Breaking: Go Face Your Trial at CCT, Supreme Court Tells Saraki

The Supreme Court has thrown out appeal by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, challenging the validity of his trial on charges of assets declaration preferred against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
A seven-man panel of the apex court presided over by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, unanimously ruled on Friday morning that Saraki’s appeal against the jurisdiction of the trial and competence of the charges, lacked merit.
The charges border on false assets declaration and money laundering when he was governor of Kwara state in 2003 slammed against him by the Federal Government.
In the lead judgment by Justice Nkanu Onnoghen, the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision resolved all issues against the Senate President Bukola Saraki.
The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division had in a split decision of two-to-one upheld the tribunal’s decision to assume jurisdiction on the charges, a decision Saraki appealed against at the Supreme Court.
Justice Wallter Onnoghen, who read the lead judgment, held that contrary to Saraki’s contention, the Danladi Umar-led Code of Conduct Tribunal was validly constituted by two members.
Justice Onnoghen also held that the tribunal was by the provisions of its enabling laws and the Constitution conferred with the quasi-criminal jurisdiction and thus could validly issue bench warrant.
He thus held that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 was applicable to the proceedings of the tribunal.
He also noted that there was an attempt by Saraki to intimidate the ‎CCT by claiming that it disobeyed the order of a Federal High Court barring it from continuing with the proceedings pending the determination a suit filed by the Senate President to challenge the trial.
“I have looked at the records, there is no where such orders was made,” Justice Onnoghen
Saraki, had through his team of lawyers led by Chief J. B. Daudu, SAN, went before the apex court to challenge the competence of the charge which he said ought to be quashed for want of merit.
Relying on the provision of Paragraph 15(1) to the Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, Saraki maintained that the Justice Danladi Umar-led panel of the CCT was not legally and properly composed to try him. He argued that a two-member panel of the CCT that has been presiding over the case against him fell short of the constitutional requirement.
Moreover, Saraki contended that the CCT, not being a court that is constitutionally equipped with criminal jurisdiction, lacked the powers to dock him on the basis of the 13-count charge. Besides, it was his argument that the fact that there was no substantive Attorney-General of the Federation as at the time the charge was filed, rendered it incompetent. FG, through its lawyer Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, however, urged the apex court to dismiss Saraki’s appeal for want of merit, insisting that it has established a prima-facie criminal case to warrant the prosecution of the Senate President before the CCT.
Urging the apex court to direct the appellant to go and clear his name before the tribunal, FG relied on the provision of section 4(2)(b) of the interpretation Act, to contend that Saraki was properly charged before the CCT.
The Federal Government had, in September 2015, arraigned Saraki before the CCT on 13 counts of false asset declaration which he allegedly made in 2003 as governor of Kwara State.
The Danadi Umar-led CCT had dismissed Saraki’s protest against the competence of the charges and jurisdiction of the tribunal.
Saraki had appealed against the decision of the tribunal, but the appeal was dismissed by a two-to-one split decision of a three-man bench of the Court of Appeal in Abuja on October 30, 2015.
He further appealed to the Supreme Court, maintaining that the charges were not competent and that the CCT lacked the jurisdiction to try him, because it was not duly constituted as it comprised two instead of three members provided for by the Constitution.
The Supreme Court had, on November 12, 2015 through a five-man panel, led by now retired Justice John Fabiyi, granted an order of stay of proceedings in Saraki’s trial before the CCT, pending the hearing and determination of his appeal.
By this judgment, the Senate President will face full trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Abuja.

Author: News Editor

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