Wednesday, April 27, 2016 3:01 pm
Senate President Bukola Saraki’s trial has been shifted till tomorrow for ruling on whether the Chairman of the tribunal should disqualify himself.
The adjournment followed some sessions of drama at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
Chairman of the tribunal, Danladi Umar had sought to break the the tension at the trial by making light banters at the beginning of the session and even calling his traducer, Raphael Ajibola Oluyede, a senior advocate of Nigeria his friend.
Later the judge ordered Saraki’s gunmen out of the tribunal ‘for safety reasons’, before taking Oluyede’s motion, which seek to disqualify the judge from hearing the 13 count charge of false assets declaration.
Saraki in a motion filed by Raphael Oluyede, one of the lawyers of the Senate President had asked Justice Umar to disqualify himself from presiding over Saraki’s trial because he is also being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC which is also spearheading the prosecution of Saraki.
The lawyer had argued that his client may not be able to get justice from the Chairman of CCT as he may want to satisfy the EFCC, which investigated the asset declaration forms of Saraki.
Attempts by Oluyede to move the application at the last sitting of the Tribunal last Thursday had degenerated into arguments between the Judge and the lawyer, with Justice Umar barely restrained from committing him to prison for contempt.
The Sword of Democles of EFCC is hanging over you, Saraki lawyer tells CCT Chairman
Oluyede, was eventually given the opportunity to argue his motion asking Justice Danladi Umar, the Chairman of Code of Conduct Tribunal to disqualify himself from presiding over the trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki on Monday.
The lawyer said the motion was filed in pursuant to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, common law rule on likelihood of bias and rule of natural justice.
According to him, the only request of the application is to stop Justice Umar from presiding over the Tribunal.
This, he said was because the continued presence of the of Umar on the panel, in the perception of ordinary reasonable people may result into bias against the defendant.
Oluyede who emphasised that his application is not meant to malign the court said his interest was to ensure that the judiciary is kept pure.
“The fact before the court was that a person accused before justice Umar said he demanded N10 million from him and that EFCC investigated. Justice Umar agreed that he sat down with the accused in his chamber and the AGF said they should go and prosecute,” Oluyede said.
He argued that contrary to the impression being created by the Tribunal, Justice Umar has not been cleared of the allegations of bribery by the EFCC.
He read from a letter written to the AGF on the issue in March 2015 which he had earlier tendered as exhibit.
The lawyer noted that a paragraph in the letter indicated that EFCC has not charged the chairman of CTC to court because it could not retrieve the call logs of the CTC because the Judge claimed he has lost the phone.
“This paragraph make it clear that there is a sword of Damocles being held over Justice Umar. All they said was as at now, the facts that they have is not enough,” Oluyede said making inferences from the letter.
It’s a continuation of harassment of the Tribunal- Jacobs
But his application was opposed by Jacobs. The lead prosecution counsel who filed 20 paragraph affidavit to oppose the motion said the application was one of the attacks that the defence have consistently unleashed on the Tribunal since the trial began.
“That attack traveled from this Tribunal to the Supreme Court. We came back from the Supreme Court and there was another great challenge that it is the EFCC that is prosecuting this case, filed the charge before the tribunal and not the CCB.
“The court ruled that it is CCB that refer the matter to this Tribunal and that this Tribunal has the jurisdiction to hear the charge,” said Rotimi.
He also argued that the defendant has already filed a case at the Court of Appeal on the same argument that the CCB lacked authority to delegate its powers to EFCC and that EFCC cannot prosecute a matter before the CCT.
“Rather than wait for the outcome of the Court of appeal case, he now filed this application for you to disqualify yourself.
“And if you look at the affidavit in support of the application, all what the defendant was saying is that it is the EFCC that is prosecuting him. EFCC is not a party before this Tribunal. He is saying that since a party is investigating the chairman, the impression of the reasonable man is that he will not be able to get justice,” said the prosecuting counsel.
Jacobs also said even if it was true that the CCT Chairman is being investigated by the EFCC, it cannot be a reason to stop him from performing his job.
He noted that the defendant (Saraki) though undergoing trial is still holding on to his position.
“He has raised the issue also through the same lawyer before the Federal High Court.
A criminal investigation is investigations. The defendant here is still performing his duty as a Senator. He was charged to court. Today, he is Senate President. He is saying somebody that has not been charged should not be allowed to perform his duty,” Jacobs said.
