Lawyers And Constitutional Professors Fault Dan Ladi Umar’s Legal Precedent In Saraki’s Case
New details emerging from the case of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) suggest that Justice Dan Ladi Umar, the Chairman of the CCT may have been coerced to deliver a flawed judgement in order to convict Saraki at all costs.
These revelations are against the backdrop of reports from sources within the CCT that state that on the morning of Wednesday, March 23rd, Justice Umar met with the Secretary of the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, and three former judges who drafted the ruling against Saraki for the CCT Chairman.
Lawyers and Constitutional experts who reviewed excerpts of the ruling that were published in the papers after the case, point to the fact that Justice Umar seriously erred in his judgement by citing Paragraph 3E, of the third paragraph of the Constitution, as the tribunal's basis for not adhering to Section 3D of the CCT act. This section, according to Saraki's legal team, was meant to have given the Senate President an opportunity to either confirm or deny the allegations against him at the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) before the case was forwarded to the tribunal for adjudication.
The legal experts further revealed that the provisions in Paragraph 3E of the Third Schedule that the CCT relied on in dismissing the motion filed by Kanu Agabi (SAN), Saraki's lawyer, may contradict other provisions in Section 3G of the same schedule.
Paragraph 3E of the Constitution's Third Schedule states that the Bureau shall have power to “receive complaints about non-compliance with or breach of the provisions of the Code of Conduct or any law in relation thereto, investigate the complaint and, where appropriate, refer such matters to the Code of Conduct Tribunal.”
While, Paragraph 3G states that the Bureau shall “carry out such other functions as may be conferred upon it by the National Assembly.”
With an act being a piece of legislation enacted by the National Assembly, Section 3 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, as passed by the National Assembly, clearly spells out in detail the functions of the CCB/CCT to be as follows:
- To receive assets declarations by public officers;
- To examine such assets and ensure that they comply with the law;
- To retain custody of such assets declarations; and most importantly:
- To “receive complaints about non-compliance with or breach of this Act and where the Bureau considers it necessary to do so, refer such complaints to the Code of Conduct Tribunal established by section 20 of this Act in accordance with the provisions of sections 20 to 25 of this Act.”
This last clause of the aforementioned paragraph is premised on the fact that “the person concerned makes a written admission of such breach or noncompliance, no reference to the Tribunal shall necessary.”
Many will remember that at the sitting of the court on Friday, March 18th, Kanu Agabi, a former Attorney-General of the Federation and Saraki's lawyer, told the court to dismiss the charges against Saraki, based on the precedent set in “The Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN) v Tinubu (2011).” However, in what judicial officers describe as an outright case of self-indictment, at the Thursday, March 24th sitting of the court, Umar stated that “The tribunal has since realised that the decision it made on the case between FRN vs Tinubu was in error and has clearly departed from it.”
According to a Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ile-Ife who pleaded for anonymity, the CCT's self-admission calls into question the character and the competency of the tribunal to adjudicate this case that many believe is borne from political malice. Additionally, the Professor, who is familiar with the processes in the case mentioned that Nigerian must ask three fundamental questions as the case continues.
“The truth is, I do not know what kind of judge admits to giving a judgement in error, and still gets to keep his seat without the intervention of a higher court,” the Professor said. “We must begin to ask if Umar was under duress when he delivered the Tinubu judgement, or whether he was not familiar with the law at the time, or whether he is attempting to set an inexplicable and illegitimate legal precedent right now just to punish Bukola Saraki at all costs.”
Observers of the CCT proceedings, like one Nkami Egbunu, mentioned that Umar's reading of the ruling on the motion on Thursday, left many people asking questions.
“What surprised me the most,” Ms. Egbunu said, “Is that as soon as Justice Umar started reading out his judgement, he began to stammer, stutter, and stumble through many words in his own ruling. Who makes multiple mistakes on something that he wrote with his own hands? Who cannot pronounce words that he put in his own judgement?”
Egbunu went on to state that “The way the judgement was read yesterday, did not give anyone any confidence that he [Umar] wrote that judgment. To further strengthen this argument, the judgement was not handed to the clerk of the tribunal after its reading – making me believe that some mago-mago was at play.”
As it stands, with the ruling of the court and in the absence of an appeal thus far by Saraki's lawyers, the Senate President's trial has been slated for Wednesday, March 6th, 2016, where the prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, has said that he has a handful of witness ready to testify for the Federal Government. Meanwhile, Saraki through his lawyers has stated that he is ready to have his day in court and clear his name from what he has described as “malicious charges.”
***China Chime is a Writer and Activist from the East.