Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
Senate President Bukola Saraki has again asked the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) Chairman, Mr. Danladi Yakubu Umar, to recuse himself and allow someone else to preside over his trial for alleged false assets declaration.
Saraki based his application for Umar to disqualify himself on the threat by the CCT chairman to make sure that the delay being allegedly employed by Saraki’s counsel in his trial would not reduce the consequences that he (Saraki) would meet from the tribunal at the end of trial.
Saraki claimed that the threat by Umar in the open court was a clear indication that the tribunal had made up its mind to convict him at all cost, irrespective of the evidences at the trial.
The Senate president has therefore asked the CCT chairman to step aside from participating further in the trial initiated against him by the federal government.
In a fresh motion on notice brought pursuant to Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution, Saraki insisted that the tribunal chairman was in a hurry to convict him without giving him a fair hearing and a fair opportunity to defend himself.
In the motion filed by his lead counsel, Mr. Kanu Godwin Agabi (SAN), Saraki stated that the CCT chairman had become openly biased and that there was no way he could get a fair trial.
Saraki had raised a similar application before on different grounds but Umar overruled him and insisted he would go ahead with the trial.
The new application was predicated on eight grounds.
Saraki said that the threat of the “consequences” issued by Umar had caused him to lose confidence in the impartiality of the chairman and that he was no longer confident that he could get justice from the tribunal if the chairman continued to participate in the hearing and determination of the case against him.
Part of the grounds of the motion was that the defendant (Saraki) had lost confidence in the ability of the tribunal chairman to conduct a fair trial and dispense justice according to law.
He said he was deeply worried and lived in perpetual fear since the statement was made by the chairman of the tribunal, and he no (Saraki) longer believed that justice could be done in the trial.
Saraki denied the allegation by the CCT chairman that his lawyers had been employing delay tactics to slow down or frustrate the trial.
In a 26-paragraph supporting affidavit deposed to by one Olufemi Balogun in support of the motion, Saraki was said to be currently facing trial before the CCT on a 16-count charge bordering on violation of the provisions of the Code of Conduct for public officers and that one witness, Mr. Michael Wetkas, called by the prosecution had given evidence and undergoing cross-examination.
The deponent averred that on June 7, 2016 when the trial came up for continuation, one of Saraki’s lawyers, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN), sought the leave of the tribunal to give a recap of the last proceedings during the last sitting and that the chairman in response openly accused the defence team of employing delay tactics in the following words: “I am not happy at the delay by the defence counsel and I must say this thing out that this delay tactics will not reduce the consequences the defendant will meet in this tribunal at the end of the trial.”
The affidavit also indicated that the statement of the chairman did not go down well with the defence lead counsel, Agabi, who immediately expressed concern about prejudice as evidenced from the statement threatening “consequences” even before all the evidence was in.
At the resumed trial yesterday, Saraki’s counsel, Agabi, informed the tribunal of the pendency of the motion and the need for the tribunal to determine the motion first because of the fundamental issues it raised.
However, counsel to the federal government, Mr. Pius Akuta Ukeyima, told the tribunal that the motion was not ripe for hearing. He urged the tribunal to proceed with the trial.
Agabi however objected to the continuation of the trial on the grounds that the issues raised in the application were fundamental.
The tribunal adjourned hearing of the application to June 21.