The Supreme Court, yesterday, fixed February 5 to determine the appeal seeking to quash the 13-count criminal charge that the Federal Government preferred against the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki before the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCT.
A seven-man panel of Justices of the apex court led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, adjourned to deliver judgment on the appeal after it entertained arguments from both Saraki and the Federal Government yesterday.
Saraki is facing trial over allegation that he falsely declared his assets, contrary to the constitutionally requirement.
He was accused of deliberately manipulating the assets declaration form that he filed prior to his assumption of office as the Senate President, by making anticipatory declaration of assets, as well as, operated foreign bank account while in office as a public servant.
The offence was said to have been committed while Saraki held sway as a governor.
Whereas Saraki, through his team of lawyers led by Chief J.B.Daudu, SAN, prayed the apex court to quash the charge for want of competence, the government on the other hand, sought the dismissal of the appeal, insisting it has successfully established a prima-facie criminal case against the Senate President.
While persuading the apex court to allow the appeal by halting Saraki’s trial, Daudu, SAN, relied on the provision of Paragraph 15(1) to the Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution,as amended, and argue that the Justice Danladi Umar-led panel of the CCT was not properly and legally composed to try his client.
He further argued that the CCT, not being a court that is constitutionally equipped with criminal jurisdiction, lacked the powers to dock the Senate President on the basis of the 13-count charge that is pending before it.
“An attempt to make the CCT a court having criminal jurisdiction will have far reaching constitutional consequences” Daudu contended, adding that the tribunal was not among the courts established under Section 6 of the 1999 constitution.
Besides, it was his argument that the fact that there was no substantive Attorney-General of the Federation as at the time the charge was filed, rendered it incompetent.
However, while praying the Supreme Court to dismiss the appeal, government lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, relied on the provision of section 4(2)(b) of the interpretation Act, to insist that Saraki was properly charged before the CCT.
Rotimi argued that going by the provision of section 284(4) of the Constitution, the two-members of the CCT panel, formed a quorum that can hear and determine the criminal case instituted against the Senate President by the federal government.
After listening to all the parties, the CJN who headed the apex court panel, adjourned the matter for judgment.
It will be recalled that a previous panel of the apex court headed by Justice John Fabiyi who is now retired, suspended further hearing on the case pending against Saraki before the CCT.
The Justice Fabiyi’s panel which is now disbanded by the CJN, specifically directed the CCT panel to “tarry awhile”, to enable the apex court to hear Saraki’s appeal.
Credit – Vanguard