You Can't Try Me, Tinubu tells Tribunal
Former Lagos Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu yesterday said the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) lacks the jurisdiction to try him for allegedly operating foreign accounts while in office.
Besides, his lead counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), said he was not invited for questioning by the Code of Conduct of Bureau (CCB) as was in the case of other former governors who have been excluded from trial.
CCB Chairman Sam Saba had on September 27 told reporters in Abuja that some of the former governors earlier accused of breaching the oath of public office had made some refunds; hence their exclusion from trial.
“Tinubu has not been singled out for trial; it is an ongoing process. You will also note that some of those governors at that time made some refund to the federal government. Somebody like Saminu Turaki made refunds to the federal government and so it is an ongoing exercise,” he said.
Saba did not name the others and how much they refunded.
The Tribunal Chairman, Justice Danladi Yakubu Umar, lambasted the prosecution for not informing the panel that an earlier charge against Tinubu had been a subject of appeal at the Court of Appeal, Abuja.
The prosecution at the last sitting withdrew the charge and filed an amended charge with the same particulars.
Turning to prosecution counsel Alex Iziyon (SAN), Justice Umar said: “You mean this happened and you did not bring it to our attention?”
Olanipekun argued that the amended charge constitutes an abuse of court process.
Justice Umar apologised to Tinubu's teeming supporters for the treatment meted out to them by the security personnel at the last sitting.
The National Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) arrived at 9:20a.m. Justice Umar came in around 9:40a.m.
The sitting started at 10:30a.m., with an apology from Justice Umar for the complaints received on the alleged intimidation of Tinubu's supporters by security agents.
At the tribunal yesterday were Governors Raji Fashola (Lagos), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun) and Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti).
Senators Femi Lanlehin, Babafemi Ojudu, Sola Adeyeye, Jide Omoworare, Gbenga Ashafa, John Akpanudoedehe and Oloruninmbe Mamora were fthere.
Others are Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Mr Demola Seriki, Tinubu's wife, Senator Remi, ACN FCT Chairman Farouk Osuma, Benue ACN Chairman Abba Yaro and CPC Senator Abu Ibrahim.
Fashola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) who appeared in solidarity with his predecessor, sat with other SANs and senior lawyers in the first row.
Besides Olanipekun, other lawyers defending Tinubu are former NBA President Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN),Charles Edosomwan (SAN), Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), Dele Belgore (SAN),Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), Kabiru Turaki (SAN), Emeka Ngige (SAN), Deji Sasegbon (SAN), Dele Adesina (SAN), Mrs. Jumoke Anifowoshe and Dr. Tunji Abayomi.
Others are: Mr. Femi Falana, Alhaji Lai Mohammed,Tunde Braimoh, Muiz Banire, Oye Akintola, Funso Olukoga, E. Okara, Dapo Akin Osun, M. I Komolafe, Toke Benson Awoyinka, Sola Iji, Gana Haruna, Lanre Obadina, Bimpe Awogbomogun, R.O. Oloyede, T.C. Okafor, Aisha Ali, Abdulmajid Oniyangi, Samuel Abba, Gbenga Adeyemi, Soji Olowolafe, Joshua Alogbu and Uche Onyeagocha.
There were three security checks yesterday, a departure from the seven security checks mounted at the last sitting.
The number of security personnel also reduced a great deal. This may not be unconnected with the complaints received at the last sitting.
However, supporters and other court users were compelled to identify themselves before being allowed into the Tribunal chamber.
In the motion brought pursuant to Sections 36(6) (a) (b), 36 (12) and paragraph 15 of the Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution; Section 3 and paragraph 1 of the third Schedule of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, Olanipekun argued that the amended charge constitutes an abuse of court process.
He urged the panel of three Justices to quash and/or strike out the three-count amended charge filed on September 20 against Tinubu by the Complainant/Respondent.
He also prayed for:
*an order discharging the Applicant (Tinubu); and
*such further order or orders as the Tribunal may deem fit to make in the circumstances.
In the application, which was accompanied by an 11-paragraph affidavit and predicated on 10 grounds, Olanipekun said what the Tribunal stated in the charge by the Complanant is not known to the 1999 Constitution.
Besides, he argued that the condition precedent before a person could be charged before a Tribunal had not been met.
“The mandatory conditions precedent for the referral of complaints by the Code of Conduct Bureau to the Code of Conduct Tribunal and the subsequent exercise of jurisdiction by the said Tribunal have not been complied with,” he said.
Olanipekun referred to Section 3 of the CCB and Tribunal Act, which states that “where the person concerned makes a written admission of such breach or non-compliance, no reference to the Tribunal shall be necessary”.
He said: “What the prosecution is doing is to put something on nothing. They want it to stand; it will not stand; it will collapse like a pack of cards.”
“Where a person can make a written admission, there will be no need for trial. The applicant must be invited; there is no short-cut about this; it is paramount. It is fundamental. The CCB said it invited those other governors; if it is good for the goose of those governors, it must be good for their gander'.
“Your lordship will have to make findings if he was invited. The CCB does not have a coercive power, what it has is interactive power. Was he invited? On what day and who was the courier?
“Please, take note of the word several times stated in the counter-affidavit of the Complainant. They have not made any infraction of time.
“In their counter-affidavit, the deponent said 'I was informed by the Complainant through another person' but the Complainant, which is the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a jurisdic entity and not a natural person. It is only a natural person that can inform. Federal Republic of Nigeria is you and I; it is only a natural person that can inform and you believe. Nigeria cannot be an informant; the informant must bear his father's name.”
Olanipekun said “as at the time the Applicant came to the court, there were two charges against him”.
He described the amended charge as an abuse of court process.
Criticising the manner the complainant withdrew the first charge when the amended charge had already been filed, the lawyer said: “One does not sit within the confine of his office or home to say 'I withdraw'. Withdrawal has to be formal; there has to be pronouncements. Then, there will be a formal order either striking out or dismissing it. They cannot withdraw in our absence. This notice of withdrawal constitutes an abuse of court process; they filed it after receiving our motion.”
Olanipekun challenged the venue of the trial-Abuja. According to him, the trial should be in Lagos, where the alleged offence was committed.
Tinubu was not governor of Abuja, Olanipekun said, citing the case of former Delta Governor James Ibori where the Court of Appeal said trial should take place in the state and not anywhere else.
Olanipekun also argued that the charge disclosed no nexus between the people mentioned on the charge sheet and disclosed no information on the status of the foreign accounts referred to.
He said: “It is amorphous, nebulous; it is at large; there is nothing in it. When was the account opened? When was it operated? Looking at the charge, they mentioned some names; we don't know them. Criminal trial is not a hide-and-seek game; there cannot be trial by ambush. There is nothing in the charge before you showing the relationship between those mentioned in the charge.”
But Iziyon urged the court to dismiss the application.
He argued that jurisdiction is an administrative matter, adding that “it is premature to say we have not disclosed the nexus of the names on the charge”.
According to him, the CCB has the discretion on whether to charge an accused to Tribunal after making a written admission, adding that the Bureau is not under compulsion.
On the amended charge, Iziyon said what the Applicant, through his counsel, ought to have done is to challenge the leave granted to prefer the amended charge.
But the Tribunal Chairman, who overruled Iziyon, said the Complainant could not have been aware since it was done in the chamber.
Replying on point of law, Olanipekun urged the court to discountenance the complainant's submission.
He said there was nothing to show the form the Applicant filled and submitted to the CCB, stressing that it is not the duty of the applicant to do so.
The matter was adjourned till November 30 for ruling.