Three Senior Advocates of Nigeria,SAN, Mahmoud Magagi, Ahmed Raji, and Abimbola Isah, all counsel to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in his trial over false assets declaration on Thursday staged a walk out on the Code of Conduct Tribunal sitting in Abuja over perceived alleged bias by the Tribunal Chairman, Danladi Umar.
The agrieved SANs, who were accompanied by over 100 other lawyers, withdrew their services in the case against Saraki over what they perceived as open bias against the Senate President and the display of what they described as “judicial rascality” by Umar in his handling of the case.
The decision of the senior lawyers followed the decision of Umar who ruled that he would not stay the trial in spite of the pending appeal filed by Saraki at the Supreme Court challenging his trial at the tribunal.
Magaji, who first announced his withdrawal, told the tribunal chairman that going ahead with the prosecution amounted to “daring and prejudicing the Supreme Court in the pending appeal.”
“As a Senior Counsel in the bar and a minister in the temple of justice, i will not wish to be part of illegality and affront to the apex court,” Magaji said.
Also announcing his withdrawal, Raji said the tribunal chairman was setting a bad precedent by sitting on the same issue with the Supreme Court at the same time.
According to him, apart from the law and practice, it was the tradition of respect that when the Supreme Court has been invited into a matter, the lower court will as a matter of tradition, allow the apex court decide the matter first before taking over.
“In my capacity as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, I have not seen where this kind of conduct will be exhibited against the apex court of the country”.
“The action of the Code of Conduct Tribunal is an affront to the Constitution and to the Supreme Court and from my own side, I will not wish to be part of this act”.
“I find it most impossible to sit down here and participate in a proceeding whose legality is being challenged at the Supreme Court,” Raji said.
The Street Journal gathered that the Senate President’s legal team was set to send a petition to the National Judicial Council (NJC) to protest the alleged biased conduct of the tribunal in the trial.
Earlier, Magaji and Raji had asked the tribunal to stay proceedings in the case, pending the Supreme Court’s determination of the appeal brought before it.
Umar, however, dismissed their application for adjournment and agreed with the prosecution counsel Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, that the trial must go on.
The tribunal chairman,in a short ruling, held that the action of the defence was a ploy to delay the trial, adding that the arguments canvassed by Saraki’s lawyers had been overtaken by the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 which he said, gave no room for delay in trial.
Umar adjourned the case till November 19 for trial.