Senator Bukola Saraki Puts Nigeria Legal System On Test Waters-Nigeria Legal system is in test waters and could be running aground unless the current scenario of a High Court challenging the authority of a legally constituted Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) is resolved with the later given its right honour and unchallenge-able independence of action.
The two legally constituted national authorities are currently on each other’s throat at the instance of a political heavyweight, putting in play a major international credibility question, scrutiny and legal system survival lifeline.
It happened on Friday when the Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja ordered the President of the Senate, Dr Olusola Saraki to appear before it for an alleged criminal offence of false declaration of assets.
Saraki had been ordered to appear to take pleas in the 13 count charge of alleged false declaration of assets brought against him by the Federal Government.
He refused to appear before the tribunal using an order by a Federal High Court to flex his political muscle.
The Tribunal had wanted Saraki to answer questions on a 13-count charge of dishonestly making false declaration of assets, especially his failure to declare his acquired fortune while in office as governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.
Last Thursday, Saraki had pre-empted his appearance before the tribunal by seeking an order from the Federal High Court barring the Tribunal from holding his trial proceeding with available evidences.
The High court acting on a request by Saraki’s lawyer also ordered the Code of Conduct Bureau, the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the chairmen of the two national authorities and the government prosecuting counsel in the case and representative of the Federal Minister of Justice, M. S. Hassan, to appear before it on Monday, overriding the Federal constituted Tribunal.
However, the Tribunal went ahead with its sitting on Friday in the trial.
Prosecutor Hassan told the Tribunal that Saraki, who was represented at the trial by his lawyer, M. Mahmud, should be arrested for flouting its directive for non-appearance before the tribunal.
As the matter was laid before the Tribunal on Friday, Saraki was represented by two Senior Advocate of Nigeria J.B Daudu and Mahmud Magaji.
Arguing his case, the Prosecution Counsel, Musiliu Hassan put before the Tribunal that the accused was not in court despite the fact that he had been served with the summons earlier and that it had been exhibited it in their process.
The prosecution prayed that the tribunal should issue a bench warrant on Saraki for his disregard and disobedience of the Tribunal using power through court orders.
Opposing the application, Saraki’s counsel, Magaji submitted that the charge, as well as the prosecution lacked validity to come before the Tribunal on grounds that there was no incumbent Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).
He further argued that there was a pending ruling of the Federal High Court which had summoned chairmen of CCB, CCT and Hassan.
The tribunal putting into consideration that there was no AGF in action stood down the matter for three hours. Presiding judge, Justice Danladi Umar, ruled that the tribunal had taken notice of the AGF issue.
The tribunal however after the recess held that the absence of the AGF does not stop the filing of a criminal charge in the current dispensation as the Solicitor General can institute such charge and act on its behalf. It also ruled that as a Federally instituted authority, the Federal High Court has the same jurisdiction with it and the Tribunal was not in any way bound by the ruling.
“No court of co-ordinate jurisdiction can halt the proceedings of this tribunal. This tribunal called on the Senate President to come and stand his trial. The defendant is expected to respect the constitution he swore to”, the tribunal held.
Justice Umar went further to issue bench warrant and ordered the IGP to produce the Senate President before him on Monday to take his plea.
The Tribunal Chairman ordered Solomon Arase, the Inspector General of Police, and other related security agencies in the country to arrest Saraki and present before the Tribunal.
The Ministry of Justice also appealed to the Justice Umar-led panel to demand for his arrest, saying “he cannot sit in the comfort of his chamber and object to his trial in absentia”.
Justice Umar claimed that the accused person having sworn to protect the constitution, ought to have shown respect to the tribunal by appearing before it.