He also argued that the party before the tribunal is Federal Government of Nigeria, hence the case is FGN vs Dr. Olubukola Saraki.
“EFCC not being a party to this charge, it will be a clear misconception of the law to argue that since one of the parties is investigating you, you should excuse yourself.
“I am also afraid because this is an issue that is before Court of appeal. He is dragging your Lordship to determine that as to whether the EFCC is the one prosecuting this case.
I urge the Tribunal not to take the trap because if you do so, you will unwittingly be taking over a case before Court of appeal.
“If you uphold the application of the defendant, it will mean whenever accusation is made against any judge in Nigeria, he cannot not sit over any matter. That cannot be the intention of the law,” Jacobs argued.
He also argued that even if it is EFCC that filed the charge, there is no evidence of ongoing investigation against the Chairman of the Tribunal.
He noted that investigations of the bribery allegation against the CTC chairman has been concluded since 2015 and one person has been charged to court.
“So, if investigation has been concluded and someone is already facing trial, would the defendant be right to say that you Justice Umar is undergoing an on going investigation of EFCC.
“He cannot be right. Investigation in this matter has been concluded since March 2015 which led to the charge which he referred to. The letter said there was preponderance of of evidence to prosecute Abdullahi. He is only one that was recommended for prosecution.
“The letter clearly says the person to be prosecuted,” Jacobs said. He accused Oluyede of deceiving the Tribunal by only bringing its attention a part of the letter that suits its argument without considering the other parts of the letter.
“You should fear God. The two letters never recommended that Your Lordship should be prosecuted,” Jacobs said.
He argued that the 20 April, 2015 letter which stated that there were no enough evidence to prosecute Umar was issued during the Goodluck Jonathan administration and thus, it could not be said to be politically motivated.
“Letter of 20 April, 2015, the EFCC stand by its letter. This is during Jonathan’s regime. They would have said it is political letter. He himself says I am entitled to presumption of innocence and he will continue to be Senate President.
“But he is now saying that a man who is just investigated should not do his work.
“The application is just to embarrass the Chairman of CTC. It has no merit at all. It is a continuation of that harassment of the Tribunal.
“This attempt is everywhere, it is overwhelming. An attempt was also made to amend your Lordship Law. It’s only in nations like our own that the leadership was facing trial and an attempt was made to amend the law.
“Even they are harassing the prosecution, harassing the lawyers, why?,” Jacobs queried.
At this juncture, Oluyede stood up, saying that there is no evidence before the court to show that the National Assembly is trying to amend the law that establishes the CTC.
But Justice Umar insisted that he was aware of the move to amend the law.
Jacobs also came to his defence: “Your Lordship can take judicial notice of the process of the National Assembly.”
The defence lawyer countered, saying the court can only take note of proceedings of the National Assembly as recorded in Hanzard, except when proceedings are filed before it as part of a suit.
“The harassment of the judge, harassment here and there, go to law courts, we must stop this. He filed a frivolous application. I urged your Lordship to dismiss it,” Rotimi concluded.
I hold this position as a viceroy of God- Justice Umar
However, when the defence lawyer was asked to respond to the prosecuting counsel’s arguments, he was virtually regurgitating his earlier arguments.
The lawyer said the most important point is the perception of a reasonable man on whether Saraki can get justice from Justice Umar or not.
At a point, the Chairman of CTC called the attention of the lawyer to the fact that he has appeared three times before a committee set up by the National Assembly to investigate the bribery allegation while his accusers did not honour the invitation.
He also emphasised that he is holding the position as a representative of God. “I hold this position as a viceroy of God and if I didn’t do it the way he wants me to do it, I will be removed,” Umar said.
He also said he can only be prosecuted by the Attorney General of the Federation if there were evidence to do so and not based on mere suspicion.
At this juncture, Jacobs jumped in asking the Chairman of CTC to stop exchanging words with the defence lawyer and instead speak through his ruling on the matter.
Oluyede did not find the intervention funny. He accused the prosecution counsel of trying to take over proceedings in the court, leading to exchange of words between him and the prosecuting counsel.
Even when the Justice Umar asked him to stop, he refused leading to the Judge threatening to send him to prison for contempt again.
The defence lawyer promptly sat down.