Senate President Bukola Saraki has initiated a fresh move aimed at neutralising his trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
This time, he has filed a new suit before the Federal High Court, Abuja seeking among others, to restrain CCT and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) (who are listed as respondents) from proceeding with his trial.
The suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/117/2016 was filed by one Timipa Jenkins Okponipere, who claimed to be “suing as attorney to Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki”).
The new suit, a fundamental rights enforcement application, is one of the various attempts by the Senate President to stop his trial before the CCT for alleged corruption and false assets declaration.
Saraki had challenged his trial up to the Supreme Court and lost. He has also lost past fundamental rights enforcement applications, the last being the one dismissed on April 15, 2016 by Justice Adamu Kafarati of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
In the new suit, the applicant seeks the court’s declaration that “the plan to resume the trial of Senator Abubakar Saraki at the CCT is a breach of his fundamental right to fair hearing as guaranteed by Section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
He also seeks an order compelling the CCT and AGF to suspend indefinitely, any plan to resume the trial at the CCT.
Among the grounds relied on by the applicant, include that the trial at CCT was commenced at the wrong time; four years after Saraki allegedly committed the offences.
“Having regard to the aims and objectives of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and its functions in sections 2 and 3 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal (CCBT) Act, Senator Saraki ought to have been prosecuted by the respondents long before he returned to public life again in 2015 as an elected Senator.
“Indeed, the CCBT Act never contemplated that an incumbent public office holder was already corrupt before he attained public office, otherwise, people like Senator Sraki, who had a case to answer regarding his activities between 2003 and 2011 would not have been permitted to return to public life.
“However, four years later in 2015 4enator Saraki not only returned to public life as a Senator, he went on to become the President of the Senate, Chairman of the National Assembly and Nigeria’s number three citizen.
“It is nobody’s fault that the 1st and 2nd respondents were not vigilant enough to stop or prevent Senator Sarki from attaining public office. If truly the respondents were proactive institutions of government, they ought to have prosecuted Senator Sarki immediately after he left office as Governor of Kwara State in 2011, but they never did.
“The failure, refusal and/or negligence of the respondents to prosecute Senator Saraki for the offences he allegedly committed between 2003 and 2011 before he returned again to public life as a Senator, vitiated all his past alleged misdeeds such that, as of June 8, 2015 when he was inaugurated as a Senator, he was assumed to be a public office holder without blemish in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of the respondents, otherwise they would have long since initiated proceedings against him.
“The subsequent attempt to put Senator Saraki on trial over offences allegedly committed between 2003 and 2011 are not only tainted with political mischief and desperation, they constitute a breach of his fundamental right to fair hearing,” Okponipere said.
However, the AGF, in a notice of preliminary objection, has faulted the suit and urged the court to dismiss it for lacking in merit.
The AGF noted that the subject matter of the suit did not fall within the provisions of chapter four of the Constitution, containing the guaranteed fundamental human rights.
“The appellant lacks the locus to institute this suit on behalf of Senator Saraki in the absence of any legal basis which prevents him (Saraki) from deposing to the affidavit accompanying this application himself.
“The grant of the applicant’s reliefs will constitute an abuse of court/judicial process having regard to the fact that the subject matter of this suit has been determined by the Supreme Court,” the AGF said.
When the case up for mention on September 29 before Justice Gabriel Kolawole, neither Okponipere nor his lawyer was in court, following which the judge adjourned it to November 16 for hearing.
Meanwhile, the CCT will tomorrow deliver ruling on an application by Saraki seeking that the tribunal Chairman, Danladi Umar withdraws from his trial on the grounds that Umar made some remarks in the course of the trial, which Saraki considered prejudicial to his case.
Saraki’s lawyer, Kanu Agabi (SAN) – a former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) – had in an application filed on June 13, 2016, accused Umar of making remarks that purportedly betrayed his bias against his client during the June 7, 2016 proceedings.
Umar had, while expressing his displeasure at the delay tactics employed by Saraki’s legal team (comprising over 10 Senior Advocates of Nigeria) warned that the delay strategy would not “reduce the consequences the defendant will meet in this tribunal at the end of the trial.”
At the hearing of the application on June 21, Saraki’s lawyer argued that by his statement, the tribunal Chairman had already concluded that his client would be guilty and thereby exposed to “consequences.”
In a counter argument, prosecution lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) faulted Saraki’s lawyers’ interpretation of the tribunal Chairman’s remarks.
“That I am aware that the Chairman of this honourable tribunal on the said June 7, 2016 stated clearly that his mind is open to do justice to this matter and that he has no prejudice against any of the parties.
“The statement allegedly made by the Chairman of the honourable tribunal was quoted out of context without referring to the statement made by the Chairman to the effect that his mind was open to do justice to this matter and that he has no prejudice against any of the parties,” Jacobs said.