Tuesday, April 5, 2016 10:41 am
It is not certain if the trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki on a 13 count charge of false asset declaration before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT will go on today as scheduled as his lawyers are set to embark on another rigmarole to stop it.
Indications are that the Senate President’s team of lawyers led by Kanu Agabi will ask Justice Danladi Umar, the Chairman of CCT to stay action on the trial as they ask higher courts to again give a verdict on the propriety or otherwise of the trial.
In the suit filed at Abuja Division of Court of Appeal, the Senate President has asked the appellate court to halt his trial on nine-grounds.
The notice was filed yesterday. In the notice of appeal, the Senate President had challenged the 24 March ruling of the Tribunal in which Justice Umar dismissed Saraki’s challenge of the jurisdiction of the tribunal to hear the charge against him.
It was gathered that the notice of appeal and the motion for stay of proceedings were served on the tribunal and the prosecution on Monday.
Justice Umar had in the ruling dismissed all objections raised by Saraki’s lawyer against the trial.
Contrary to the assertion of Saraki, the Tribunal ruled that the AGF was competent to institute a charge before the CCT while also dismissing the argument that the offence was committed 13 years ago.
In asking the court to dismiss the charge based on this argument, Agabi had argued that there must be an official complaint against his client within a reasonable time of his submitting the declaration.
Justice Umar ruled that there is no statute of limitation in relation to the case against the Senate President while affirming that time never could never run against the state in trial of criminal cases.
In the same vein, the Chairman of CCT also dismissed the argument that Saraki should be discharged like former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu was discharged when he was arraigned before the Tribunal in 2012.
Agabi argued that under Section 3(d) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, the CCB ought to have confronted him with the alleged infractions in his asset declaration forms before charges were instituted against him.
Saraki argued that the Tribunal had in 2012 dismissed the case against the former Lagos State Governor over this argument and should also allowed his client to go because he was also not confronted with details of the allegations against him to allow him make clarification before the charges were filed against him.
But the Tribunal also dismissed the argument as it said the ruling on the ex Lagos State governor as related to
Section 3(d) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act was erroneous, a fact which he said the Tribunal has corrected in its other rulings.
Specifically, the Chairman of the Tribunal ruled that provision of Paragraph 3(e) of Part I of the 3rd Schedule to the 1999 Constitution had removed and omitted the proviso relied on by the Senate President.
“That proviso that is repeated in Section 3(d) of the CCB/T Act cannot be sustained any longer under the 1999 Constitution. The decision in Tinubu’s case was given per incuriam and the tribunal should not follow such a decision,” Justice Umar ruled as it ordered that the trial of Saraki will go on.
“The motion by the defendant to quash the charge against him is refused. In the final analysis, the tribunal assumes jurisdiction in this case. The prosecution is to invite its witness,” Umar ruled, thus nailing the second attempt by Saraki to stop his trial by the Tribunal.
The Senate President who was first arraigned before the CCT in August last year had challenged the jurisdistion of the Tribunal as well as the validity of the charges against him, a legal adventure which ended on 5 February, 2016 with judgment of the Supreme Court ordering him to submit himself for trial.
Ahead of the trial, the dirty water of corruption in which the Senate President is steeped in got murkier yesterday with revelations that he was among politicians with secret offshore companies incorporated in Panama to hide their assets from their home governments.
Companies linked with the Sarakis include Girol Properties Ltd., Sandon Development Limited, and Landfield International Developments Ltd.
Reports indicated that some of the companies were registered in the name of Toyin, the Senate President’s wife and were not declared in the assets declaration forms submitted by Saraki as governor.
The Senate President had in reaction to the discovery claimed that the assets belonged to the family of his wife.
But his troubles may become bigger if the prosecution seek to amend the charges to include the revelations from Panama Papers.