â€¢ Appears at tribunal, closes defence after one witness
Damilola Oyedele and Alexander Enumah in Abuja
The President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has questioned the sudden turnaround by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over its decision to file corruption charges against the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Mr. Danladi Umar, after the same commission had cleared him of corruption allegations in April 2016.
In a post on his Facebook page, Saraki said the dramatic turnaround by the anti-graft agency was amusing.
The Senate President maintained his innocence of the three charges for which his trial resumed Tuesday at the CCT and expressed his confidence in the judiciary to do justice in all cases.
The post read: â€œI sympathise with the chairman of the tribunal, Mr. Danladi Umar, for his travails in the hands of the EFCC which suddenly woke up four days to the resumption of this case to file criminal charges against him.
â€œYou will recall that in April 2016, when our lawyers asked the tribunal chairman to recuse himself from our case because of the criminal investigation against him, the EFCC swiftly cleared Mr. Umar of any wrongdoing.
â€œNow, I find it amusing that in a dramatic turnaround, this same EFCC now thinks that Mr. Umar has a case to answer just before the commencement of my case before him.â€
What has changed since April 2016, he queried.
Saraki also noted that as much as many Nigerians want to continue to believe that his case at the CCT was merely about assets declaration irregularities, the manoeuvres, manipulation, intrigues and scheming and the â€œHouse of Cardsâ€ nature of the whole case have proven otherwise.
â€œI really wonder whether those who genuinely love this government appreciate the damage that all this is doing to our so-called â€˜War Against Corruptionâ€™.
â€œHowever, in all of this, my confidence in the judiciary and its ability to do justice in all cases remains unshaken,â€ he said.
In an earlier post late Monday night, Saraki said he chose to appear before the CCT even though there was a pending appeal before the Supreme Court in respect of three of the 18 charges for which he had already been cleared by the CCT.
â€œThis is following the verdict of the Court of Appeal which ordered that we should go and open our defence on three of the counts.
â€œMy lawyers actually advised that we should apply for a stay of the CCT proceedings, pending the determination of the appeal that we earlier filed before the Supreme Court.
â€œBut I have a different opinion. I feel that despite the pending appeal before the apex court, I should and will put up my defence as regards the three counts.
â€œI am convinced of my innocence on these counts and confident consequently of a favourable decision of the tribunal on them. This has always been my position from day one.
â€œMy greatest interest has always been to clear my name as soon as possible and it is my hope that justice will be expeditiously served by the tribunal,â€ Saraki said.
Saraki Closes Defence
During the trial which resumed Tuesday, Sarakiâ€™s legal team closed its defence after calling on its first witness, Dr. Ademola Adebo.
However, Saraki, through his counsel, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN), at the commencement of proceedings told the tribunal that he had lined up four witnesses to testify in his favour.
He, however, made a U-turn when his legal team decided to limit themselves to the first witness.
Shortly after the lone defence witness was cross-examined by the prosecution witness, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), the tribunal chairman, Danladi Umar asked the parties for direction for further proceedings.
Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN), the lead counsel to Saraki conferred with his client in the box and at the end of the conversation, announced that the defence would no longer call the remaining witnesses.
He consequently applied for an adjournment to enable the parties to adopt their final addresses.
The chairman of the tribunal subsequently adjourned the matter till February 27.
Although Saraki was arraigned in 2015 on an 18-count charge, the tribunal had on June 13, 2017, discharged and acquitted Saraki of all the charges in a no-case submission.
The tribunal had held that the charges against him were based on hearsay.
However, the Court of Appeal, in delivering judgment on an appeal filed by the federal government, upheld the dismissal of 15 of the charges and ordered the Senate President to respond to three of them, prompting Saraki to return to the CCT Tuesday.