WILL the trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki commence as scheduled on Wednesday (tomorrow)?
The answer to that question was lost in legal confusion on Monday, barely 48 hours before Saraki is billed to appear at the Code of Conduct Tribunal to answer 13 charges of false asset declaration between 2003 and 2011 when he was the governor of Kwara State.
Judgement in the suit instituted by Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, against the Code of Conduct Tribunal has been adjourned indefinitely at the Appeal Court in Abuja.
The Registrar of the Court of Appeal, who made the announcement on Monday, gave no reason for the decision.
Dr. Bukola Saraki had filed an appeal challenging the legality of his arraignment at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
The appeal was filed on October 6 by Mr. Saraki’s lawyer, J.B.L Ufoh, challenging the jurisdiction of the Code of Conduct Tribunal to proceed with hearings on Mr. Saraki’s case.
Mr. Ufor had told the appellate court the tribunal ought to have stayed proceedings when it got an order from a Federal High Court directing it to do so.
He argued that the CCT was not a superior court to the Federal High Court, and therefore urged the court to set aside all proceedings, including the charge against Mr. Saraki on the grounds that the tribunal was not properly constituted.
Counsel to the respondent, Rotimi Jacobs, however made a counter appeal in a brief filed on October 12, stating that there was no order by the Federal High Court compelling the Code of Conduct Tribunal not to sit.
Mr. Jacobs insisted that the law was being misinterpreted and urged Justices M.A.A Adumien, J.E Ekanem and M. Mustapha to dismiss the appeal as “it lacked merit”.
The Federal Government had on Friday, told the appellate court that it has garnered sufficient evidence to establish that Saraki, as a public officer, acquired several assets beyond his legitimate earnings.
Lead prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, equally told the appellate court that five witnesses it lined-up against the Senate President, have all expressed their readiness to appear before the CCT tomorrow to testify and tender exhibits against him.
Among those that FG billed to give oral testimony against Saraki included the erstwhile Minister of the Federal Capital Territory and present governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai.
Specifically, El-Rufai is expected to testify that he was the one that sold one of the assets that Saraki bought in Abuja, which the government alleged that he failed to list among the assets he acquired while in office as the governor of Kwara State.
The prosecuting counsel, maintained before the appellate court that Saraki has already been furnished with all the proof of evidence against him, including copies of four separate assets declaration forms that he earlier submitted before the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB.
Therefore, FG, urged the appellate court to dismiss the appeal that Saraki lodged before it and order him to go to the CCT and clear his name.
The Court of Appeal in Abuja, which had earlier promised to deliver its judgment on the case before the next scheduled appearance of the Senate President before the tribunal on October 21 did not sit on Monday.
No new date was fixed for the judgment as lawyers, journalists and a large number of people interested in the case met the courtroom already locked by 2pm when the three-man panel was scheduled to sit.
The development has sparked uncertainties about the CCT’s proceedings on Wednesday, when Saraki’s trial has been scheduled to commence.
Both the prosecution lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN); and the defence lead counsel, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), said they did not know the status of Wednesday’s proceedings at the CCT.
They said they were confused.
Mr. Saraki’s lead counsel, Joseph Daudu, SAN, told PREMIUM TIMES the development was strange.
“They said they will deliver the judgment when they are ready.”
“We were here in the morning and they said they will read the judgment. When we got there at 2pm, they said they will read the judgment when they are ready,” he said.
“But we know the judgment is ready, it is a strange situation.”
However, counsel to the respondent, Rotimi Jacobs, said his team was not privy to any information relating to the readiness of the judgment.
“What we were told is that the judgment is not ready and the court says they will give us a date when it is ready,” he said.