CCT Throws Out Saraki’s Motion Querying Umar’s Integrity

 CCT Throws Out Saraki’s Motion Querying Umar’s Integrity

SARAKI-TRIALSCode of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) Chairman Danladi Umar yesterday pulled the brakes on Senate President Bukola Saraki’s motion querying his integrity and urging him to disqualify himself from presiding over his trial.
Justice Umar described the motion, filed for Saraki by a lawyer, Ajibola Oluyede, as “rubbish, unmeritorious and a distraction”. He described Oluyede as a busy-body, who was a stranger to the proceedings.
Saraki filed the motion on Wednesday, questioning Justice Umar’s integrity and demanding his withdrawal from his (Saraki’s) trial for alleged false assets declaration.
He claimed that Justice Umar was being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and that he was likely to be manipulated by the EFCC to arrive at a decision favourable to the prosecution.
At the opening of proceedings yesterday, Adebayo Adelodun (SAN), who led the defence team, yielded ground for Oluyede to introduce his motion. Oluyede said the motion contained reliefs, including one for an order asking Justice Umar to disqualify himself from further presiding over the case on the grounds that he was being investigated for bribery.
Lead prosecution lawyer Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), interjected and said the application had not received the approval of the lead defence lawyer, Kanu Agabi (SAN), who was absent at the proceedings.
Jacobs noted that Oluyede was not yet a lawyer in the case, because as at when he (Oluyede) filed the motion yesterday, he was yet to be recognised as a member of the defence team.
Jacobs insisted on responding to the motion only if Agabi acknowledged its existence.
At that point, Justice Umar passed a copy of a letter from the EFCC, absolving him of all issues relating to the bribery allegation on which Oluyede’s motion was predicated.
Justice Umar noted that Oluyede filed similar application before the Federal High Court, Abuja in a fundamental rights suit, which Justice Adamu Abdu Kafarati dismissed last Friday as being unmeritorious and constituting an abuse of the court’s process.
“As far as this tribunal is concerned, this application (motion) has not been filed. It is rubbish and it is hereby thrown out,” Justice Umar declared.
He directed Oluyede to sit down to enable the tribunal proceed with the business of the day, which was the continuation of the cross-examination of the first prosecution witness, Michael Wetkas.
Oluyede ignored Justice Umar’s directive, insisting that he will proceed with his motion. He accused Justice Umar of having “too many cloudy relationships with the EFCC”, adding that “this is part of the reasons we asked you to excuse yourself.”
Justice Umar interrupted him, threatening to commit the lawyer to prison should he persist to insult the tribunal. Oluyede refused to sit down and attempted to proceed with his argument, but Justice Umar ordered the police orderlies in court to take the lawyer away.
The policemen were reluctant to carry out Justice Umar’ directive, following which Jacobs intervened and appealed for calm.
Jacobs urged Justice Umar to be patient, noting that the EFCC had since March 15 cleared him (Justice Umar) of the allegations, before the charge against Saraki was filed in September 2015.
“My lord, be patient, we will handle the application as we effectively did at the Federal High Court. We will expose the frivolity of the application even to the person who filed it,” Jacobs said.
When peace returned, another member of Saraki’s defence team, Paul Usoro (SAN), strolled into the tribunal’s sitting and, without referring to the hot exchanges between Justice Umar and Oluyede, sought to continue with the business of the day, which was the cross-examination of Wettkas.
The tribunal Chairman granted Usoro’ request and allowed the resumption of the witness’ cross-examination by the defence team.
Meanwhile, the prosecution has amended the charge, raising the counts from13 to 15.
In the new count 14, Saraki is accused of making false declaration in the assets declaration form he filled 2003 as governor of Kwara State “by your failure to declare your leasehold interest in number 42, Remi Fani Kayode Street, Ikeja, Lagos, which you acquired through your company, Skyview Properties Limited from First Finance Trust Limited on December 12, 1996 and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(1)(2) of the CCB/T Act. CAP. C15, laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and as incorporated under paragraph 11(1)(2),I Fifth Schedule to the 1999 (as amended) and punishable under Section 23(2) of the CCB/CCT Act as incorporated under paragraph 18, Part I of the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution.
of the federal republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).”
The new count 15 accuse Saraki of receiving monthly salary/emoluments between June 2011 and October 2013 “as governor of Kwara State and at the same time, from the Federal Government as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 6(a) of the CCB/T Act, CAP. C15, laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and as incorporated under paragraph 2(a), Part I of the, Fifth Schedule to the Constitution and punishable under section 23(2) of the CCB/T Act as incorporated under paragraph 18, Part I of the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution.”
Under cross examination by Usoro, Wetkas insisted that investigation by his team revealed that Saraki operated an offshore account while in public office.
When told the credit card with which the defendant allegedly made the foreign transactions were not issued by a bank, Wetkas said although he did not have a credit card and have not seen any, he was convinced that it was similar to a bank account in its operation.
“From the narrations of the foreign transfers, the destination was to American Express Bank, Europe. GTB (Guaranty Trust Bank) by its letter dated April 1, 2014 forwarded a certified true copy (CTC) of the instruments for processing the transactions in relation to Count 12 of the charge to us,” he said.
On whether the investigators invited Saraki for interview, the witness said “as at the time the CCB officials were involved in the investigation, the defendant was not invited for interview”.
“As at the time of analysing the asset declaration forms, the American Express Bank card was also not declared.
“I am stating as a fact that the American Express Bank card is similar to an account, because an account represents the existence of a relationship between a bank and a customer, which is represented by number, from which you can pay in or spend money in conducting transaction.
“This card is also a form of relationship between the bank and a customer or any financial institution and a customer. It is also identified by a reference number, which is distinct to that particular customer, which can also allow you to pay in money or spend money in a transaction,” he said
When asked if he knew that Harrolds issue credit cards, Wetkas said he did not know.
The tribunal chairman rejected an application for a one week adjournment made by Agabi, who said it would enable the defence to examine the amended charge and other documents already tendered by the prosecution.
In a ruling, Justice Umar agreed to allow the defence sufficient time to prepare. He adjourned till April 27 for continuation of cross-examination.


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