Code of Conduct Tribunal affirms jurisdiction in Saraki's case
The Code of Conduct Tribunal on Thursday failed to grant the relief sought by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who asked to quash the 13 counts of false and anticipatory asset declaration preferred against him.
The tribunal once again ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear the case against the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki on alleged false declaration of his assets while he was governor of Kwara State.
Saraki had raised objections on the jurisdiction of the tribunal in the last sitting.
Lawyer to the Senate President, Kanu Agabi, had argued that the 13-count charge was invalid because the Code of Conduct Bureau which filed the charges, failed to allow Saraki explain discrepancies in his assets declaration forms as required by law.
The chairman of the tribunal, Danladi Umar, ruled that there was no breach of law as the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, 1989, still allows the Senate President to raise his clarifications at the level of the tribunal.
The tribunal also ordered the prosecution to produce its witnesses.
Mr. Umar said it does not matter how long a crime was committed as the federal government can initiate criminal proceeding anytime the crime is uncovered..
Thursday is the second time the tribunal would be affirming its jurisdiction to preside over Saraki's trial, the Senate President having earlier challenged it up till when the Supreme Court validated his trial in its judgment delivered on February 5, 2016.
Umar disagreed with Saraki's contention on the competence of the the Attorney-General of the Federation to institute charges before the CCT,his contention that he was being prosecuted for offences allegedly committed about 13 years ago, saying the objections were out of place.
The tribunal also agreed with the the position of the prosecution that the argument by Saraki that there must be official complaint against him within a reasonable time of his submitting the declaration, was baseless.
According to the chairma, there can be no clearance by implication, unless it was expressly stated by the statutes and time never ran against the state.
“It is not out of place to charge the accused person now and ask him to answer to the charges against him as there is no statute of limitation in relation to his case,” Umar said.
The tibunal also faulted Saraki's reliance on its earlier ruling, dismissing the charges against a former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu.
Saraki had argued that under section 3(d) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, the Code Code of Conduct Bureau ought to have confronted him with the alleged infractions in his asset declaration forms before charges were instituted against him.
The Senate President is being prosecuted by the Federal Government for the alleged breaches in the four forms which he submitted to the CCB as Governor of Kwara State between 1999 and 2007.
He contended in his motion that the CCB's failure to confront him with the alleged infractions had rendered the charges incompetent.
The CCT held on Thursday that it had since realised that the ruling discharging Tinubu on that grounds was made in error.
It ruled, “The accused persons relied on the decision of this tribunal in the Federal Republic of Nigerian versus Bola Tinubu that was delivered on November 30, 2011. That decision was given per incuriam (given without following principles of law).”
He held that the 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,” he said.
The tribunal chairman dismissed Saraki's claim that he was denied a fair hearing because he was not invited to make a written statement before the filing of the charges.
He held that the argument was premature and could be raised during the hearing of the substantive case.
“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,” he ruled.
After the ruling, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), said he was ready to go on with the case as his first prosecution witness was in court.
But the lead defence counsel, Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN), asked for an adjournment to prepare for trial.
The tribunal chairman agreed with the defence counsel, insisting that criminal cases must not be rushed.
He noted that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, was though aimed at achieving expeditious hearing of criminal cases, the CCT recognised the need for the accused person to be given adequate time to prepare its defence.
He said, “We do not need to rush. We need to proceed carefully in the interest of justice and to ensure that justice is done to all parties.
“The ACJ Act did not say the defendants should not be given adequate time to prepare its defence.”
The federal government is being represented in the case by Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, while Mr. Agabi is leading 80 other lawyers in Dr. Saraki's Defence.
In the charges instituted by the federal government, the Senate President is being accused of making false assets declaration in his forms submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau as a two-term governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.
The trial has been adjourned till April the 5th, 2016.
- with online reports