•It’s politically motivated witch-hunt – Saraki
•Appeal court to deliver judgement Monday
•El-Rufai, four others to testify at CCT Oct 21
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
THE Federal Government, yesterday, told the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja that it has garnered sufficient evidence to establish that the Senate President, Dr. Olubukola Saraki, as a public officer, acquired several assets beyond his legitimate earnings.
The prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, equally told the appellate court that five witnesses lined-up against the Senate President, have all expressed their readiness to appear before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, on October 21, to testify and tender exhibits against Saraki.
It will be recalled that among those that the Federal Government billed to give oral testimony against Saraki are former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory and current governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai.
El-Rufai is expected to testify that he was the one who sold one of the assets that Saraki bought in Abuja which the government alleged he failed to list among the assets he acquired while in office as the governor of Kwara State.
The prosecution also told the court that Saraki has already been furnished with all the proofs of evidence against him, including copies of four separate assets declaration forms that he earlier submitted before the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB.
Jacobs urged the appellate court to dismiss the appeal that Saraki lodged before it and order him to go to the CCT and clear his name. He is also alleged to have owned and operated foreign bank accounts while being a public officer.
Saraki, in his appeal, has challenged the legal propriety of the 13-count criminal charge preferred against him by the Federal Ministry of Justice.
Protect me from politically motivated witch-hunt, Saraki begs Appeal Court
However, Saraki, aside challenging the charges, also queried the constitutionality of the warrant of arrest initially issued against him by Chairman of the CCT, Justice Danladi Umar.
Besides, the Senate President, through his team of lawyers led by a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Mr. J.B. Daudu, SAN, wants the higher court to ascertain whether or not the Justice Umar-led panel subscribed to the appropriate legal procedure when it ordered him to mount the dock and enter his plea to the charges despite preliminary objections against his trial.
He raised 12 grounds of appeal against the CCT, supported by a 16-paragraph affidavit and four exhibits. Saraki also deposed another 17-paragraphed affidavit of urgency, wherein he urged the higher court to intervene and protect him from what he described as “a politically motivated witch-hunt.”
He specifically urged the appellate court to suspend the proceeding of the tribunal pending the hearing and determination of the substantive appeal against the CCT.
A’Court refuses plea to stop CCT’s proceedings
However, at the resumed sitting yesterday, a three-man panel of judges led by Justice Moore Adumein , struck out Saraki’s application for a stay of further proceedings of the tribunal. It was the view of the panel that the application has been overtaken by events.
Earlier, Saraki had through his counsel, argued that the CCT erred in law by going ahead with the trial despite that fact that “it was not properly constituted.” He contended that whereas the Constitution provides for a three-man panel to sit over cases brought before the tribunal, he said that only two judges sat on September 22 when he was docked.
According to him, the composition of the tribunal was in violation of paragraphs 15(1) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
CCT wrong in assuming jurisdiction over the case – Saraki
Daudu maintained that the tribunal was wrong in assuming criminal jurisdiction against the Senate President when it was not listed in the Constitution as a superior court of record. He described the CCT as an “inferior court”, saying it does not in any way, share concurrent jurisdiction with the Federal High Court.
He therefore urged the Appeal Court to nullify the proceedings of the tribunal against Saraki and also set aside the criminal charges filed against him by the Federal Government. But the prosecution asked the appellate court to dismiss Saraki’s arguments as baseless and grossly lacking in merit.
Jacobs, argued that the tribunal was properly constituted and empowered to try the accused person. He urged the court to invoke the Interpretation Act to resolve the issue on whether the two-man panel had indeed formed a quorum as envisaged by the law.
More so, the prosecuting counsel submitted that the tribunal has criminal jurisdiction hence the use of words like “guilty” and “punishment” in the law that established it.
“We urge your lordships to dismiss this appeal and order the appellate to go before the CCT and face criminal charges against him. We have gathered enough evidence to prove that he made anticipatory assets declaration”, Rotimi added.
Court of Appeals to deliver verdict Oct 19
After listening to the parties, the court adjourned to Monday for judgement. Saraki was in the charge before the CCT, marked ABT/01/15 and dated September 11, 2015, alleged to have falsely declared his assets, contrary to the constitutional requirement.
He was accused of deliberately manipulating the assets declaration form that he filed prior to his assumption of office as the Senate President, by making anticipatory declaration of assets.
The offence was said to have been committed while Saraki was governor. He was also accused of breaching section 2 of the CCB and Tribunal Act, an offence punishable under section 23(2) of the Act and paragraph 9 of the said Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
The Federal Government alleged that Saraki claimed that he owned and acquired No 15A and 15B Mc Donald, Ikoyi, Lagos, through his company, Carlisle Properties Limited in 2000, when the said property was actually sold by the Implementation Committee of the Federal Government landed properties in 2006 to his companies, Tiny Tee Limited and Vitti Oil Limited for the aggregate sum of N396, 150, 000, 00.
He was alleged to have made false declaration on or about June 3, 2011, by refusing to declare plot 2A Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, which he acquired between 2007 and 2008 through his company from the Central Bank of Nigeria for a total sum of N325, 000, 000, 00.
Similarly, Saraki was said to have refused to declare No1 Tagnus street, Maitama, Abuja, which he claimed to have acquired in November 1996 from one David Baba Akawu.
Some of his alleged offence while in office as governor, which are said to be punishable under section 15(1) and (2) of the CCB and Tribunal Act, Cap C15, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, were allegedly committed between October 2006 and May 2007.
His actions were classified as a gross violation of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended.