By Vivian Okejeme Abuja
The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) Jabi Abuja, yesterday, suspended indefinitely, trial of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki on a false asset declaration charges preferred against him by the federal government.
The tribunal had on the last adjourned date fixed yesterday, for parties in the matter to adopt their final briefs of addresses.
But when the matter was called yesterday, the tribunal informed it’s decision to “tarry for a while” in the matter, adding that it is hesitant to take further step in the case considering two appeals pending before the Supreme court.
He asked the parties in the matter to brief the tribunal on the two pending appeal at the Supreme Court.
“This matter was fixed for today to enable parties to adopt their final written addresses. However, there is an issue that this tribunal, me and my colleague, decided we should raise suo-motu.
“Even though the defendant previously wrote to draw attention of this tribunal to two appeals on this matter that are pending before the Supreme Court, we were surprised that counsel kept silent on that letter and proceeded to open his defence.
“However, at this juncture, we feel it is germane to call on the prosecution and defence to address us on the way forward since issues have been canvassed before the Supreme Court.
He further stated “You should address us on whether it is not proper for this tribunal to await the decision of the Supreme Court on issues that parties have raised with respect to counts 4, 5 and 6 of the charge before us.
“We want to know if it will be right to proceed and deliver judgment in this case, not minding the appeals filed by both parties,” Mr. Umar stated.
Responding to the question, the prosecution counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, prayed the tribunal to go ahead with the case, adding that the action will go contrary to Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA 2015.
He added that suspending further proceeding on the matter would amount to granting Saraki’s desire.
“Ordinarily we would have said your lordships should tarry awhile to protect the authority and integrity of the highest court, but the prosecution will urge the tribunal to proceed in view of the position of the law today.
“Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, enjoins the court not to entertain any application for stay and the Supreme Court has also interpreted that section in Metuh vs FRN, delivered on June 9, 2017, SC/457/2015.
“The appeal before the Supreme Court is not an issue of reference as envisaged in section 305 of the ACJA.
“We took this position bearing in mind that the defendant wrote a letter on January 19, 2018, wherein he notified the tribunal of the pending appeal.
“But since the same defendant proceeded to open his defence to the charges, we urge my lords to also go ahead with the case”.
Counsel to Saraki, Mr. Kanu Agabi, SAN, on his part commended the CCT panel on the need for further proceeding to be suspended in the matter to await the outcome of the appeal that was lodged by his client and a cross-appeal that was filed by FG.
On a bench ruling, Umar said it was minded to adjourn the case sine-die (indefinitely).
The tribunal based its decision on section 36 of the 1999 Constitution which it said provided for fair hearing and right of appeal to all the parties.
“The tribunal is not insensitive about circumstances in which the defendant was asked to return by the Court of Appeal to answer to allegations in three counts of the charge.
“Since the Supreme Court is already giving accelerated hearing to the appeals before it, we at the tribunal will be hesitatant to proceed further when the Supreme Court is already seized with facts of the matter.
“Therefore, this tribunal has decided to tarry awhile so that integrity of the Supreme Court will not be toyed with.
“This tribunal has decided to adjourn the continuation of the adoption of the final addresses sine-die to await the outcome of the appeals”, Mr. Umar ruled.
It will be recalled that the Court Appeal had in Abuja had in a judgment on December 12, 2017, restored three out the entire 18-count charge that was earlier dismissed by the tribunal on the premise that FG failed to establish a prima-facie criminal case against Saraki.
The court ordered Saraki to go back to CCT and defend counts 4, 5 and 6 of the amended charge against him.