The much awaited, talked about ruling of Justice Abdukadir Abdu-Kafarati of a Fedetal High Court, Abuja, in a suit filed by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, under the fundamental human rights enforcement rules, came to a climax Friday as the court ruled that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
Kafarati said the suit constituted an abuse of court process.
He upheld the objection by counsel to EFCC Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) and ICPC Suleiman Abdulkarim that the issue of political objective in the prosecution is “‘sentiment’ and not based on law.”
He ruled, “A careful examination of the reliefs sought showed that if granted it will amount to interference with the powers of the respondents.
“The prayers are not captured under Chapter 4 of the Constitution.
“I cannot also do anything that will interfere with the powers of the respondents to prosecute crimes which the Constitution has given them the power to do.
“Since the apex court has ruled that the prosecution of the applicant before the Code of Conduct Tribunal is in order it is not appropriate for the respondents to approach this court to seek reliefs quashing the charges.”
With these words Justice Kafarati finally nailed the coffin of the Senate President to continue with his defence at the Danladi Umar led CCT.
The Judge, who upheld the respondents’ preliminary objection to the suit without considering the merit of the case, ruled that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit as the prayers sought were not available under Chapter 4 (which deals with fundamental human rights) of the Constitution.
The Judge said with the Supreme Court having earlier validated his trial before the CCT and Saraki having filed similar application before the CCT, his court cannot go against such ruling.
Thus, the court ruled that granting the prayers sought by Saraki, would amount to interfering with the powers granted the respondents to investigate crimes and prosecute offenders.
The Judge also maintained that the allegation of political humiliation on which the suit was anchored was merely a sentiment that lacked legal basis.
The Judge recalled that as of the time of hearing the suit, the applicant had filed an application before the CCT asking for similar prayers as contained in the suit.
“If I go ahead to grant the reliefs it will be in conflict with the decision of the Code of Conduct Tribunal,” the Judge ruled.
“In view of the above findings I hold that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit because the reliefs are not available under Chapter 4 of the Constitution.
“The originating motion constitutes an abuse of court process.
“The suit is liable to be dismissed and it is accordingly dismissed”, he ruled.
Meanwhile, Saraki’s counsel Oluyede has indicated intention to appeal the verdict of the court at the Appeal Court.
On March 22, when Kafarati was to give judgment on the issue, he disqualified himself, saying no matter whose side the judgment favoured he would be accused of favouritism.
This he claimed was based on an online media report that accused him of a kind of special bond between him and Saraki’s lawyer, Prince Ajibola Oluyede.
The Judge, who quoted copiously the online reports, said he had been caught between two devils.
“If I grant the prayers of the applicant, the reading public will say yes, the judge has been compromised. If I refuse the prayers, they will say the judge has been threatened or intimidated.
“The most honourable thing for me to do is to disqualify myself from this case. I hereby disqualify myself from this case and the file is returned to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for re-assignment”, he had said.
According to the online paper, “Justice Kafarati and Saraki’s Prince Oloyede have always partnered to assist the rich and powerful to abort the efforts of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and other security agencies seeking to bring some highly-connected Nigerians to justice”
However, Oluyede on March 23, wrote the Chief Judge of Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, demanding that he prevailed on Justice Kafarati to deliver his withheld judgment, no matter who benefits.
Oluyede said: “It is our argument in the suit that the Code of Conduct Tribunal cannot act independently the way it is currently constituted because we believe It’s Chairman, Danladi Umar, who is currently under investigation by the EFCC, cannot be independent in deciding a case being prosecuted before him by the EFCC.
“We have also contended that the EFCC, by admitting that the investigation of the case against our client was done by a special task force, as against the requirement by the provision in Schedule 3 of the Constitution, has usurped the exclusive duties of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB). It is on that basis we argued that our client cannot get justice under the current arrangement and asked the court to quash the charge,” Oluyede said.
He stated further, “Although one cannot but sympathise with the hard-working Judges, who are victims of these vicious attacks, nevertheless, we find ourselves in disagreement with his (Justice Kafarati) that the interest of justice would be served by his withholding of his judgment and returning the matter tofurther your Lordship for reassignment”
After reviewing the case Justice Auta prevailed on Kafarati to revise himself and deliver the judgment.
Saraki had approached Justice Kafarati to disqualify Umar to trial him on allegations of false assets declaration, hinging his argument that Umar is being investigated by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
According to Saraki through his lawyer, his trial before the CCT, as currently constituted was a violation of his right and that there was no way he could get justice.
It was also Saraki’s contention that, while the EFCC was currently investigating Umar for alleged bribery and at the same time prosecuting him (Saraki) before the Tribunal he (Umar) heads, it was impossible for the CCT Chairman to do justice and act independently in his (Saraki’s) case.