By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Supreme Court has slated Thursday to hear the appeal that was lodged before it by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, challenging the Appeal Court judgment that okayed him for trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT.
Saraki is praying the apex court to set-aside the majority verdict of the appellate court panel delivered by Justices Moore Adumein and Mohammed Mustapha.
Alternatively, he wants the court to uphold the dissenting verdict of the third member of the appellate court panel, Justice Joseph Ekanem, who not only voided the 13-count criminal charge before the CCT, but also discharged him.
He is praying the apex court to evaluate the split judgment the appellate court delivered on September 30, with a view to determining whether or not the charge pending before the CCT ought not be quashed.
It will be recalled that a five-man panel of Justices of the Supreme Court led by Justice John Fabiyi who is now retired, had on November 12, ordered the Justice Danladi Umar-led tribunal to stay further proceeding on the charge against the Senate President.
The apex court directed the tribunal to “tarry awhile”, to enable it to look into the appeal.
Besides, the apex court gave all the parties seven days each to filed and exchange their briefs of arguments.
In his seven grounds of appeal, Saraki, through his lawyer, Mr. J.B. Daudu, SAN, beseeched the Supreme Court to overrule the appellate court, void all the steps that the Justice Danladi Umar-led tribunal has taken so far, as well as, quash the 13-count criminal charge against him.
He contended that the appellate court panel led by Justice Adumein, erred in law when it affirmed the competence of the proceedings of the CCT which sat on the appellant’s case with only two members as against the three provided for in the provisions of Paragraph 15(1) of the Fifth Schedule to the 1999 Constitution.
Saraki’s lawyer, Daudu, also faulted the majority decision of the appeal court where it held that there was lacuna regarding the quorum of the tribunal.
He argued that the application of the Interpretation Act to hold that two out of three members of the tribunal could validly sit “is to circumvent and reduce the number prescribed by the Constitution for the due composition of the CCT”.
Similarly, Saraki faulted the majority decision of the appeal court where it held that the CCT was a court of limited criminal jurisdiction and that the charges were validly initiated by a Deputy Director in the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. M.S. Hassan, in the absence of a substantive Attorney-General of the Federation.
He challenged the decision of the appeal court which held that Saraki was properly served with the charges, at a time when his legal team only filed motion for conditional appearance before bench warrant was issued against him by the CCT.
Saraki’s lawyer argued that the court of appeal erred in law for refusing to hold that the tribunal violated the order of the Federal High Court in Abuja which he said ordered the tribunal to appear before the court to show cause why its proceedings against Saraki should not be halted.
According to him, the appeal court erred in law when it held that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 was applicable to the proceeding of the tribunal.
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 constitutionally 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, as well as, operated foreign bank account while in office as a public servant.
The offence was said to have been committed while Saraki held sway as a 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.
FG, among other offences, 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.
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