Assets declaration: Code of Conduct Tribunal orders Saraki’s arrest

The Code of Conduct Tribunal [CCT] has ordered the In­spector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase and other se­curity agencies to arrest and produce the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki before the tribunal on Mon­day.

But in s swift reaction, the Senate President through his lawyers, led by Jo­seph Daudu [SAN] with Mahmud Mag­aji said they would challenge the ruling of the tribunal at the Court of Appeal.

Saraki, who was expected to ap­pear before the tribunal yesterday on a 13-count charges bordering on alleged false declaration of his assets, was ab­sent in court because his lawyers said he was challenging the validity of the charges as well as the jurisdiction of the tribunal.

The prosecution counsel, Muslim Hassan, a Deputy Director in the Fed­eral Ministry of Justice with six other lawyers, said he was shocked over the absence of the Senate President in court since he was dully served with the court summons.

It was at this stage that he asked the tribunal to issue a bench warrant against Saraki to compel his appearance in court.

But counsel to the Senate President vehemently opposed the application for a bench warrant on the ground that the prosecution has no locus standi to initi­ate criminal proceedings against him in the absence of a sitting Attorney-Gener­al of the Federation.

Magaji, who argued the case for Sara­ki, further made reference to a Federal High Court ruling duly served on the tribunal via suit FHC/ABJ/CS/775/2015 between Senator Bukola Saraki V Fed­eral Ministry of Justice, Chairman Code of Conduct Bureau, Chairman Code of Conduct Tribunal and Barrister Hassan as defendants/ Respondents, in urging the court to decline the request for a bench warrant.

In his ruling, Chairman of the tribunal, Danladi Umar upheld the submissions of the prosecution to the effect that the Federal High Court which is a court of coordinate jurisdiction has no powers to halt proceedings of the tribunal.

“On the issue of a court order by a Federal High Court, let it be put on re­cord that this tribunal is established and empowered by section 15 [1] of the 5th schedule paragraph 1 to the 1999 con­stitution as a special vehicle vested with powers with regards to the enforcement of probity and accountability in the civil service . See also the case of AGF V Abubakar [2007].

The tribunal cannot accede to the de­cision of the Federal High Court to halt its proceedings as courts are not bound to follow decisions of courts of coordi­nate jurisdiction. An injunction restrain­ing the proceedings of this tribunal by a court of coordinate jurisdiction cannot stand.”

On the non-appearance of Saraki at the tribunal, the CCT Chairman held that the Senate President is expected to respect the summons of the tribunal.

“There is evidence before this tribunal that this criminal proceedings were filed and served on the defendant with a proof of service dully signed by one of his aides. It is also on record that the defen­dant filed a memorandum of conditional appearance on September 17, 2015 so we have no doubt that he is fully aware of the summons.

“He is expected to respect the summons of this tribunal. Accord­ingly, the Inspector General of Police [IGP], Mr. Solomon Arase and other relevant security agencies are to pro­duce the defendant in court on the next adjourned date. A bench warrant is to be issued against the defendant.”

In his ruling on the issue of whether criminal proceedings can be initiated by any other person other than the At­torney General of the Federation, the tribunal agreed with the submissions of the prosecu­tion counsel that the absence of a sitting AGF can­not stop the ini­tiation of criminal charges against anybody.

“We have taken notice that there is no sitting AGF, however, by para­graph 1 of the 3rd schedule of the Code of Conduct Bureau provides mode of instituting criminal proceedings. The case cited by the prosecution AGF v Hassan is a locus classicus. Also section 2 [4] of Law Officers Act, provides that in the absence of the AGF, the Solici­tor General of the Federation, or any other officer named in the section can institute criminal proceedings in the name of the AGF.”

Before that, a hot argument ensued between the prosecution counsel and that of Saraki in the course of pro­ceedings especially over the absence of the Senate President in court.

Hassan, who was the first to call the shot, said: “I’m surprised that the accused person is not in court as he was dully served with a copy of the summons. Besides, they have even exhibited the summons in their pro­cesses filed before the tribunal. It means that he was dully served and he is not here.

“I apply that a bench warrant be issued against him for disobedience of the order of a competent court of law, to command the appearance of the accused person who has flagrant­ly disobeyed the order of this court. We humbly applied that the matter be stood down for two hours for the accused person to be produced to court.”

In his reply, Magaji stated: “My lord, the application before you should be expunged from the record including his appearance. The basis of our application is simply that the person making that application lacked the locus standi to even appear before you as a prosecutor because there must be a sitting Attorney General of the Federation in place.

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