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Friday, 13 November 2015

Supreme Court Directs Code of Conduct Tribunal To Suspend Saraki’s Trial

The Supreme Court yesterday directed the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) to suspend proceedings in the trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki.
It asked the CCT to “tarry awhile” and await its decision in the appeal by Saraki.

The directive by the five-man bench, led by Justice John Fabiyi, followed an undertaking by the respondents’ lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) that since the court had granted accelerated hearing in the appeal, he would prevail on the CCT not to proceed with the trial until the apex court pronounced on Saraki’s appeal.
“The appellant’s brief of argument was filed yesterday (November 11). The respondents’ brief of argument shall be filed within seven days from today. If need be, the appellant’s reply brief shall be filed within seven days thereafter.
“This points to the fact that both parties are interested in expeditious hearing of the main appeal before this court.
“Learned counsel for the respondents has given an undertaking that no unusual steps will be taken on behalf of the respondents. It is imperative to say that parties and the chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) should tarry awhile.
“In effect, further proceedings before the Code of Conduct Tribunal should be stayed, pending the hearing of the main appeal. Hearing date shall be communicated to the parties in due course,” Justice Fabiyi said in a ruling that was adopted by other members of the panel.
Jacobs and Saraki’s lawyer, Joseph Daudu (SAN) argued the Senate President’s application for a stay of proceedings pending the determination of the appeal.
While Daudu prayed the court to order a stay of proceedings at the CCT, Jacobs argued otherwise, contending that Saraki was only interested in frustrating his trial before the tribunal by filing multiple applications in courts.
Jacobs, however, said he was willing to prevail on the CCT to suspend Saraki’s trial until the conclusion of his appeal, if the Supreme Court would grant accelerated hearing in the case and fix a date for the hearing of the appeal.
He said a similar arrangement was made while parties were awaiting the judgment of the Court of Appeal in an earlier appeal by Saraki.
Based on the undertaking by Jacobs not to take any further steps in the trial, pending the determination of the appeal, Justice Fabiyi ordered an accelerated hearing and directed parties and the CCT Chairman, Danladi Umar, (who is a respondent in the appeal), to “tarry awhile” and await the outcome of the appeal.
On October 30, a three-man bench of the Court of Appeal, by a split decision of two-to-one, dismissed Saraki’s appeal in which he challenged the CCT’s decision to assume jurisdiction over his trial on a 13-count charge of false assets declaration.
He raised seven grounds in his appeal before the Supreme Court.
One of the grounds raised by Saraki was that the Court of Appeal erred in law when it affirmed the competence of the CCT to conduct his trial with only two members as against the three provided for in Paragraph 15(1) of the Fifth Schedule to the 1999 Constitution.
Saraki faulted the majority decision of the Appeal Court where it held that there was lacuna regarding the quorum of the tribunal.
He faulted the Court of Appeal’s reliance on the Interpretation Act to hold that two of the constitutionally-prescribed three members of the tribunal could validly sit, arguing that it “is to circumvent and reduce the number prescribed by the Constitution for the due composition of the CCT.”
Saraki faulted the majority decision of the Appeal Court that the CCT was a court of limited criminal jurisdiction and that the charges were validly initiated in the absence of the Attorney-General of the Federation.
He argued that the Appeal Court erred when it held that he (Saraki) was properly served with the charges, when his lawyers only filed a conditional appearance before a bench warrant was issued against him (Saraki) by the CCT.
He faulted the Appeal Court for not agreeing that the tribunal violated the order of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which he said, directed the tribunal to show cause why the proceedings against Saraki should not be halted.
Saraki contended that the Court of Appeal erred in law when it held that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 could be adopted by the CCT for its proceedings.
In his application for a stay of proceedings, Saraki sought “an order staying further proceedings in Charge No: CCT/ABJ/01/2015 between the Federal Republic of Nigeria vs Dr. Olubukola Abubakar Saraki fixed for hearing on November 5 and 6, pending the determination of the appeal before the Supreme Court against the judgment of the Court of Appeal dated October 30, 2015.”
Adekola Olawoye, a member of Saraki’s legal team, said in a 17-paragraph supporting affidavit “that it will be in the interest of justice to stay proceedings at the CCT in order not to foist on the appellant/applicant (Saraki), a fait accompli (a state of helplessness) if the appeal before the Supreme Court is upheld.

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