Saraki’s Trial at CCT: Tempers Flare as Counsel Engage in Legal Fireworks

Legal Fireworks reached a boiling point on Wednesday as efforts by the Senate President Bukola Saraki to stall his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) was resisted fiercely by the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs.
Counsel to Saraki, Paul Erokoro tried to stop the re-examination of the third prosecution witness in the 13-count charge preferred against the Senate President by the Federal Government.
He was frustrated when the Chairman of the Tribunal, Danladi Umar over ruled his objection .
It got to a point that physical combat seemed to be the way out as both counsel charged at each other. This made the situation unruly inside the court room, that the proceedings lasted more than necessary.
Chief Kanu Agabi in the defence team had asked the Tribunal why it would alliw Jacobs to determine trend of proceedings, a statement Jacobs vehemently objected to, saying Kanu was pitching him against Saraki’s supporters.
Umar had to interven and urged the counsel to eschew personal attacks, adding they were friends and not enemies.
The Federal Government is prosecuting Saraki over allegations bordering on false and improper declaration of assets allegedly acquired during his tenure as Governor of Kwara State from 2003-2011.
In his re-examination, counsel to the Federal Government, Jacobs asked the prosecution witness, Samuel Madojemu to clarify his evidence during cross examination that contradicted what was said in his evidence in chief .
Rotimi specifically asked Madojemu, who is the head of Intelligence and Investigation Unit of the CCB to explain what he meant by saying that the column in the form prepared by the Code of Conduct Bureau for assets declaration does not include mortgage, debit card, credit card, cash lodgment.
Immediately the question was asked, Erokoro, who led the defence team for the Senate President objected to the line of questioning, adding that, “The witness cannot be asked to explain, add to, contradict or to vary the content of CCB 1 (the assets declaration form).
He said the CCB 1 prepared by the Bureau amounts to official proceedings being reduced to a form of evidence as contained in Section 128 (1) of the Evidence Act and added that the wording in the asset declaration form of the defendant, which was tendered as exhibit is clear and unambiguous.
Erokoro then asked the Tribunal to stop the prosecution from the line of re-examination.
In his submissions, Jacobs urged the Tribunal to ignore the objection, adding that the question he asked the witness has to do with the evidence he gave in his evidence in chief and during cross examination.
He said the question was not intended to vary or amend the content of any document and that Section 128 of the Evidence Act is not an inhibition to the prosecution as the prosecution is entitled to ask question to clear any contradiction to the evidence given during cross examination.
Jacobs said there are even exceptions to Section 128, which he noted allows oral evidence where issues of crime, fraud, illegality and intimidation are involved.
Chairman of the Tribunal, in his ruling dismissed the objection of the defence counsel and asked the prosecution to continue with his question to the witness, which he noted do not fall within the purview of Section 128 of the Evidence Act.
When the same question was put forward to the witness, he said every declarant is required by law to declare his assets/liability, and that of his wife, who is not a public officer and that of his children below the age of 18 years, honestly within 90 days of the receipt of the asset declaration form.
The witness told the Tribunal that Saraki filled the same CCB asset declaration form other public officers filled.
The Tribunal adjourned till April 18, 2017 for continuation of trial.

Author: News Editor

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