Senate President Bukola Saraki has failed in his bid to quash the 13-count of false assets declaration, as the Code of Conduct Tribunal dismissed his application yesterday.
Tribunal Chairman Danladi Umar dismissed Saraki’s application on the grounds that it lacked merit.
He held that Saraki was wrong to have requested the tribunal to be guided by its decision in the Bola Tinubu case.
Umar said the tribunal could not rely on its decision in the Tinubu case, having in subsequent cases departed from the position it took in the Tinubu case.
The tribunal chairman upheld the argument of lead prosecution lawyer Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) that the CCT, in subsequent judgments, realised that its decision in FRN v. Bola Tinubu was given per incuriam (without due regard to the law or the facts) and had departed from it and followed the constitution’s provision.
He held that Paragraph 3 (e) of Part 1 of the 3rd Schedule to the 1999 Constitution removed and omitted the proviso (in Section 3 (d) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal (CCB/T) Act requiring written admission or denial.
“That proviso that is repeated in Section 3 (d) of the CCB/T Act cannot be sustained any longer under the 1999 Constitution. The decision in Tinubu’s case was given per incuriam and the tribunal should not follow such a decision,” he said.
Umar faulted Saraki’s claim that it was wrong for the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to prosecute him about 15 years after he allegedly committed the offences of false assets declaration.
The CCT chairman agreed with Jacobs that since there was no time limit within which an individual can submit a complaint of infraction or non-compliance with the Code of Conduct, the defendant’s argument that once there was no official complaint against him within a reasonable time of his submitting the declaration he could no longer be investigated and prosecuted, could not stand.
He noted that there could be no clearance by implication, unless it was expressly stated by the statutes, adding that “time does not run against the state”.
“It is not out of place to charge the accused person now and ask him to answer to the charges against as there is no statute of limitation in relation to his case,” Umar said.
The CCT chairman rejected Saraki’s contention that the attorney general of the federation (AGF) was without powers to initiate and prosecute cases before the tribunal.
He held that the AGF, empowered by the Constitution to intimate or take over initiated criminal cases on behalf of the Federal Government, could initiate and prosecute cases before the tribunal.
The tribunal chairman noted that the defendant’s claim that he was denied fair hearing having not been called to make a written statement before the filing of the charge, could be raised later in the case.
He held that such argument was premature and could be raised in the course of hearing.
“The motion by the defendant to quash the charge against him is refused. In the final analyses, the tribunal assumes jurisdiction in this case. The prosecution is to invite its witness,” he said.
After the ruling, and upon enquiry by the CCT chairman about the next step, Jacobs urged the tribunal to allow the prosecution to open its case.
“We are ready for trial, my lord. And our witnesses are ready and are in court. Let us open our case by calling our first witness, even if it is for five minutes,” Jacobs said.
Lead defence witness Kanu Agabi (SAN) objected to the commencement of trial. He said the case was adjourned to yesterday for ruling.
Agabi said the tribunal would create the impression that it had made up its mind, before the ruling, to proceed with trial, even when the defence was challenging its jurisdiction.
He sought a fresh date for the commencement of trial.
Tribunal chairman agreed with Agabi that it was unnecessary for the tribunal to rush into trial. He noted that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), though seeks prompt determination of criminal cases, recognises the need for the defendant to be given adequate time to prepare its defence.
“We do not need to rush. We need to proceed carefully in the interest of justice and to ensure that justice is done to all parties. The ACJA did not say the defendants should not be given adequate time to prepare its defence,” he said.
He adjourned to April 5 for the prosecution to open its case.