Friday

CCT trial: Saraki kicks as FG applies to amend charge

The ongoing trial of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, sitting in Abuja, took a new twist, yesterday, as the Federal Government applied to amend the initial 13-count charge it entered against him. Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki The government made the application on a day the CCT Chairman, Justice Danladi Umar, ordered the arrest of one of the lawyers representing Saraki in the matter. However, Saraki, through his lead counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, vehemently opposed the Federal Government’s bid to amend the charges already pending against him before the tribunal. Specifically, government added two more court charges to the previous charge against Saraki. Investigations by Vanguard, yesterday, revealed that the

amendment was a fallout of some revelations made by the star prosecution witness in the matter, Mr. Michael Wetkas. Wetkas was the head of a three-man crack team of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, that investigated six separate petitions that culminated in the charge against the defendant. In the amended 15-count charge dated April 18, the Federal Government alleged that Saraki, while being a senator between June 2011 and October 2013, “did receive monthly salaries or emoluments as governor of Kwara State and at the same time from the Federal Government of Nigeria as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” The defendant was said to have by his action, “committed an offence contrary to section 6(a) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, Cap. C15, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2014, and as incorporated under Paragraph 2(a), Part 1, Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended.” The Federal Government insisted that the alleged offence was punishable under section 23(c) of the CCB & Tribunal Act and as incorporated under Paragraph 18 of Part 1, Fifth Schedule to the 1999 Constitution, as amended. Judge orders police to arrest his lawyer  The trial kicked-off on a dramatic note, yesterday, as the CCT Chairman, Justice Umar, ordered police to arrest one of Saraki’s lawyers. Justice Umar ordered armed security operatives to whisk the lawyer, Mr. Richard Oluyede, away from the court room after he insisted on moving the fresh motion seeking to disqualify the judge from presiding over Saraki’s trial. At the resumed hearing, Oluyede, who was not previously part of Saraki’s legal team before the tribunal, stood up and announced his appearance, even as he drew the attention of the CCT panel to the pending application he filed on Wednesday. At the time the case was called up, none of Saraki’s lead counsel was present in court. Whereas Agabi was said to have gone to the Federal High Court to take care of another matter, Usoro on the other hand secured permission of the tribunal to appear late owing to the fact that he was bereaved. Due to the development, another lawyer in Saraki’s camp, Mr. Adebayo Adelodun, SAN, took over the leadership of the defence team. However, shortly after Adelodun finished announcing names of other lawyers in the team, Oluyede stood up and attempted to move the motion against Justice Umar. “My Lord, we have a pending application asking you to excuse yourself from this matter,” Oluyede started. Jacobs interjects At that juncture, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, interjected, contending that Oluyede lacked the locus to move such application. Jacobs told the court that he confronted Saraki’s lead counsel, Agabi, on Wednesday after Oluyede attempted to serve a copy of the motion on him. He said Agabi told him that he was not aware of such application. “Was that not the same motion that was dismissed by the Federal High Court?” Justice Umar asked. “Yes my Lord! It was the same frivolous issue this same lawyer raised before the high court, which Justice Abdul Kafarati accordingly dismissed as grossly lacking in merit. I know that this fresh motion is based on false premise. Even the lead counsel was not aware of it,” Jacobs replied. The confrontation Immediately, Oluyede stood up again and insisted that he has a right to be heard by the tribunal. His action infuriated the CCT Chairman, Umar, who ordered him to sit down. “Sit down, sit down, I said sit down!” Justice Umar shouted. “My Lord I will not sit down! I have a right to be heard by this tribunal!” Oluyede charged. “It is our position that you have too many cloudy relationship with the EFCC, that is why we are asking you to disqualify yourself from this case,” Oluyede bellowed. Turning his attention to other senior lawyer in Saraki’s team, Justice Umar, who described Oluyede as a busy body, said: “I am really disappointed. You are supposed to be leading by example, how can you allow such thing to happen under your watch? “When you know that the motion he brought was not right and there was no approval of the lead counsel. The motion will not be entertained. It is only aimed to derail the course of justice. You are ministers of justice and should uphold the truth. I am refusing this rubbish application.” While the judge was still speaking, Oluyede, who was on his feet all the while, made another attempt to claim his right to address the tribunal. At that point, visibly irked Justice Umar lost his temper. “I say sit down! I will commit you for contempt for not allowing me to do my duty. Where are the police? Please take him away from this court room!” the judge ordered. Jacobs intervenes Promptly, about five armed policemen sandwitched Oluyede and were about to drag him out of the tribunal when the prosecuting counsel, Jacobs intervened. “My Lord, please forgive him. I am begging you to tamper justice with mercy. I am very sorry on behalf of the defence,” Jacobs pleaded. Following his passionate plea, Justice Umar allowed Oluyede to remain in the court. Meanwhile, Agabi, who subsequently arrived the tribunal around 12:45pm, also begged the CCT panel to forgive Oluyede. “My Lord I want to first of all apologise for coming late. I was told what transpired in my absence. Indeed, he is a member of our team. We all err at one time or the other. Please on behalf of the defence, I beg you to forgive and forget,” Agabi pleaded. “It is alright. I wanted to commit him in prison right away. If not for the intervention of other colleagues, he would have been cooling his feet inside prison. “He was exchanging words with me, does he have a right to do that?” Justice Umar queried. Saraki had in the motion Oluyede attempted to move, asked Justice Umar to disqualify himself from the case. Saraki insisted that Justice Umar ought to hands-off his case considering that he (Umar) was earlier granted administrative bail by the EFCC following his alleged involvement in a criminal act involving N10million bribery scandal. The tribunal yesterday adjourned further hearing on the matter till next week Wednesday after it refused application by Saraki’s lawyer, Agabi, for one week adjournment. “We are still looking at a number of exhibits. Today we all got angry, we need time to cool down. Give us a little time to resolve these issues. “We appeal to you to be guided by the same consideration that guided your discretion in the case of Orubebe when you adjourned it. “With humility we appeal to you, give us some time so we can come to you more prepared”, Agabi urged the tribunal. However, the prosecution opposed his request for one week adjournment. Earlier, the witness, Wetkas, while being cross-examined by Saraki’s lawyer, Usoro, SAN, reiterated that his team never interrogated the defendant over the alleged discrepancies in the assets he declared before the CCB. We were three in the team that investigated the money laundering aspect of this case. We did not interrogate the defendant during the investigation, but members of the larger team did. “I know the other members of the larger team asked him questions relating to his properties. They asked him about the assets declaration form he made before the CCB whether they were declared appropriately. They also asked him about the companies he owns locally and internationally. Also about Society General Bank. He made statements in respect to what I am referring to, before my other team members.

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