‘Saraki’s trial could lead to constitutional crisis’

By Seye Olumide   |   30 September 2015   |   2:46 am  
Saraki

Saraki

ELDER statesman and Constitutional lawyer, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite has cautioned the Federal Government and the ruling All progressives Congress (APC), on the likely consequences of the ongoing trial of the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).

He warned that the ongoing trial could erupt into unprecedented major political and constitutional crisis.

Although, Braithwaite said he is not against the trial of the Senate president nor doubted the criminality of the charges, however he said, “I do not see the trial going anywhere because the prosecutors are not sure of their case against the Senate president.”

In similar vein, the National Secretary, Labour Party (LP), Mr. Kayode Ajulo said the ongoing travails of Saraki amounted to nothing but a “selective trial with a traits of witch hunting.”

Tunji-Braithwaite-01

Braithwaite

Dr. Braithwaite and Ajulo in separate interviews with The Guardian yesterday were of the common view that, “A democracy without transparency, justice and equity will not stand the test of time.”

According to Braithwaite, “The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) cannot get Saraki removed from office in the first instance. It is a political action that will fail and hopefully it must fail.”

The elder statesman added that if they (Saraki’s) prosecutors have a serious case against him why going to such a lame duck tribunal? “I called it a lame duck because it is not suppose to do most of the things that we saw it doing. I don’t know if it has criminal jurisdiction, I am not sure but what I know is that if that is the way those after Saraki wanted to get him out of office, it will be very sad. Then it means that corruption is still very much driving the entire process.”

“The 13 counts charge against Saraki can be criminal, no doubt, but then, why go to such lame duck tribunal? I hold the view that Saraki’s lawyers should just proceed to the Court of Appeal and have the whole dam thing struck out, because it is null and void.

“If they are trying to get him removed from the office in this manner it will certainly back fire because to people like us, even though I do not belong to their party, it engenders sympathy for the man because I hate injustice. It doesn’t matter who the perpetrator of injustice is.

The elder statesman lampooned those behind the matter, saying: “It is obvious that they are not sure of their case, they are not sure of the tribunal and of the criminality they are charging this fellow for that is the reason why they approached such a lame duck tribunal perhaps just to intimidate and to whip their victim to lying. In a way it is a kind of blackmail by the authorities because the prosecutors are not sure of their ground.”

He said whatever the consequences of the case are “Nigerians are going to benefit from it because some people are already feeling and behaving as if they owned the country and government.

“What Saraki is going through has more to do with the internal issues within the party. But what I can see from the distance is that certain people within the APC are not favorably disposed to Saraki’s becoming the President of the Senate. Those who think because they bankrolled President Muhammadu Buhari’s emergence as their presidential candidate also felt that they should have their candidates in position of power. It is obvious to me that it is an intra party power play.”

Ajulo however said the whole matter appears sickening and worrisome because of the selective tendency behind it “I doubted the motive and sincerity behind the trial.”

While he said has no problem with Saraki’s trial “there was a time we conducted a research and got to know that over 90 per cent of those that declared their assets in Nigeria did so wrongly. My organization, Egalitarian Mission Africa, approached the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and offered to do free consultancy to give the bureau a detail information of the entire public officers who declared their assets wrongly, many of them declared only their assets without declaring their liabilities according to the law but till date CCB never responded to us.

“Saraki is not the only culpable public officer, so why singled him out? Democracy is all about transparency therefore the government should make the trial wholly. The President of the Senate is only singled out because he has issues with some powers that be otherwise if he did not emerge as President of the Senate against the desires of some cabals within the APC, would he have been facing trial now.

“I want Nigerians to ruminate over the issue because it is beginning to make the ongoing fight against corruption appear doubtful because all the past governors that are now in the Senate are also alleged to have issues with the declaration of their assets and liabilities.”

On why the office of President of the Senate has always been engrossed in controversies since 1999 the country returned to democratic rule, Braithwaite said, “It is part of the reason some of us have been agitating for restructuring of the country. The power of the Office of the Senate President is so enormous like that of the office of the presidency. The duties of the Senate President include approving appointments for the president, in other words if they don’t approve presidential nominees, it cannot have any strength, the president cannot make certain appointments. This will hold the president down. So the Senate presidency remains a very influential office.

“That is the more reason every political power play is interested in who occupies the position because the job of the Senate president must be in tandem with that of the president. ”

Ajulo however is of the opinion that the country’s Constitution needed to be amended to make the office of the President of the Senate less attractive.

According to him, “The President of the Senate, unlike the offices of the president and governor, is simply that of ‘first among equal’ but it attracted such enormous powers and paraphernalia of office breeds dangerous intrigues among the senators who will always want to undo and unseat the person occupying the position at a particular point in time. The simple assignment of the office of the President of the Senate is to coordinate the affairs of other senators but this has been twisted to something else. Imagine the kind of convoy that follows a President of the Senate, I think there is the need to review the functions and powers of the office very well.

