Saraki Appeals Tribunal’s Order For His Arrest
• Says Tribunal Acted Under Political Influence • Mixed Reactions Trail Arrest Order
SENATE President Bukola Saraki yesterday filed an appeal challenging the ruling of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, which ordered the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to arrest and bring him before the tribunal on Monday.
In his ground of appeal, Saraki, through his counsel, Joseph Daudu (SAN), submitted that the tribunal erred in law and also acted without jurisdiction by assuming jurisdiction over the criminal trial of the appellant at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for a charge which is being challenged at the Federal High Court.
Despite the notice from the Federal High Court, Abuja Division, for the Code of Conduct Bureau to appear before it on Monday to explain why it must go on with his trial over false and improper declaration of assets allegedly acquired during his tenure as governor of Kwara State from 2003 to 2011, the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) yesterday ordered Saraki’s arrest for not showing up at the trial, which had been slated for yesterday.
Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Danladi Umar, who issued a bench warrant against the Senate President, ordered the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and other relevant security agencies to arrest Saraki for failing to appear before the tribunal to face a 13-count criminal charge preferred against him by the Federal Ministry of Justice.
The order of arrest is also coming in spite of the efforts of Saraki’s team of lawyers, who were at the sitting on his behalf to serve the tribunal with a copy of the ruling of Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, which summoned the Ministry of Justice to appear on Monday to explain why the trial should go on.
Justice Umar and Chairman of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), Mr. Sam Saba, as well as a Director in the Ministry of Justice, Mr. Hassan, who signed the charge against Saraki, were themselves also summoned by the court to appear on Monday.
At yesterday’s sitting, the Federal Ministry of Justice had prayed the Tribunal to order Saraki’s arrest for his absence at the session which had been scheduled to mark the commencement of his prosecution in a case of alleged false declaration of assets.
It was also the position of the Ministry that Justice Mohammed lacked the powers to summon the CCT and CCB chairmen.
Although Saraki’s lawyer pleaded with the tribunal to consider his position as the Senate President and stay execution on the arrest warrant, promising that he would be available for trial on Monday, Justice Umar, who maintained that the accused person, having sworn to protect the constitution, ought to have shown respect for the tribunal by appearing before it yesterday, turned down the plea.
It would be recalled that Saraki had in a bid to scuttle his prosecution, earlier sought to obtain an ex-parte application from the Federal High Court, Abuja Division.
Although the application was turned down, the court however ordered Saraki to put the CCB on notice to appear before it on Monday September 21 to show cause why it should not be restrained from arraigning him over the 13-count charge.
Saraki’s efforts at the court was to stop the Ministry, the CCB, CCT and Hassan from taking further steps to arraign him or prefer any charge against him, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit he filed before the court.
He had prayed the court to declare that the Ministry has not complied with the provision of the 3rd Schedule of Section 2(1) of the CCB and the Tribunal’s Act to act before proffering a charge against him.
In the motion ex-parte argued by Mahmud Magaji (SAN), Saraki said based on the provision, his prosecution before the tribunal shall be initiated by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) or any officer directed by him.
He averred: “In the absence of any subsisting AGF in the time being, this court has the jurisdiction to direct parties to maintain status quo, pending the hearing of the motion on notice.”
However, at the tribunal yesterday, Hassan applied for the arrest order at the session, following Saraki’s absence, stating: “He cannot sit in the comfort of his chamber and object to his trial in absentia.”
The prosecution further accused Saraki of engaging in “forum shopping” in a desperate bid to scuttle his trial.
But in his particulars of error yesterday following the tribunal’s order, Saraki, in a statement by his special adviser on Media Affairs, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said as at the time the tribunal overruled the appellant’s application to discharge the Order for Bench Warrant for his arrest by the respondent, there existed an Order of the Federal High Court, which was served on the tribunal.
He further submitted that the appellant filed an application, dated September 17, challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal to adjudicate on the charge brought before it.