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Saturday, 12 March 2016

Saraki’s Tral stalled again

The scheduled commencement of the trial of Senate President  Bukola Saraki by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) was put on hold again yesterday, courtesy of a  fresh  motion he filed challenging the tribunal’s jurisdiction.

Saraki was arraigned before the tribunal last year on a 13-count charge of alleged false declaration of assets.
It had fixed March 10 for the commencement of trial, following the dismissal of Saraki’s appeal by the  Supreme Court on February 5 this year.
Saraki’s new lawyer,Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN), however, sought a shift in the date, prompting the tribunal to fix yesterday for trial.
When counsel representing the parties in the case arrived the tribunal yesterday, prosecution lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), told the court that he was ready for the commencement of trial and that his witnesses were in court.
Responding, Agabi informed the court about a fresh motion he had  filed, challenging the tribunal’s jurisdiction.
He said the motion was served on the Federal Ministry of Justice and not personally on the prosecution lawyer.
Jacobs protested what he described as a wrong service of the new motion by the defence, arguing that it was part of the ploy by the defendants to prevent the commencement of trial.
He noted that while Agabi directed the letter, requesting the rescheduling of the resumption of proceedings to him (Jacobs), he (Agabi) chose not to serve him the fresh motion.
Jacobs noted that the issue raised in the new motion had been decided earlier by the tribunal and up to the Supreme Court.
He said the Supreme Court’s judgment in the similar motion by Saraki has since been reported and cited as “ Saraki vs FRN: SC 2016 NWLR at page 531.
His words:”The Supreme Court even said the conduct of the counsel was to harass and intimidate this warrant. I was not served with any motion until now. When he sought an adjournment, he copied me. Then, he now filed a motion and decided to serve it on the Ministry of Justice, my client.
“I submit that this is a deliberate attempt to scuttle this trial and prevent the prosecution from proceeding to trial in this case.
“This is the same person who is saying that he is being persecuted and that there is no case against him. He is telling the whole world that there is no case against him. He is saying the state is persecuting him, yet he does not want us to present our case.
“Justice is not for the defence alone. The defendant is attacking us and claiming that there is no case against him, yet he does not want the case to go on.”
Jacobs, who said he was unduly being harassed and subjected to pressure in relation to his involvement in the case, noted that the decision of the defendant to hire Agabi, who he described as his mentor, was part of his strategy to keep him under pressure.
Jacobs said:” I have integrity. My integrity is at stake. I have been involved in the past in the prosecution of former governors and a former Inspector General of Police (IGP). I have not received this kind of attack, pressure and trouble.
“The strategy of pulling down institutions and people is an issue this tribunal must address.”
He urged the tribunal to allow the prosecution open its case, arguing that under Section 368 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), the defence could raise objection at any stage in the case, but that the tribunal is empowered to reserve its decision which it could give with the judgment.
Responding, Agabi apologised for the service of his fresh motion on Jacobs’ client. He blamed the error on the fact that he was new in the case.
He sought a date for the hearing of the motion, arguing that it was the law that once a motion is filed, even if it is frivolous, the court must hear it and pronounce on it.
Tribunal Chairman, Danladi Umar, adjourned to March 18 for the hearing of Saraki’s new motion and possible commencement of trial.
He directed Jacobs and Agabi to file all necessary papers before then. He also directed that henceforth, all processes should be served on the prosecution lawyer in person.
Saraki, in the new motion filed on March 4, wants the court to quash the charge against him or strike it out and discharge him of the offences on the ground, among others, that the tribunal lacks jurisdiction to try him.
He argued that the process leading to his arraignment was wrong and that he was denied fair hearing.
“The facts relating to these matters are no longer fresh in my memory, quite apart from the fact that I have lost many of my records pertaining to them. The charge does not serve the public interest and constitutes a gross abuse of the legal process,” Saraki claimed.
These are mainly issues he had exhausted in his appeal which the Supreme Court dismissed on February 5 and ordered him (Saraki) to submit himself for trial before the CCT.
Although the tribunal commenced sitting yesterday by 10.05am, Saraki and his supporting Senators arrived the tribunal around 9.50am.
Some of the Senators  at the proceedings included Stella Oduah, Dino Melaye, Samuel Anyanwu, Ike Ekweremadu, Danjuma Goje, Tayo Alasoadura, Ben Bruce and Ali Ndume.

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