Senate President Bukola Saraki maintained yesterday that the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) must discharge and acquit him the way it did to former Lagos State Governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
He said the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) should have invited him to clarify issues on his asset declaration form before charging him to the tribunal for alleged false asset declaration, a ground for which, he said, the CCT struck out a similar case against Tinubu.
According to him, the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who was accused of false declaration of assets, was set free by the tribunal because of the failure of the CCB to fulfill necessary conditions of inviting him first to make statement on the alleged discrepancies before referring him for trial.
Saraki, through his lawyer, Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN) told the tribunal chairman, Mr. Danladi Umar, that Saraki should have been invited to clarify issues before charging him before the tribunal.
After hearing on the motion by Saraki challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal to try him, the CCT yesterday fixed March 24, 2016 to rule on the motion.
During yesterday’s trial, counsel to Saraki, Agabi argued that ten other former governors who had the opportunity of being invited to defend their asset declaration before CCB and where not referred to the tribunal after taking explanations on their declared assets.
He urged the tribunal to dismiss the charges against Saraki for being incompetent, baseless and having been filed without observing the due process of the law, even as he also appealed to the tribunal to quash the charges against his client on the ground that the charges were not competent in law.
Agabi premised his argument on preliminary objection to the charge on the ground that the conditions precedent for arraignment of Saraki by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) were not fulfilled.
Among others, Agabi claimed that Saraki was not invited by the Code of Conduct Bureau as required by law to deny or admit the alleged discrepancies in the asset declaration form submitted to the Bureau.
Agabi told the tribunal that up till now, Saraki as a defendant has not made any statement to the Bureau upon which he can be effectively put to trial.
Agabi contended that the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) was wrong in law in initiating the charge against Saraki because the Code of Conduct Bureau Act vested power to accept asset declaration form, investigating assets form and prosecuting the offender on the Bureau and not on any external force like the AGF, ICPC or EFCC.
He said the failure of the CCB to fulfill the conditions precedent of summoning Saraki to first make statement on discrepancies in his declared assets was fatal to the charge before tribunal and cannot operate to the detriment of the defendant.
“CCB is a peculiar institution; it has the duty to accept, to examine, to keep custody of assets declaration forms submitted to it and also has power to accept complaints from the public on the discrepancies that may arise from any form submitted to it.
“In the instant case, there is no petition or complain before the CCB and that the power of the CCB to refer any offender to the CCT for trial cannot be delegated to the AGF”.
According to him, such measure should also apply to Saraki because he was not first invited by CCB to make statement of denial or confirmation of discrepancies in his assets declaration form.
In opposing the motion, counsel to the Federal Government, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), accused the defendant of engaging in abuse of court process and that what Saraki was asking for had been determined by various courts.
On the issue of Tinubu that was set free by the tribunal on the failure of the CCB to fulfill the conditions precedent, Jacobs opined that the tribunal was in error in arriving at that decision in setting Tinubu free.