Drama as Saraki’s counsel dares CCT chair
Reps urge adherence to rule of law
A timely intervention of the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) yesterday prevented a mild drama at the ongoing trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) from taking a turn for the worse and disrupting proceedings.
One of the counsel to Saraki, Rapheal Oluyode, had dared the CCT Chairman, Danladi Umar, by ignoring his order to sit down over a motion he tried to introduce. Oluyode stood his ground, telling Umar that he could not be intimidated. The counsel further confronted the CCT chairman over the threat to get him arrested if he continued with his argument.
At this point, Umar threatened to charge Oluyode with contempt should he continue, but the unyielding counsel dared him further, saying Umar “cannot do such a thing.”
“I will commit you for contempt for doing my job”, Umar shouted. “No, you cannot”, Oluyede replied.
“Ok. Where are the police? Arrest him and take him out”, Umar ordered.
But for the intervention of Jacobs, Oluyode would indeed, have been embarrassed out of court.
Trouble started shortly after Adebayo Adelodun (SAN) had announced appearance of the defence team. Oluyode stood up to draw the court’s attention to a motion filed by the defendant asking the tribunal chairman to disqualify himself from his trial.
But the prosecution counsel, Jacobs, interrupted him on the ground that the motion in question was handed over to him on Wednesday and that on receipt of the notice, he had quickly called the lead counsel for the defendant, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN) to find out if he was aware of such an application.
He said: “I called the lead counsel to find out if he was aware of the motion but he said that he was not aware of such a motion and he did not ask anybody to file any motion.”
Rotimi further disclosed that the counsel who filed the motion had been appearing before the court but was not a counsel on record.He noted that the motion did not have the address of the lead counsel and as such, the application was based on false premise and consequently not ripe for hearing.
In his response, the tribunal chairman slammed the senior defence counsel for allowing such a thing to happen before him, adding that it was an attempt to derail the course of justice.
Umar noted that since the defence team knew that the motion was not ripe and did not have the approval of the lead counsel, they should not have allowed it. According to him, “the court will not entertain this motion and I am refusing it.”
It was at this point that Oluyode stood up to justify the bringing up of the motion, but the chairman asked him to sit down.
Following Oluyode’s refusal to heed the order, Umar was left with no choice than to order his arrest, but as three policemen moved towards Oluyode to arrest him, Jacobs stood up to appeal and apologise on his behalf, asking the chairman to temper justice with mercy.
Addressing reporters outside the court over his conduct during the proceedings, Oluyode said he was right, adding that as a counsel in the matter, he deserved to be heard.
Saraki had on Wednesday filed a motion asking Umar to disqualify himself from the trial.His argument was hinged on an alleged bias, especially as Umar was also under investigation for an alleged bribery by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
And when the business of the day began, another member of the defence team, Paul Usoro (SAN), cross-examined the prosecution witness one, Michael Wetkas, on count 12 of the charge.
Count 12 had alleged that Saraki operated a bank account outside Nigeria where he transferred an average of $3.4 million to America Express Europe Limited for onward transfer to his card account with America Express Bank, New York.
When asked if count 12 was the same as count 11 which also accuses Saraki of operating a foreign account, Wetkas answered in the affirmative. He told the tribunal that the cover letter which the EFCC wrote to GTB in exhibit eight, had covered the issue raised in counts 11 and 12.
Also, when asked to point out the transaction in his exhibit that was related to count 12, he said it was a summary of the entire transfer in the said account.
Usoro further asked Wetkas to point out the transactions in the document. Wetkas, however, responded that such might take a whole day as he would be expected to run through the entire document.
When confronted with the figures, Wetkas said that they were charges on the account and did not constitute the final figure of $3.4 million.
He however admitted that besides three huge transfers, other figures in the account were just charges, but that in the course of his work, he was required to give a summation of all the transactions in his report.
As the cross-examination continued, Agabi (SAN) asked for a week adjournment to enable them to study the amended charge and other documents that had been tendered.
The prosecution counsel, however, objected on the ground that a full week would be too long and that the documents had been with the defence team for a while.
The tribunal dismissed the application for one week adjournment but rather adjourned the case till April 27 for the continuation of the cross-examination.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has enjoined the authorities to ensure that the ongoing trial of Saraki complies with the provisions of the rule of law.
The Spokesperson of the House, Abdulrazak Namdas who briefed reporters at the National Assembly complex in Abuja yesterday maintained that Saraki who is the head of the legislature remains innocent until proven guilty by the court.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Peoples Congress (DPC) has urged the immediate withdrawal of Umar from the CCT over an alleged bias in the trial of Saraki.
In a statement by the National Chairman, Rev. Olusegun Peters, DPC noted that in as much as it had zero tolerance for corruption and believed in the rule of law, it insisted on the observance of due process and equity in the ongoing fight against corruption.
The group said it was “disturbed by the multiple controversies, accusation of bias, violation of fundamental human rights, usurpation of the functions of the Code of Conduct Tribunal by the EFCC.”