Saraki Fails To Persuade CCT To Waive 13-Count Criminal Charge
Senate President, Bukola Saraki
Dr. Bukola Saraki has failed to persuade the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, sitting in Abuja to quash the 13-count criminal charge the Federal Government entered against him. In a ruling this morning, the Justice Danladi Umar led panel held that the charge against him was valid and competent in law. The CCT said both the law that established it and the 1999 constitution, as amended, conferred it with the requisite jurisdiction to hear and determine the case against the defendant. Relying on the decided case-law in FRN vs Atiku Abubakar, 2007, 8-NWLR, the tribunal said it was vested with the powers to handle allegations bordering on breach of code of conduct by public officers.
Meanwhile, Justice Umar, admitted that the tribunal took an erroneous decision in a similar case that involved the former governor of Lagos State and national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Ahmed Bola Tinubu. He said: ” The tribunal has since realised that the decision it made on the case between FRN vs Tinubu was in error and has clearly departed from it”. On Saraki’s contention that FG waited for over 13 years before instituting the charge against him, the CCT panel, held that there is no time frame for the prosecution of a criminal offence. “It is not out of place for the prosecution to charge the defendant now. The application to quash the charge is hereby refused.
The tribunal hereby re-inforce its jurisdiction in line with the constitution an section 3(d) of the CCB &Tribunal Act. “Accordingly, the prosecution is hereby ordered to produce its witnesses for the trial of the defendant to commence immediately”, Justice Umar held. However, by consensus of both the prosecution counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, and Saraki’s lawyer, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, the tribunal subsequently adjourned the matter till April 6. Saraki who was among other things, accused of declaring false assets, had challenged the powers of the Attorney General of the Federation to initiate the charge against him. Saraki Saraki In urging the tribunal to hand-off the case, Saraki, insisted that his trial was politically motivated.
He contended that all the allegations against him were brought before the CCT in bad-faith, saying his trial was not in public interest. Saraki argued that the AGF did not fulfil all the condition precedents capable of conferring jurisdiction on the tribunal to try him. Saraki maintained that he was never accorded the opportunity to clarify the alleged discrepancies that were discovered in four assets declaration forms he submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, while he was in office as the governor of Kwara State. He said the laws that established the CCB stipulated that any one perceived to have falsely declared his assets, must be summoned to give explanations.
“The defendant was never afforded such opportunity, not even a chance to kneel down and apologise”, Agabi submitted. Agabi insisted that his client was not granted fair hearing, saying the instant application was totally different from what was earlier decided by the Supreme Court. He equally prayed the tribunal to free his client the same way it did for the Tinubu who he sa was charged over a similar allegation. However, the prosecution, asked the tribunal to dismiss the application which he said was only aimed at scuttling the trial of the defendant. Jacobs relied on sections 220, 221 and 396 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, and argued that the law provided that such applications must be considered along with the substantive case, and ruling delivered at the end of the trial.
The prosecution equally faulted the defence lawyer for citing the provision of 1979 constitution, which he said had gone obsolete with the enactment of the 1999 constitution, as amended. Saraki who was a two-term governor of Kwara State between May 2003 and May 2011, was in the charge before the CCT, marked ABT/01/15 and dated September 11, 2015, accused of breaching section 2 of the CCB and Tribunal Act, an offence punishable under section 23(2) of the Act and paragraph 9 of the said Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
Aside allegation that he falsely declared his assets, as well as, made anticipatory declaration of assets,Saraki, was also alleged to have operated foreign bank accounts while in office as a public officer. He was alleged to have acquired assets beyond his legitimate earnings. FG, among other offences, alleged that Sarakiclaimed that he owned and acquired No 15A and 15B Mc Donald, Ikoyi, Lagos, through his company, Carlisle Properties Limited in 2000, when the said property was actually sold by the Implementation Committee of the Federal Government landed properties in 2006 to his companies, Tiny Tee Limited and Vitti Oil Limited for the aggregate sum of N396, 150, 000, 00.
He was alleged to have made false declaration on or about June 3, 2011, by refusing to declare plot 2A Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, which he acquired between 2007 and 2008 through his company from the Central Bank of Nigeria for a total sum of N325, 000, 000, 00. Saraki was said to have refused to declare No1 Tagnus street, Maitama, Abuja, which he claimed to have acquired in November 1996 from one David Baba Akawu.
Some of his alleged offense while in office as governor, which are said to be punishable under section 15(1) and (2) of the CCB and Tribunal Act, Cap C15, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, were allegedly committed between October 2006 and May 2007. His actions were classified as a gross violation of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended. Saraki had on September 22, 2015, pleaded not guilty to the charge which he said was grossly incompetent and ought to be thrown out.