve its decision to allow Saraki sit as Senate President.
“The Senate should sit. The only thing here is the personality of the defendant who happened to be the Senate President. The Senate should continue to sit,” Justice Umar held.
Saraki, who appeared tensed all through the verbal exchange, was accompanied to the tribunal, yesterday, by about 16 senators.
My trial won’t disturb Senate proceedings — Saraki
However, Saraki said, yesterday, that Justice Umar’s ruling would not disturb Senate proceedings.
According to Saraki, the Senate remains an institution where the absence of a principal officer or a presiding one will not affect plenaries. In a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, the Senate President said: “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.”
How Saraki deceived presidential c’tee —Witness
The star prosecution witness, Mr. Michael Wetkass, who is a Detective Superintendent with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday, narrated how Saraki deceived the Presidential Implementation Committee on the Sale of Federal Government Properties, into selling three government property to him. Wetkass told the tribunal that whereas the committee was only permitted to sell only one property to an individual, he said Saraki bought one with his name and used names of two of his companies to purchase other property from the committee.
He said: “The property at 15, McDonald, Ikoyi in Lagos was bought from the Presidential Implementation Committee on the Sale of Federal Government Properties in the name of a company, Tiny Tee Limited.
“In the assets declaration filled by the defendant, he declared No15 (a) and (b) McDonald, Ikoyi, Lagos. So when we wrote to the implementation committee to verify that property, they responded that from their records, the property is 15, McDonald, Ikoyi, Lagos and another one at Block 15, Plots 1-4 McDonald, Ikoyi Lagos.
“They said those were the property they have in respect of McDonald, Ikoyi, Lagos. The policy of the Presidential Committee was that one person was not allowed to get more than one property.
“Our findings revealed that the defendant got three property from the scheme using company and his personal name.
Meantime, the witness, yesterday, admitted that the prosecution asked him to write the statement he tendered before the tribunal, one month after the charge was filed.
He further admitted that his team never investigated any petition lodged against Saraki from Kwara State.
Protesters besiege CCT
Protesters, yesterday, besieged the road leading to the CCT premises, chanting solidarity songs for the Senate President. The protesters, who were mainly youths, brandished several placards, among which read: “Leave Saraki Alone”, “Say No To Political Witch-hunt”, “Who Is Afraid Of Saraki?”, among other inscriptions.
The protesters were, however, barred from gaining access to the CCT by armed security men.
Confusion in Senate over who presides in plenary
Meanwhile, there appears to be confusion over who would preside over the Senate plenary beginning from today, following the absence of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, whose trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, is to be on daily basis from today.
But the Senate has remained silent on what will happen today as Saraki would not be around to preside over plenary. Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Babajide Omoworare (APC, Osun East), who is in charge of setting the day to day activities of the Senate, has remained silent on what the Senate intended to do.
Several efforts to his known mobile lines to speak on the issue failed as he could neither pick calls or respond to text messages sent to the lines. 0 2 0