Court of Appeal reserves judgment on Saraki’s appeal
The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Thursday reserved judgment in an appeal filed by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, challenging the jurisdiction of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) to trial him.
Justice Abdu Aboki-led other four justices of the appellate court reserve the date after parties had adopted their written addresses.
Aboki said that the date of the judgment would be communicated to the parties.
The notice of appeal was filed on March 24 after Saraki’s motion challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal was dismissed.
Adopting his address, Mr Kanu Agabi (SAN), Counsel to Saraki, urged the appellate court to upturn the decision of the tribunal which had arrogated to itself jurisdiction to try the applicant.
“That is to say that the tribunal has no jurisdiction to entertain the charge brought against my client,’’ he said.
Agabi argued that under Section 3(d) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, anyone alleged to have breached the provision must be given an opportunity for a written admission.
He submitted that the non-compliance of the provision presupposed that the tribunal declared that legislation unconstitutional.
“That is why we are here. Leaving an inferior court like the CCT to declare an important legislation unconstitutional will be fatal,’’ he said.
Agabi further said that the applicant should not have been taken to the tribunal, adding that Saraki was not given his full right of admittance to the error spotted in his assert declaration forms.
“If the Code of Conduct Bureau had followed the provision of the law we would not have been here. Saraki was not given the right of fair hearing and we are surprised why this happened.
“In the light of this, there is no statement from the applicant which should have been accompanied with the prosecution’s proof of evidence as stipulated in the Administration of Justice Act.
“The other aspect is for the appellate court to decide whether it is right not to treat all identical cases equally,’’ Agabi said.
He also said: “we are saying this because the tribunal had some time ago ruled itself out of a similar case filed against Sen. Bola Tinubu.’’
Agabi submitted that it was clear that the action against the applicant was not in the interest of justice.
According to him, it amounts to judicial absurdity to bring the applicant to court on alleged offence committed 13 years ago.
“The Code of Conduct Bureau exists as a reconciliatory unit meant to correct errors spotted in asserts declaration forms and not created to send people to prison.
“I urge the court to impress it on the two institutions to do the needful by availing the applicant the opportunity for a written admission.
“I also pray the court to hold that the tribunal do not have the jurisdiction to try the applicant in the circumstance,’’ Agabi said.
Agabi further averred that it was a breach of statutory provision that established the Code Conduct Bureau for either the EFCC or ICPC to assist it prosecuted alleged offences bordering around assets declaration.
“In this case, the EFCC was brought in to investigate and prosecute the applicant,’’ he said.
On his part, Chief Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), the Prosecuting Counsel, prayed the court to dismiss the appeal, adding that it lacked merit.
On Agabi’s submission that the applicant was not given the right of written admission, Jacob said that provision was an old law.
Jacob said Section 3(d) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act was contained in the 1979 Constitution but expunged from the amended 1999 Constitution.
“I want to also make it clear before My Lords that the written statement of admission is different from the statement of defence that must accompany the proof of evidence.
“The applicant was given sufficient right to file objections to all the allegations brought against him, therefore, it will be unfair for his counsel to claim that he was not given a fair hearing,’’ Jacob said.
Jacob also said the immunity status accorded the applicant by the constitution while being governor of Kwara for eight years delayed his prosecution, adding that it was not a case of selective justice.
In a cross-appeal filed by the prosecution team, the applicant was accused of abusing court process, as according to Jacob, most of the reliefs sought has been heard and decided by the Supreme Court.