Friday, March 11, 2016 11:16 am
The prosecution and the defence counsel have agreed on next Friday, 18 March for the argument of the motion on jurisdiction of the Code of Conduct Tribunal to try Senate President, Bukola Saraki on a charge of false asset declaration slammed on him by the Code of Conduct Bureau.
Mr Danladi Umar, president of the Code of Conduct Tribunal asked the defence to ensure that he served all motions and processes on the prosecution counsel to avoid further delay of the trial.
He therefore adjourned the case to Friday, 18 March, 2016 for moving of the motion and possible hearing of the substantive matter.
The Senate President sat in the dock as the lawyers exchanged arguments.
When the proceedings opened at 10.10 am today, Saraki’s lead lawyer, Kanu Agabi announced that he had filed a motion since Monday which the tribunal must rule upon before the trial could proceed.
The motion challenges the jurisdiction of the tribunal.
Rotimi Jacobs, the prosecution counsel said he was ready for the trial and that his witnesses are in court.
But Agabi said the tribunal could not proceed without a ruling on the motion which he said was filed on Monday.
According to him, the motion has been served on the Ministry of Justice. “Your Lordship must rule on the motion no matter how frivolous it is,” Agabi told Mr Danladi Umar.
Jacobs called attention of the court to the ruling of the Supreme Court that the trial must go on.
Jacobs said he has not been served any motion until now though the defence counsel knows that he is the prosecutor in the case.
He recalled that the defence counsel had served him a letter asking for adjournment, but failed to serve him the motion challenging.
As such, Jacobs said he must enquire from the Ministry of Justice if indeed a motion has been served.
He argued that the business of the day is trial. “This is aa deliberate attempt to frustrate the case, so that the trial will not go on,” said Jacobs.
“The business of the day is the trial,” Jacobs said.
Kanu argued that the Ministry of Justice accepted the service of the motion challenging the juridisction of the tribunal.
The tribunal accepted the motion.
“Why did they accept it? It is the Ministry that wants to delay the proceedings,” Agabi said.
The defence lawyer further argued that the Tribunal should rule on the application challenging its juridisction before the trial can proceed.
But Jacobs countered with argument that the defence had always served him every motion in addition to serving the Ministry of Justice.
He drew the attention of the court to a provision in the Administration of Criminal Justice Act which he said empowered the Court to continue with the trial and consider the application at the end.
The second member of the Tribunal appealed to the prosecution counsel to allow the motion to be taken so that the trial can go on.
“The motion I have not seen”, Jacobs retorted. The tribunal member asked Agabi to address the court on his failure to serve the prosecution counsel.
“Rotimi, should I kneel down,” said Agabi.
The prosecution Counsel complained of coming under different forms of attacks and intimidation in the course of prosecuting Saraki. But Agabi threw the court into laughter as he embarked on what seemed a charm offensive, declaring his love for Jacobs.
Danladi Umar intervened, asking the defence counsel to serve the prosecution the motion on the challenge of the Tribunal’s jurisdiction.
Jacobs said the Tribunal should adjourn till Monday for argument of the application.
But Agabi asked for adjournment till next Friday, arguing that as an old man who will be 70 in two days, he may not be able to respond to the prosecutor’s brief on time.
The court finally accepted Agabi’s request for 18 March adjournment.
Agabi, former justice minister and attorney-general of Nigeria came to court with six senior advocates of Nigeria and 66 lawyers to defend Saraki.