‘Saraki’s trial could lead to constitutional crisis’
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.”
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.