False Asset Declaration: Supreme Court decides Saraki’s fate today
Nigeria’s Supreme Court will give its verdict today in the appeal filed by Senate President Bukola Saraki, challenging his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
The court heard lawyers from the various parties on 3 December, 2015.
Saraki is standing trial at the CCT on allegations of false declaration of assets.
At the 3 December hearing of the appeal, Saraki’s lawyer, Mr Joseph Daudu (SAN), told the panel of seven Justices of the apex court led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Mahmud Mohammed, that his legal team formulated six issues for determination.
He argued that the charge against Saraki could not stand in the face of the law because there was no substantive Attorney-General of the Federation (A-GF) when it was instituted.
He said that as at the time Saraki was put on trial, there was no evidence that an AGF delegated his power to institute criminal charge against him as required by the law.
Daudu also argued that the tribunal was not properly constituted as stipulated by law.
According to him, the law provides that the CCT shall only sit on trial with a three-member panel.
He said that the tribunal has only two members, including the Chairman, Justice Danladi Umar, and cannot form a quorum.
The lawyer further argued that, by implication, if there would be any disagreement on issues in the course of the trial, the chairman would impose his views on the other member.
Daudu also argued that the tribunal lacked the jurisdiction to try criminal matters.
He said the tribunal was only established by law to serve as a disciplinary committee for public officers and not a court that can assume criminal jurisdiction.
Counsel to the Federal Government, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), however, asked the court to dismiss the appeal for lacking in merit.
He said the CCT was properly constituted and has power to go ahead with two members.
He argued that two of the three members of the tribunal formed a quorum in compliance with Interpretation Act.
He said the constitution does not insist that there must be three-man panel before the CCT can hear and determine cases.
Jacobs also argued that in the absence of AGF, the law empowers the Solicitor-General of the Federation to institute a criminal charge against any person.
He, therefore, urged the court to resolve the issue in favour of the Federal Government and order Saraki to face his trial before the tribunal.
Saraki took his case to the Supreme Court following the verdict of the Court of Appeal in which two out of three-man panel ruled that his trial at CCT was in order.
Justice Moore Adumein , who read the majority verdict on 30 October, 2015 upheld the trial .
He said the tribunal, which docked the Senate President on 22 September and 21 October was properly constituted, thus trashing one of the grounds of the objections to the trial by Senate President and his lawyers.
The dissenting third judge, Justice Joseph Ekanem however ruled that Saraki’s appeal has merit.
On the contrary, the majority judges, including Justice Mohammed Mustapha, in their verdict said 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.