By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—The Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, sitting in Abuja, yesterday, declined request for an indefinite adjournment on the 13-count criminal charge pending against the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
The Justice Danladi Umar-led tribunal refused the application which Saraki made yesterday through his lawyer, Mr. Mahmud Magaji (SAN).
However, the tribunal adjourned the case till November 5 to await the outcome of the appeal that the embattled Senate President lodged before the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal.
Meanwhile, at the resumed sitting of the CCT yesterday, Saraki, who stormed the court with 34 Senators and 50 lawyers, initially declined to mount the dock, anchoring his decision on the fact that a higher court is already seized with the res of the case against him.
However, he was eventually compelled to enter the dock by the tribunal sequel to an application by the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN).
Jacobs said: “My Lords, when a matter is called where arraignment has taken place, the first thing is for the accused person to go into the dock. I, therefore, apply that the accused be directed to move into the dock.”
Relying on Section 122 of the Evidence Act, Saraki’s lawyer, Mahmud Magaji (SAN), argued that CCT was empowered to take judicial notice of the proceeding pending before the Court of Appeal.
He told the tribunal that the higher court had already heard the appeal and reserved its judgment.
“My Lords, going by Supreme Court decision in FRN vs Ibekwe, a situation like this, the lower court has to exercise certain restraint and await the outcome of the decision of the Appeal Court,” Magaji insisted.
His argument was countered by the prosecuting counsel, Jacobs, who maintained that Saraki could only draw the attention of the tribunal from the dock.
The tribunal upheld Federal Government’s position and directed Saraki to mount the dock yesterday.
“The accused person must take his proper place,” Justice Umar ruled.
At that juncture, Saraki, who was sandwiched by over 34 senators that attended the proceeding yesterday, entered the accused box.
The prosecuting counsel, thereafter, notified the tribunal about what had transpired between Saraki and Federal Government at the Appeal Court.
He told the court that Saraki had on October 6, filed a notice of appeal before the appellate court.
Jacobs stated that though the appellate court previously slated October 19 to deliver its verdict on whether or not Saraki’s trial should go on.
He said: “That day, we went to court by 2p.m. and were told that the judgment was not ready.
“In view of the fact that we are still awaiting the judgment of the appeal court, there is need for the prosecution to respect the integrity of the court of appeal and to uphold the best practice of the profession.
“Since the higher court said it would deliver the verdict within the next one week, we urge your lordships to adjourn this matter by giving us two weeks to come back.
“We are not unmindful of the section that provided that this kind of case should not be stayed. But in any event that this tribunal overrule us, we want to put it on record that our witnesses are here and are ready to testify.”
While supporting FG’s request, Saraki’s counsel urged the tribunal to also toe the line of the appellate court and adjourn the case indefinitely.
Ruling on the issue, Justice Umar declined to grant indefinite adjournment as he was prayed to do by Saraki, saying he would only allow the parties to return before the tribunal in the next two weeks.
“Adjourning the matter indefinitely will not be right as the defendant (Saraki) may likely become too relaxed. Let us do what is right,” Justice Umar held.
The tribunal then fixed November 5 and 6 for the parties to return to report the outcome of the appeal and for hearing of the case against Saraki.