Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Alleged false declaration of assets: Bukola Saraki must face trial – Appeal Court

ABUJA — The Court of Appeal and the Federal High Court, both sitting in Abuja, yesterday, refused to shield the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki from being arraigned at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, on a 13-count criminal charge bordering on false declaration of assets preferred against him. The Senate President had approached both courts to provide him shelter and save him from being docked.

Also, in a ruling, yesterday, the three-man panel of Justices of the appellate court, equally  refused to stop the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Mr. Solomon Arase, from executing the warrant of arrest that was issued against Saraki, by the CCT.

Saraki had through his team of lawyers led by Mr. J. B. Daudu, SAN, filed an ex-parte motion for an  injunction, shortly after the Justice Danladi Umar-led panel of the CCT, yesterday, insisted that he must be arrested and produced in court today for arraignment.

He specifically begged the appellate court to not only set aside the warrant of arrest against him, but to also suspend the proceedings of the tribunal pending the hearing and determination of the substantive appeal he lodged against the Justice Umar-led panel.

“We are humbly asking for stay of execution of the ruling and order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal for a bench warrant to be issued against the applicant. We also apply for stay of proceeding of the tribunal’s order pending hearing and determination of our motion on notice pending before this court”, Saraki’s lawyer, Mr. Adebayo Adelodun, SAN, pleaded with the appellate court.

He stressed that the Senate President had raised 12 grounds of appeal against the decision of the tribunal, last Friday, saying the appeal was supported by a 16-paragraph affidavit and four exhibits. Besides, Saraki equally deposed to another 17-paragraph affidavit of urgency, wherein he urged the higher court to intervene and protect him from what he described as “a politically motivated witch-hunt”.

However, instead of acceding to his prayers, the appellate court panel headed by Justice Moore Adumein directed the applicant to go and put all the parties to the matter on notice.

“We have read all the processes before this court and considered submissions by counsel to the applicant.Even though pursuant to section 15 of the Court of Appeal Act, 2004, this court has general power to grant or make an interim order of injunction.

“Ordinarily, this court does not grant ex-parte motions. We are, therefore, of the view that the respondents shall be put on notice. Consequently, the applicant’s motion ex-parte is refused and struck out”, the appellate court held.

It directed Saraki to go and serve all the parties to the suit with the relevant processes to enable them  appear on September 29, the day the case was, yesterday, adjourned to.

Other members of the appeal court panel that gave the ruling were Justices Joseph Ekanem and Mustapha Mohammed.

Federal High Court to hear suit Sept 30

Meantime, Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday, fixed September 30 to commence hearing on the fundamental rights enforcement suit that Saraki filed against the Federal Government.

Justice Mohammed adjourned the matter for hearing on a day all the defendants, including the Federal Ministry of Justice, chairmen of the CCT and Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, as well as a deputy director in the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. M.S. Hassan, who signed the charge against Saraki, adduced reasons the Senate President should be compelled to face trial.

The defendants, through their lawyer Mr. Taiwo Abidogun, said their appearance before the Federal High Court, yesterday, was as a result of the summons that Justice Mohammed issued to them, last Thursday, which directed them to appear and show cause why Saraki should be prosecuted before the CCT.

Aside filing their memorandum of conditional appearance, the defendants, filed a counter-affidavit to the suit seeking to stop Saraki’s trial, as well as a preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court to meddle in the affairs of the tribunal.

It was their argument that Justice Mohammed lacked the competent jurisdiction to in any way, obstruct proceedings before the CCT.  They contended that both the FHC and the CCT have coordinate jurisdiction, stressing that the high court has no supervisory power over the tribunal.

Before okaying full-blown hearing on the matter, Justice Mohammed, in a ruling, noted that Saraki’s suit was ripe for hearing since all the parties have successfully joined issues.

“This court is of the view that considering the constitutional and radical nature of this matter, time should not be dissipated on the consideration of interlocutory matters”, Justice Mohammed ruled.

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