As we chronicled on Benconews.com on Monday, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki’s battle to prevent his appearance before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) collapsed in two different courts.
His lawyers, Joseph Daudu (SAN) and Adebayo Adelodun (SAN), argued strongly against his appearance at the CCT where he is charged with alleged false declaration of assets, but the tribunal restated its order that the Inspector General of Police and other security agencies should arrest Saraki and produce him before the tribunal at 10am today.
The Court of Appeal, Abuja before which Adelodun argued an ex-parte application for an order setting aside the warrant of arrest issued on Friday against Saraki refused the application.
It ordered Saraki to put the respondents on notice and fixed September 29 for the hearing of his substantive appeal.
At the Federal High Court, Abuja where Adelodun equally argued another motion on behalf of Saraki, for an order restraining the CCT and the Ministry of Justice from proceeding with the Senate President’s trial, Justice Ahmed Mohammed refused to grant the order. He adjourned till September 30 for the hearing of Saraki’s pending substantive suit and the objection filed against it by the respondents.
At the resumption of proceedings yesterday before the tribunal, prosecution lawyer Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) on noticing that Saraki was absent, urged the tribunal to inquire from his lawyer, Joseph Daudu (SAN), why his client was absent despite the undertaking he gave on Friday to produce Saraki in court today.
Jacobs said he prevailed on his client not to execute the bench warrant on account of the undertaking by Daudu. He said he was taken aback that Daudu failed to fulfill his promise.
When asked by Justice Danladi Umar at the Tribunal why his client was absent despite his (Daudu’s) promise to produce him, Daudu said he was not sure the tribunal actually expected him to produce his client.
He said his client would not appear before the tribunal because he was challenging the tribunal’s jurisdiction to hear the charge and that the tribunal was not properly constituted in view of the absence of one of the three judges.
Daudu argued that since the Code of Conduct Bureau/Tribunal Act (CCB/TA) provided that the tribunal must comprise three judges, including a Chairman, it was illegal for it to sit with just a member and a Chairman.
“Whatever is being done here is illegal. I will not want my client to be part of this illegality. You are sitting illegally. Let us put a stop to this,” Daudu said.
Daudu also urged the tribunal to stay proceedings and await the outcome of an appeal his client filed against the tribunal’s ruling of Friday in which it ordered Saraki’s arrest for not attending proceedings.
He also argued that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, which makes it compulsory for every accused person to first submit himself or herself before a court and take plea before raising an objection to a charge, was not applicable to the tribunal.
Jacobs faulted Daudu’s argument, insisting that the tribunal was properly constituted. He argued that the CCB/TA only provided for the constitution of the tribunal, but that Section 28 of the Interpretation Act, which has the force of law by virtue of the provision of Section 318 of the Constitution, provides that two members of the tribunal form a quorum.
Jacobs argued that the tribunal could not stop its business just because Saraki filed an appeal. “The Supreme Court has held that where you feel the proceedings are wrong, you do not sit in your house to challenge the propriety or not. You should come before the court,” Jacobs said.
Ruling, Justice Umar said the tribunal disagreed with Saraki’s lawyer, Daudu’s submissions.
“A cursory look at the 3rd Schedule of the Code of Conduct Tribunal Procedure Sub-Section C17 provides that the Criminal procedure Code (CPC) and the Criminal procedure Act (CPA), are the laws applicable to the tribunal.
“It therefore follows that by the introduction of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, the tribunal is duty-bound to apply the new ACJA as a law, because it says that the CPC and CPA are no longer valid by the introduction of the ACJA.
“The defence counsel has prayed this tribunal to dispense with the appearance of the accused person and the application of the ACJA on the premise that it is not applicable to the tribunal.
“We have decided to take the position that in the interest of the administration of justice, that the accused person is to be made or compelled to appear before this tribunal consequently. That is the generally acceptable norm – that matters involving criminal element, the accused person must attend court.”
Sources in Abuja told Benconews.com that some senators are joining Saraki to the Tribal