The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal will on Friday (today) decide on whether or not to quash the charges of false assets declaration preferred against Senate President Bukola Saraki before the Code of Conduct Tribunal. Saraki had filed his appeal before the appellate court to challenge the competence of the charges filed against him and the constitution of the tribunal, which he said comprised two members instead of the three provided for by law.
The judgment of the Appeal Court was earlier scheduled to be delivered on October 19, but it was on that day adjourned indefinitely because it was said not to be ready. Following that, the Justice Danladi Umar-led tribunal adjourned the trial of the Senate President which was due to commence on October 21, till November 5, to await the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
The judgment will effectively terminate the Senate President’s trial before the CCT if the Court of Appeal rules in his favour on Friday. The Justice Moore Adumein-led panel of the appeal court had on October 16 heard the appeal. Fresh hearing notice for the delivering of the judgment was issued late on Thursday.
Respondents to the appeal are the CCT, the Code of Conduct Bureau, in whose name the charges were filed, the Federal Ministry of Justice and a lawyer in the ministry, Mr. Muslim Hassan. At the hearing of the appeal, Saraki’s lead counsel, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), urged the appellate court to “set aside the entire proceedings of the Code of Conduct Tribunal including the charges before it.”
He anchored his prayer on, among other grounds, that the CCT was not properly constituted to entertain the charges because it was made up of two judges instead of three provided for in Paragraph 15(1) of the Fifth Schedule to the constitution. On that score, he argued that the Section 28 of the Interpretation Act relied upon by the respondents giving room for the tribunal to validly sit with its chairman and one other member, could not “water down” the provisions of the constitution.
He also argued that in the absence of the Attorney-General of the Federation no competent charges could be filed against his client. He also contended that the CCB failed to confront his client with the allegation as a pre-condition for filing charges against him (Saraki). But the respondents’ counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), urged the Appeal Court to dismiss the suit, on the grounds that it was based on “misconception and wrong interpretation of the law.”
He faulted Daudu’s prayer for the dismissal of the charge based on an alleged fact that the panel of the tribunal was not properly constituted. On the issue of the tribunal not being properly constituted, Jacobs argued that two out of the three members of tribunal could validly the conduct proceedings by virtue of the provisions of Section 28 of the Interpretation Act recognised by the constitution in its section 308(4).