Cct Rejects Saraki’s Request For Adjournment As Trial Finally Begins
SAN FRANCISCO, April 05, (THEWILL) – The Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, on Tuesday rejected an application for an adjournment by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, stressing that his trial on 13 counts of false assets declaration cannot be stopped on the basis of the motion he filed at the Court of Appeal challenging the court’s jurisdiction to entertain the case.
The Justice Danladi Umar-led panel of the CCT ruled that the defendant's application for adjournment offended provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA 2015 after it took a stand-down to prepare its ruling having entertained argument and counter-argument on Saraki's application.
Citing relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution as amended as well as the ACJA 2015, Justice Umar ruled that notwithstanding the motion of Appeal which was acknowledged by the CCT, it was unjustifiable that the matter be adjourned as canvassed by the defendant and ordered for commencement of trial.
“Having listened to argument from Counsels, and considering the provisions of laws in the Constitution and Criminal Justice Act, 2015, especially on the powers of CCT in a case brought before it, I want to rule that trial should commence immediately,” the judge declared
When proceedings started at about 10:30am on Tuesday, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs SAN informed the tribunal that the matter was on March 24, adjourned till today for trial to commence, pointing out that his witness was in court and was ready for trial to commence.
But defence counsel, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN urged the tribunal to adjourn the case till a period after the hearing of his client's motion for stay of proceedings of the CCT which was filed before the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal only on Monday.
The defence had on Monday filed an appeal and an application for stay of the tribunal's proceedings before the Court of Appeal against the CCT's ruling delivered on March 24, 2014, dismissing Saraki's application challenging the jurisdiction of the CCT to hear the case.
Usoro gave the appeal number as CA/A/172C/2016, adding that the appeal court had fixed April 26 for the hearing of his client's motion for stay of proceedings. The defence then filed and served on the prosecution another motion for stay of proceedings before the tribunal.
“Our prayer is for an adjournment not for stay of proceedings. We are asking for an adjournment based on our motion filed before the Court of Appeal for stay of proceedings of the trial before this tribunal,” Usoro said.
But Jacobs countered the application for adjournment saying it had the same implication as a motion for stay of proceedings which he said had been prohibited by section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
He faulted the records of proceedings of the CCT compiled by the defence for the purpose of prosecuting their appeal on the grounds that it was not done in accordance with the law.
The prosecuting counsel maintained that the defence only decided to file their appeal and motion for stay of proceedings on the eve of the day scheduled for commencement of trial in order to ensure that the trial was stalled.
He added that section 306 of the ACJA having stipulated that no application for stay of proceedings should be entertained; the motion filed by Saraki asking for stay of proceedings was illegal.
“Nothing can be built on an illegal process. You can't build something on nothing. They will both crumble,” Jacobs said, stressing that both motions asking for stay of proceedings filed before the tribunal and the CCT itself constituted an abuse of court process.
Jacobs, who noted that the matter had been adjourned more than five times at Saraki's instance, since the commencement of the case last September, said: “This has become too much. My lord should refuse this application for adjournment.”