• Says clearance cannot override AGF’s recommendation for Umar’s removal, prosecution
By Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
Senate President Bukola Saraki has faulted the clearance issued to the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Danladi Umar, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in relation to his alleged involvement in a N10 million bribe made by one Mr. AbdulRashid Owolabi Taiwo, in his petition to the commission.
Taiwo, who was being tried by the CCT, had alleged that Umar demanded the N10 million bribe from him. He claimed that part of the money was paid into the bank account of the personal assistant of the chairman, prompting him to write a petition against the chairman to the EFCC.
However, whilst Umar’s personal assistant is standing trial for accepting the bribe from Owolabi, the EFCC exonerated the CCT chairman of wrongdoing.
But Saraki contended yesterday that there was no time the EFCC cleared Umar, and that even where such clearance exists, it was a confirmation of his (Saraki’s) position that the CCT under Umar could not ensure fairness in his (Saraki’s) trial.
Saraki is currently facing a 13-count charge bordering on corruption and false assets declaration at the CCT. He allegedly committed the offence when he served as governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.
However, he has denied any wrongdoing and alleged political persecution.
Saraki, who spoke in Abuja through his lawyer, Mr. Ajibola Oluyede, argued that the clearance issued to Umar by EFCC could not override the recommendation made in 2014 by the then Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice for Umar’s prosecution.
Oluyede said it was only the AGF that possesses the power, under the law, to reverse a decision to prosecute, arguing that his client’s application urging Umar to disqualify himself from the trial was still before the tribunal.
He faulted reports that the application had been thrown out by the tribunal, noting that since the prosecution was yet to respond to it, and it had not been heard, the tribunal could not have decided on the application.
He also faulted reports that he was thrown out of the tribunal’s venue, saying that he was at the proceedings until it was adjourned.
He said he would argue the application before the tribunal once it was ripe for hearing.
“We are not saying he (Umar) is guilty. We are saying he is tainted and that he cannot act independently while the EFCC that is investigating him and had indicted him is now prosecuting our client before him. That is why we asked him to recuse himself from the trial.
“He did so before in the case involving former FCT Minister, Jeremiah Useni, where he recused himself from the hearing on the grounds that he had a close relationship with Useni. We are asking him to do so again now because of the facts that we have presented,” Oluyede said.
Elaborating on other documents he filed before the tribunal, Oluyede noted that on the EFCC report of June 24, 2014, the then AGF had directed the then EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, to prosecute Umar and his aide, Ali Gambo, for accepting bribe from an accused person, Rashid Taiwo.
EFCC said in the letter to the AGF that the evidence suggested that Umar “might have demanded and collected money from the complainant (Taiwo) through his Personal Assistant (PA). Efforts made to recover the telephone handset used by Justice Umar proved abortive as he claimed that he had lost the telephone in 2012.
“This has made it impossible to subject it to an independent scientific analysis with a view to corroborating the allegation. Justice Umar also admitted that he met privately with the complainant in his chamber at the tribunal.
“This is a most unethical and highly suspicious conduct on his part,” Lamorde said in the letter.
Oluyede was of the view that Umar’s admission of having a private meeting with an accused person standing trial before his tribunal was a breach of Rule 5(i) and (ii) of the Code of Conduct for judicial officers for which he should be penalised.
Saraki’s lawyer, who also exhibited a copy of the bail bond endorsed by Umar at the EFCC, said Taiwo had admitted bribing Umar in his testimony at the ongoing trial of Umar’s PA in charge No: CR/137/15 before Justice Orji of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Oluyede said his client’s application for Umar to disqualify himself from the case and their further affidavit detailing these fresh facts would be heard when the tribunal resumes on Wednesday.