Saraki Urges Cct To Free Him Like Tribunal Discharged Tinubu
SAN FRANCISCO, March 19, (THEWILL) – The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki on Friday told the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, where he is facing assets falsification trial, to discharge and acquit him same way it freed former Lagos State Governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
He argued that the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, should have invited him to clarify issues in his asset declaration form before charging him to the tribunal for alleged false asset declaration, a ground for which, he noted, the CCT dismissed a similar case against the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Saraki, through his lawyer, Mr. Kanu Agabi SAN told the tribunal chairman, Mr. Danladi Umar, that the Senate President should have been invited to clarify issues before charging him before the tribunal.
According to him, Tinubu, who was earlier accused of false declaration of assets, was set free by the tribunal because of the failure of the CCB to fulfill necessary conditions of inviting him first to make statement on the alleged discrepancies before referring him for prosecution.
Agabi noted that there are ten other former governors who had the opportunity of being invited to defend their asset declaration forms before CCB and were not referred to the tribunal after explanations on their declared assets were taken.
He urged the tribunal to dismiss the charges against Saraki for being incompetent, baseless and having been filed without observing the due process of the law, even as he also appealed to the tribunal to quash the charges against his client on the ground that the charges were not competent in law.
Agabi based his argument on preliminary objection to the charges on the ground that the conditions precedent for arraignment of Saraki by the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, were not fulfilled.
He, among other things, claimed that Saraki was not invited by the Code of Conduct Bureau as required by law to deny or admit the alleged discrepancies in the asset declaration form submitted to the Bureau.
The defence counsel told the tribunal that up till now, Saraki as a defendant has not made any statement to the Bureau upon which he can be effectively put to trial.
He contended that the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, erred in law by initiating the charges against Saraki because the Code of Conduct Bureau Act vested power to accept asset declaration form, investigating assets form and prosecuting the offender on the Bureau and not on any external force like the AGF, ICPC or EFCC.
Agabi said the failure of the CCB to fulfill the conditions precedent of summoning Saraki to first make statement on discrepancies in his declared assets was fatal to the charge before tribunal and cannot operate to the detriment of the defendant.
“CCB is a peculiar institution; it has the duty to accept, to examine, to keep custody of assets declaration forms submitted to it and also has power to accept complaints from the public on the discrepancies that may arise from any form submitted to it.
“In the instant case, there is no petition or complaint before the CCB and that the power of the CCB to refer any offender to the CCT for trial cannot be delegated to the AGF,” he stated, stressing that such measure should equally apply to Saraki because he was not first invited by the bureau to make statement of denial or confirmation of discrepancies in his assets declaration form.
In opposing the motion, counsel to the Federal Government, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs SAN accused the defendant of engaging in abuse of court process and that what Saraki was asking for had been determined by various courts.
Regarding the acquittal of Tinubu by the Code of Conduct Tribunal on the failure of the CCB to fulfill the conditions precedent, Jacobs held that the tribunal was in error in arriving at that decision which set the former Lagos governor free.