The Federal Government yesterday told the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, to stop harassing the chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Justice Danladi Umar.
The warning, which came from the prosecuting counsel in Saraki’s suit at the CCT, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), was following the Senate President’s insistence that Umar disqualified himself from the trial.
Saraki premised his argument on the ground of an allegation of bribery, which is still hanging on the CCT chairman’s neck.
The Federal Government is prosecuting Saraki before the tribunal over a 13 count charge bothering on false assets declaration.
The trial had kick started, but Saraki, through one of his counsel, Rapheal Oluyede, had brought an application seeking to disqualify the tribunal chairman from further presiding over the case.
Oluyede, while arguing the application before the tribunal yesterday, premised his argument on the ground that there was a pending petition against him (Danladi) before the EFCC.
He further submitted that the continual presiding of the chairman over the trial raised a likelihood of bias against the defendant.
In addition, Oluyede had argued that it was clear from the evidence given so far that the EFCC was the one prosecuting Saraki and the same EFCC was investigating Danladi.
He, however, submitted that based on the facts given, Danladi might be biased in handling Saraki’s trial.
Jacobs, while opposing the application, told Saraki to stop harassing the tribunal chairman.
He submitted that the application was targeted at harassing the tribunal chairman and, as such, it should be dismissed.
Jacobs further told the tribunal that the counsel, who brought the application, has never appeared in the matter until the day he brought the application.
Arguing his case further, Oluyede called the attention of the tribunal to a letter written to the Attorney General by the EFCC chairman in March 2015, which was part of his exhibits before the tribunal.
The letter in part: “There are indications that the tribunal chairman might have demanded and collected money from the complainant through his said personal assistant. However, efforts made to recover the telephone handset used by Justice Umar proved abortive, as he claimed that he had lost the telephone in 2012.
“This has made it impossible to subject it to independent scientific analysis with a view to corroborating the allegation. In the same vein, the complainant could also not make available his telephone set for analysis on the grounds that he had lost it. Justice Umar also admitted that he met privately with the complainant in his chamber at the tribunal.
This is a most unethical and highly suspicious conduct on his part.”
“Mr. Chairman, with all these facts placed before this Tribunal, the legitimacy of this proceeding is questionable because the chairman may not be impartial.
“There is something wrong with the EFCC for it to have accused your lordship of having audience with the accused in his chambers and there are circumstantial evidence that your lordship collected bribe, only for them to come out now with a letter of clearance. That is suspicious.
“We do not know what prompted EFCC to recant on the indictment of the CCT chairman, when there are sufficient ground for the EFCC to request for the call logs of the conversation of Umar and one Rashidi Taiwo, who the N10 billion bribe was demanded from”, Oluyede submitted.
However, in his objection to the motion, Jacobs prayed the Tribunal to dismiss the motion for lacking merit.
He accused the defendant of harassment.
He argued that the bill before the Senate was designed to whittle down the powers of the CCT chairman.
“The absurdity in this application is that the defendant here is still performing his duty as Senate President and still preside over the Senate as at today.
“He has been charged to court, whereas the investigation of the CCT chairman by the EFCC remains an investigation.
He has not been charged to court or convicted.
“It is the defendant, rather, that has been charged to court. The issues raised in the application are matters of sentiment, which has no place in law.
“Mr. Oluyede has never appeared for Saraki at this tribunal as at the time he filed the motion. He is not a counsel on record as at the day he filed his motion.
“He predicated his case on wrong assumption that EFCC is a party before the tribunal. The party before the tribunal are the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Senator Bukola Saraki”, he stated.
After listening to the parties, the tribunal adjourned till today for ruling.
Earlier, the tribunal chairman had observed the presence of some armed security agents in the court and noted that they should be restrained.
That led the lead counsel for Saraki, Mr. Kanu Agabi, SAN, to assure the Judge that nobody would assassinate him.
He also observed that some people were illegally recording the proceedings of the tribunal.
He noted that he would meet with the parties in chambers, so as to agree as to whether proceedings should be aired live and that if they agreed, he would invite the electronic media to bring their cameras to cover the live proceedings.