Past Senate Presidents and their ordeals
CHIEF Evan Enwerem was elected to the Nigerian Senate in 1999 to represent the Imo-East Senatorial Zone. He became the first President of the Nigerian Senate during Nigeria’s Fourth Republic but failed to stay long in office after a Senate Committee investigated him for allegations of corruption in 1999 that he falsified his name, and caused a controversy as to whether his actual name was Evan or Evans.

He was removed from office on November 18, 1999.

Senator Dr. Chuba Okadigbo succeeded Enwerem. But Okadigbo was in turn accused of corruption allegations and was removed from office, on August 8, 2000.

Senator Anyim Pius Anyim was appointed President of the Senate in August 2000, after Dr. Okadigbo had been impeached. He held office until May 2003.

Senator Adolphus Wabara was elected to the Senate in 1999, and reelected in 2003. He was president of the Senate of from 2003 to 2005.

In April 2005 Wabara resigned from his position after allegations that he and others took bribe from the education minister.

Senator Ken Nnamani was elected to the Senate to represent Enugu East in 2003 and became President of the Senate from April 5, 2005 to 2007. He resigned due to allegations of corruption.

Senator David Mark became president of the senate in 2007 and left in 2015 when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost the majority seat to the ruling APC.

Saraki took over on June 2015. Saraki is currently facing trial for a 13-s charge ranging from anticipatory declaration of assets to making false declaration of assets in forms he filed before the Code of Conduct Bureau while he was governor of Kwara State. He is also being accused of failing to declare some assets he acquired while in office as governor. He is also accused of acquiring assets beyond his legitimate earnings also operating foreign accounts while being a public officer

The offences, the charge said, violated sections of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended and he also breached Section 2 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act and punishable under paragraph 9 of the said Fifth Schedule of the Constitution.



  • Baba Adini

    Does Dr. Tunji Braithwaite even know what he is talking about? The Code of Conduct Tribunal is a creation of the 1999 Constitution, which is the supreme law of Nigeria. And by section 18 of the 1999 Constitution the tribunal has the power to try and punish Saraki. Also, the prosecutors have discretion to choose any court other than the tribunal to bring code of conduct breaches. My advice to Saraki, even though I don’t support cash and carry justice, is for Saraki to give dollars to the tribunal men or to the prosecutor to adjourn the case indefinitely so as to make the public officers look bad as corruption incorporated as usual. If the tribunal or the prosecutors do anything to truncate the case, Nigerians know that there was a closed handshake like the police and taxi drivers does for free pass. This is because if the facts before the tribunal are true, Saraki is in big trouble and may not even be a legislator again or hold public office for the next 10 years. So, Saraki is going to fight to prevent that from happening. No ex-governor, or senator, or even big man in Nigeria ever get punished in Abuja or Lagos Court, unless in London Court. Nigerian justice system is once more on trial again. Saraki’s case will prove whether or not Nigerian justice system is real or just designed to punish the poor.

    • attah8

      You think you know the law of Nigeria more than Tunji Braithwaite? Think again because everyone will see you as deluded to think so

      • Baba Adini

        Attah8, go and read section 18 of the 1999 constitution and see who knows the law and will be seen by everyone as deluded. Since Braithwaite knows the law, he shouldn’t be sentimental as law is based on facts, legislation, and judicial precedents. Knowledge of the law like anything else whether science, maths, or engineering, and technology is not by old age. It is by research. The supreme law of the land (the constitution) empowers the tribunal to hear code of conduct breaches. So, if Braithwaite has problem with section 18 of the constitution, he should tell Saraki to amend or even abolish it to protect looters. That way it won’t be law any more. Even yourself can protest it to protect looters. That is what democracy is about. It is not by casting aspersion on the intelligent prosecutors. Let the prosecutors do their jobs. If they went to the wrong court, Saraki’s lawyers will get them and have the case struck out. You don’t need a law degree to understand the constitution. A primary 6 education is sufficient even though the constitution was written at primary 3 English level.

    • AA

      Braithwaite asked a simple question: If the prosecutors are sure why don’t they approach a proper court? Why do they go to a tribunal whose powers are questionable and whose processes can be easy (relatively) to be thwarted? Pls provide answers before saying that Braithwaite doesn’t know what he is saying.

      • Sadiq Garba

        Man i’m always doubting if age has not eaten up Braithwaite’s head.
        Is CCT not a creation of the Nigerian constitution?
        Is CCB not allowed to charge public officers to the tribunals?
        Must it be a high court that’ll try such a case (because Saraki is involved)?

        • AA

          Instead of insulting the man why not respond to the argument he is making: different courts have different powers and jurisdictions. The man is saying that this court is not the ideal one for the kind of charge proffered and that it is limited in its ability to handle the case. This is why he is suspicious of the intention of the prosecutors who could easily have gone to a more powerful forum. Why don’t u respond to this point?

          • stan Emelogu

            He is incapable of that kind of response because he has no capacity to think. Don’t waste your time with him.

          • Baba Adini

            Stan, Sadiq is very capable, realistic and not sentimental. Which court can best dispense code of conduct cases than the tribunal created by the constitution? This is a specialized court and that is all it does 24/7, 365 days. Nigeria is the only place where truth is buried for tribal or religious egoism. The constitution is the supreme law, unless you bribe to subvert it. You don’t need a law degree to understand the constitution. Primary 6 education is sufficient to understand the constitution even though it was written to be understood by primary 3 pupils.

