By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, on Friday, failed to persuade the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to stop further hearing on the 13-count criminal charge pending against him before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT.
The high court, in a judgment that was delivered by Justice Abdul Kafarati, dismissed Saraki’s suit as grossly lacking in merit.
It held that the suit which was filed after the Supreme Court gave the CCT the nod to try the applicant, constituted an abuse of court process.
Stressing that none of the reliefs Saraki sought in his suit fell within the contemplation of section 4 of the 1999 constitution, as amended, Justice Kafarati, said he was convinced that the applicant was only bent on frustrating his trial before the CCT.
“All the applicant is trying to do is to forestall the criminal process before the CCT”, the Judge held.
Besides, the court said the CCT has the constitutional powers to handle cases bordering on alleged false declaration of assets and breach of code of conduct by public officers.
Justice Kafarati observed that the tribunal had earlier ruled that it has the jurisdiction to try the defendant on the basis of the charge preferred against him by the Federal Government.
He said that granting Saraki’s prayer for the charge to be quashed, would amount to setting both the high court and the CCT on a collision course.
More so, the Judge said he could not interfere with constitutional powers of the defendants to carry out their responsibilities.
“It is important to note that this case was filed after the applicant’s appeal against the tribunal was dismissed.
“This Originating Motion on notice constitutes an abuse of court process. I am of the view that the case ought to be dismissed and it is accordingly dismissed.
“The Ist defendant’s preliminary object subsists and that is the judgment of this court”, Justice Kafarati held.
It will be recalled that the Judge had on March 22, disqualified himself from delivering the pending judgment owing to allegation that N2billion bribe was traced to his bank account.
Though Kafarati withdrew from the matter, however, the Chief Judge of the Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, subsequently ordered him to go ahead and deliver the judgment.
Specifically, Saraki had through his lawyer, Dr. Kayode Oluyode, approached the high court, praying it to declare that the chairman of the CCT, Justice Danladi Umar is not fit to preside over his trial.
He told the court that Justice Umar is still being investigated by the EFCC over corruption allegations.
In his fundamental right enforcement suit, Saraki, said he would not be accorded fair-hearing by the tribunal, saying the charge against him was instigated by the EFCC.
He argued that Justice Umar, in a bid to save himself from prosecution, would dance to the tune of the anti-graft agency which he said usurped the responsibility of the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, by recommending his trial for an offence that was allegedly committed some years back.
Contrary to report that it was the CCB that identified discrepancies in four assets declaration forms he submitted while in office as the governor of Kwara State between May 2003 and May 2011, Saraki, told the court that it was the EFCC that okayed him for prosecution before the CCT.
He alleged that the criminal case against him was a product of a special task force that was set-up by the EFCC.
“The EFCC took away the role of the CCB, then rushed the case before the CCT whose chairman it is investigating”, the Senate President insisted, saying the charge was in gross abuse of his fundamental right to fair hearing and justice.
Saying he was “denied the right to be heard before the case was referred to the CCT”, Saraki said it would amount to a violation of his right to fair hearing under section 36 of the 1999 constitution, as amended, for him to be compelled to face trial before a tribunal whose “impartiality and fairness cannot be guaranteed”.