Thursday, November 12, 2015 11:37 am
Nigeria’s Senate President Bukola Saraki has gotten a reprieve at last from his ordeal of standing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal over alleged false asset declaration.
The Supreme Court this morning halted further proceedings in his trial, pending the determination of the appeal filed before the court. The trial began 22 September and was last heard 5 November.
In his ruling, Justice John Fabiyi, who led a five-man panel of justices, ordered Justice Danladi Umar-led tribunal to suspend further hearing in the matter.
Fabiyi held that the stay of proceeding was to enable the apex hear and determine the substantive appeal brought by Saraki.
In a unanimous ruling, the apex court held that “it is imperative to state that all the parties, including the Code of Conduct Tribunal, should tarry a while to enable this court to determine the appeal before it.
“In effect, further proceeding at the CCT should be stayed pending the hearing of the appeal. Hearing date will be communicated to all the parties,’’ Fabiyi held.
The court, however, gave both parties seven-days each to file and served their briefs in other to ensure that the matter receive accelerated hearing.
Earlier, the Prosecuting Counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), gave an undertaking that the Federal Government would not do anything until the Supreme Court had made final decision on the appeal.
Jacobs urged the court to give the matter accelerated hearing in line with Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
He specifically said Section 306 of the Act has removed the discretional and inherent powers of any court, including the Supreme Court to grant a stay of proceeding in a criminal matter.
According to him, the motive of the legislature in enacting the ACJA is to put to an end to the usual delay suffered in the prosecution of criminal matters, which has led to inability of the authority to curb corruption.
Jacobs, however, appealed to the justices not to render Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 nugatory.
He submitted that the decision of the apex court might not augur well, especially in the trial courts where such decision could be abused to grant stay of proceedings even when there was no need for such.
Earlier, Joseph Daudu (SAN), Counsel to Saraki, urged the apex court to stop the proceedings at the CCT pending the determination of the appeal.
Daudu told the court that the appellant was challenging the jurisdiction of tribunal and the legality of his trial at the tribunal.
He also argued that that the tribunal was not properly constituted by three-man panel as required by law.
The appellant’s counsel urged the court to put the trial at the CCT on hold, pending the determination of the appeal.
The trial began 22 September and was last heard 5 November. Further hearing scheduled for 19 November, will no longer hold with today’s ruling.
The Senate president’s earlier appeal had on 30 October been dismissed at the Court of Appeal, in a split decision of 2-1 by the judges.
Justice Moore Agumanen, who read the majority verdict upheld the trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
The judges said the tribunal was properly constituted and that the tribunal led by Danladi Umar could sit with the chairman and one other member.
Agumanen said they relied on section 28 of the Interpretation Act to reach the decision.
He said the Code of Conduct Tribunal and Code of Conduct Bureau Act and the constitution did not talk about a quorum.
In a further blow to the Senate President, the majority judges said the CCT has criminal jurisdiction, though limited.
The judges also ruled that the Code of Conduct Tribunal has powers to issue a bench warrant.
The dissenting third judge, Justice Joseph Ekanem however ruled that Saraki’s appeal had merit.