          • stan Emelogu

            It is very unfortunate that you exhibit this level of understanding of this issue. Since you are so sure the ccb/cct is the right court to prosecute corruption cases who has this court ever sent to prison? Furthermore, with your primary six understanding of the constitution tell us why this case is in this particular court. Well, our concern is that this trial is in a court the presidency can manipulate very easily. Except to humiliate Saraki the cct has no value. I guarantee you that in the end Saraki will walk free and stronger than he was before this shinanigan started.

          • Baba Adini

            Stan, you are right as it is only in Nigeria that it is unfortunate when the truth is told by a primary 6 graduate. The truth is always bitter, yet it takes courage to tell it. With my primary 6 education, it is obvious that I am better equipped intellectually than you that has may be 2 PHDs and 4 masters degrees, and even the doctor lawyer who doesn’t want to acknowledge the existence of section 18 of the 1999 constitution. I agree with you that Saraki will no doubt walk away free from the long arm of the law like every rich Nigerian through plead deal like Governor Igbinedion of Edo State, or even through presidential manipulation of judges (high court or tribunals), or bribery as the case may be, but if he goes to London, he will end up in jail like Ebori, unless he disguise like Alamieyeseigha as a Christian nun instead of a Muslim woman and run from a legal system not subject to manipulation by wealth, power, or fame. The code of conduct tribunal has value, because it is a creation of the constitution. Whether it sends someone to jail or not is because jail is not for rich corrupt Nigerians, since people like you honor corruption, which gives judges free room to engage in it without due regard to law and order. Even the high courts don’t send rich Nigerians to jail. At least, it exposes the weakness of the legal system and let us know how corrupt judges and prosecutors will act.

      • Baba Adini

        AA, you can’t buried the truth, which lies in section 18 of the 1999 constitution that empowers code of conduct breaches to be heard by a specialized tribunal created by the constitution for that purpose or empowers the prosecutor to bring the charges in any high court of his/her choice. In this case, the prosecutor choose the tribunal. That is the answer, because law is based on facts, legislation, and judge’s decision. So, if you have problem with section 18 of the constitution, tell your Saraki man to amend or even abolish it to protect looters. After all, he is the senate president and he now has the power to make and unmake laws or even give us a new constitution entirely.

  • stan Emelogu

    I hope the APc and their leaders would learn from the PDP and their misfortune. A senate president is thought to be the number three citizen but actually he is the number two citizen or even at par with the president. The evolution of that position has followed a checkered history for that reason. Thanks to David Mark that position has stabilized and with the right mix of people can bring down the residency. There should be mutual respect for these two coequal but separate arms of government. In an attempt to tame Saraki the president might commi high crimes impeachable under our law. Sooner or later the legislature will rise above it all and turn the tables on the presidency. At some point the senate will impeach a president I hope this president will not make himself the Guinea pig.

  • Simeon

    Let there be a constitutional crisis. Saraki is not above the law. He is ONLY a senator. Braithwaith do not know hat he is talking about. And Guardian newspaper is a good supporters of looters and will gladly publish nonsense. Abati was until recently the Chairman Editorial Board. Bird of thesame feather indeed!

  • Akhere

    Unfortunately we all tend to view things from our individual and selfish perspective, which is what we are seeing here UNFORTUNATELY STILL from a supposed elder statesman.

  • anthony okonkwo

    The writer was wrong by writing that Ken Nnamani resigned because of corruption charge against him. ken Nnamani was never accused of any corruption, he finished his tenure as the senate president in 2007 and did not seek re-election.

  • Ade Omowest

    “Saraki is not the only culpable public officer, so why singled him out?”- National Secretary, Labour Party (LP), Mr. Kayode Ajulo. Very good question sir, but he who lives in a glass house should not throw stones. Bukola Saraki has climbed a tree beyond it’s leaves and he needs to face the consequences. As the number three man in the land, he should be above board so the simple solution is for the Senate President to defend himself of the 13 charges at the CCT as laid down in the 1999 constitution of the Fed. Rep. of Nigeria. Whatever the outcome can be appealed up to the Appeal court and Supreme Court. That is the law no matter the feelings of the Elder Statesman Dr. Tunji Braithwaite.

  • dave jacob

    Baba “Things have got to change”, though I am not a lawyer, all your statements about the criminality of the case, jurisdiction of the CCB, etc have been buried. That you said the prosecutors “are not sure of their case, they are not sure of the tribunal and of the criminality” is unfounded. The prosecutor even said he was ready to present his witnesses that very day the trial began. T

  • dave jacob

    To Ajulo, I will say power and politics go together. Saraki used his power of compromise to win the post thereby making a PDP man his deputy, the main issue in APC’s war against the Senate President. Mind you, APC will never forgive him for that. Therefore, if APC deploys its own political weapon to fight him, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair”. It is a game of interests at a particular point in time, context determining the contest.

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