The Code of Conduct Tribunal has said trial of the Senate President,. Bukola Saraki, should continue immediately.
In a ruling this after, Tuesday, the Danladi Umar-led panel of the CCT gave the order after listening to bother Prosecution and defence lawyers’ arguments for and against.
Indeed, the trial has commenced.The first prosecution witness who is testifying against the Senate President is Micheal Wetas a Detective with the EFCC.
The defence team led by Paul Usoro (SAN) had earlier Tuesday morning pleaded for adjournment.
Usoro had 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 only 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 said
He 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.
“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 the prosection lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), opposed 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.
Jacobs 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 ACJ Act 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.
Jacobs said both motions asking for stay of proceedings filed before the Tribunal and the CCT itself constituted an abuse of court process.
He said under section 396 of the ACJ Act which provides a party in a criminal case was only entitled to adjournment not more than six times.
According to him, since the commencement of the case in September last year, the matter had been adjourned more than five times at Saraki’s instance.
“This has become too much. My lord should refuse this application for adjournment,” Jacobs said.
However, Umar agreed with Jacobs and ruled that the defendant’s application for adjournment offended provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
This was after the CCT has said that it needed 15 minutes to decide whether or not to grant Saraki’s prayer
The CCT had slammed a 13-count charge of corruption on Saraki on September 11, 2015.
In charge number ABT/01/15, Saraki is accused of offences ranging from anticipatory declaration of assets to making false declaration of assets in forms he filed before the Code of Conduct Bureau while he was governor of Kwara state.
According to the charges, the Senate President is also accused of failing to declare some assets he acquired while in office as governor.
Among other offences, including allegedly acquiring assets beyond his legitimate earnings. Saraki is also accused of operating foreign accounts while being a public officer – governor and senator.
The offences, the charge said, violated sections of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended.
Saraki is also said to have breached Section 2 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act and punishable under paragraph 9 of the said Fifth Schedule of the Constitution.
The charges were prepared by M.S. Hassan, a deputy director in the office of the Attorney General of the Federation.
However, Saraki has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.