By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, in Abuja, yesterday, justified its decision to suspend further proceedings on the assets falsification charge the Federal Government preferred against the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, saying it was taken in the interest of justice and the right to fair hearing.
The CCT, in a statement signed by its Head, Press & Public Relations, Mr. Ibraheem Al-Hassan, said its decision to adjourn the case sine-die (indefinitely), was anchored on section 36 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
The Justice Danladi Umar-led two-man panel tribunal said the clarification was necessitated by some reports in the media insinuating that it was the CCT Chairman that “outrightly adjourned the case indefinitely without stating the reasons.”
The statement added: “We felt that such reports were not balanced, one-sided, and written in bad faith. However, the tribunal wished to state that the decision was taken in the interest of justice and the right to fair hearing, section 36 of the Constitution and the right to appeal from the decision of a lower court.
“Tribunal is not insensitive to the circumstance under which the defendant was asked to return back to the Tribunal by the Court of Appeal to answer questions relating to counts 4, 5 and 6.”
Al-Hassan said the CCT Chairman had noted that both the prosecution and the defense counsel filed an appeal before the Supreme Court challenging the decision of Court of Appeal with respect to the charge.
He said it was on the basis of the appeals that the CCT held that it would be hesitant to take further steps in Saraki’s case, “pending when the appeal is considered and determined, which would of course definitely determine the outcome of judgement of the Tribunal on count 4,5 and 6.
“The tribunal held that to be on a safer side and to be fair to both parties, the tribunal decided to tarry for a while so that the integrity and powers of the Supreme Court would not be jeopardized.
“The tribunal felt that the issue raised by the defence counsel is so germane to wait for the outcome of the appeal before tribunal proceeds, therefore on the basis of that tribunal adjourned matter to enable the Supreme Court dispose off the appeal before it”, the statement further read.
It will be recalled that the CCT had last week Thursday, announced its decision to “tarry for awhile” in the matter, on a day both FG and Saraki appeared through their lawyers to adopt their final briefs of argument for judgment to be delivered in the case.
FG’s lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, had urged the tribunal to go ahead with the case, contending that suspending further proceeding would amount to granting Saraki’s desire.
He said: “Ordinarily we would have said your lordships should tarry awhile to protect the authority and integrity of the highest court, but the prosecution will urge the tribunal to proceed, in view of the position of the law today.’’
On his part, Saraki’s lawyer, Mr. Kanu Agabi, SAN, commended the CCT panel for acknowledging the superiority of the apex court, saying there was need for further proceeding to be suspended in the matter to await the outcome of the appeal that was lodged by his client and a cross-appeal that was filed by FG.