Ade Adesomoju, Abuja
The Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja on Wednesday adjourned the trial of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, till June 21.
The tribunal adjourned for the hearing of a fresh motion filed by Saraki seeking an order of the CCT disqualifying its Chairman, Danladi Umar, from further presiding over the case.
Saraki filed his fresh application accusing Umar of bias based on the remark made by the tribunal chairman at the last proceedings on June 7, 2016, while warning the defence against delay tactics.
Umar made the statement that was picked up while warning the defence that their delay tactics would not “reduce the consequences the defendant will meet in this tribunal at the end of the trial”.
Saraki, in his fresh application filed by his lawyer, Kanu Agabi (SAN), alleged that Umar’s statement would prejudice the outcome of the trial.
At the resumed hearing in the case on Wednesday, lead defence counsel, Agabi, informed the tribunal of the motion which he said had yet to be opposed by the prosecution.
“We have a motion before your lordship. No processes opposing the motion have been served,” he said.
But in response, the lawyer, Mr. Pius Akuta, who stood in for the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN),said the prosecution had some moments before the tribunal started sitting, filed its opposition to the motion.
He said despite that, the business of the day was for further cross-examination of the first prosecution witness, Mr. Michael Wetkas, and not for the hearing of the motion.
Akuta said, “The business of today actually is continuation of cross-examination.
“We have filed our response to the motion this morning. We were served with this process two days ago arround 6pm. Yesterday, we were served with further affidavit.
“To that extent, we have instruction from the lead counsel (Jacobs) to proceed with the cross-examination.
“We are so sorry to inform the tribunal that the lead counsel received two hearing notices from the Court of Appeal yesterday. As we speak now he is before the Court of Appeal.
“So, we are opposing the application. The fact that they have filed a motion cannot stop the business of the day.”
He also cited section 396(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act to corroborate his contention that the application could be heard anytime and thus should not be allowed to
stall the business of the day.
But Agabi responded again, arguing that the provisions of the ACJ Act cited by Akuta, were only relevant when the defendant is challenging the validity of the charges which he said was not the case with the fresh motion.
He insisted that the scheduled business of the day had been overtaken by the motion which he said bordered on the jurisdiction of the tribunal and the competence of the presiding chairman.
Agabi, who was handed a copy of the prosecution’s opposition to the motion, asked for an adjournment of the case to enable him to file a response to the counter-affidavit filed by the prosecution.
The tribunal chairman agreed with Agabi and fixed the hearing of the motion for June 21.
The fresh application is the second filed by the Senate President asking the CCT chairman to withdraw from his trial.
The Umar-led CCT had on April 28 dismissed the earlier application which sought the withdrawal of the CCT chairman from the trial on the basis of alleged ongoing investigation of his involvement in a N10m bribery allegation.
Saraki is being prosecuted by the Federal Government on 16 counts, including false and anticipatory asset declaration, which he allegedly made between 2003 and 2011 when he served as the Governor of Kwara State.
He is also accused of operating foreign accounts as a public officer and of receiving governor’s salary or emoluments in addition to his salary as a senator for some periods after completing his two terms as governor and got elected as a senator