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Corruption trial: Again, Sarah appeals CCT Tribunal

The embattled Senate president, Bukola Saraki, has again appealed the ruling of the Code of Conduct Tribunal which struck out his application to disqualify the tribunal chairman, Danladi Umar, from presiding over the case.Saraki’s legal representative, Raphael Oluyede, had on April 20 filed an application demanding the disqualification of the CCT chairman for alleged bias and intimidation.

In the said application, Oluyede alleged that Justice Umar exhibited obvious traits of bias in his previous rulings and that the tribunal chairman was himself under investigation by the EFCC.

The lawyer argued that in view of this, Umar should therefore not chair the trial, but counsel to the prosecution, Rotimi Jacobs, submitted that the application should be dismissed, saying it was ironical for Saraki to still be occupying his seat as Senate president and then ask Mr. Umar to disqualify himself on the grounds of an “unfounded allegation”.

After listening to both counsel, the tribunal chairman dismissed the application, stating that it was within the constitutional powers of the EFCC to investigate him.

Umar further said he was however not charged because the commission found no reason to institute a charge against him.

He said the commission would have charged him, through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, if there was such case against him. “The tribunal holds that the application of counsel to the accused lacks merit and is hereby dismissed in its entirety,” Umar stated.

Immediately after the pronouncement, Oluyede stormed out of tribunal.

However, in the fresh notice of appeal, Oluyede said Umar erred in law when he concluded that the application filed on behalf of his client lacked merit.

He said in the appeal that it was the submission of his client that Umar had assumed himself a judge in his own matter and that the ruling so given was an abuse of the office of the AGF.

According to the appeal, it was a complete negation of law to assume that the office of the AGF had no powers of investigation and that the AGF’s office could not instruct the EFCC to prosecute and therefore, prayed the Court of Appeal to set aside the ruling by the tribunal.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has filed three new counts and amendments of the 13 charges the Senate President was being tried for.

Paul Usoro, the lead prosecuting counsel had after the Senate President pleaded not guilty to the 16-count charge asked for amendments to enable the defence lawyers take instruction from the defendants on the new counts.

Usoro pointed out that apart from the three new counts, most of the initial charges have also been adjusted. He therefore asked for an adjournment.

He cited various instances in the different charges to back up his claim. Usoro requested for three weeks adjournment.

“The charge just presented is fundamentally altered, three weeks is what we ask to continue the cross examination of the first Prosecution Witness,” said the defence counsel.

He added that refusal to grant the adjournment will prejudice the defendant given that three new counts have been added and even those there before have been changed.

He was however opposed by Rotimi Jacobs, the lead prosecution counsel who said having already granted five adjournments to the defence, no other other adjournments exceeding seven days can be granted, citing Section 218(1) Administration of Criminal Justice Act to back up his claim.

Jacobs added that the defendant had not shown that he will suffer any prejudice if he asked to continue the cross examination of the first prosecution witness.

In his ruling, Justice Umar said there is need to strike a balance between the request of the defence and that of the prosecution.

He also said it is necessary for all the parties to ensure that the trial is speedily concluded.

Instead of three weeks, he said the defence will be granted an adjournment of 10 days.

The trial is adjourned till May 10.

About Lanre Oyetade

A multiple award winner in Economics and business journalism, Lanre Oyetade has served close to two decades in the media industry, spanning different notable stables, where he is privileged to have risen to the position of a title editor. A masters degree holder in Economics from the University of Lagos and doctoral student at the Babcock University, he is a winner of the prestigious NMMA Capital Market Award for two consecutive years (2004 & 2005), and was also a nominee for the body’s banking and finance and money market awards for two years. In 2013, he also won the Most Outstanding Business-Reporting Title Editor award of the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria (NIMN). A minister in the LORDS’s vineyard, he has been an inspirational speaker and resource person at many corporate and religious fora since early 2004, and has so far authored three books on the capital market; on personal effectiveness, and on personal finance, in 2008 and 2014, respectively.