The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has explained his decision to stay away from the Code of Conduct Tribunal on Friday, and has criticised the court’s decision to order his arrest.
The chairman of the tribunal, Danladi Umar, issued a bench warrant against Mr. Saraki for not appearing to face a 13-count charge of corruption, brushing aside a Federal High Court order seeking to stop Mr. Saraki’s arraignment.
The Code of Conduct Bureau had slammed a 13-count charge of corruption on Mr. Saraki.
In charge number ABT/01/15, Mr. Saraki is accused of offences ranging from anticipatory declaration of assets to making false declaration of assets in forms he filed before the Code of Conduct Bureau while he was governor of Kwara state.
The Senate President is also accused of failing to declare some assets he acquired while in office as governor, acquiring assets beyond his legitimate earnings, and operating foreign accounts while being a public officer – governor and senator.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Yusuph Olaniyonu, Mr. Saraki said he refused to appear before the tribunal relying on an order issued by a Federal High Court on Thursday, directing that the case against him be halted.
He accused the tribunal of pursuing a political agenda, and said he was certain the court would give him justice.
Read his full statement:
CCT Defiance of Subsisting Court Order : Our Stand
Following the development in the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) today, Friday, September 18, 2015 when the Tribunal chose to ignore the subsisting order of a Federal High Court by sitting, we hereby state our position as follows:
1. While the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, had stated and maintains that he is ready to submit himself to due process of the law on any issue concerning him, he also believes he has an inalienable right to resort to the same judiciary for protection when he feels his fundamental rights are about to be infringed upon.
2. It is for this reason that Dr. Saraki, having satisfied himself that the case filed by the CCB and the manner in which the case was filed show that he will not be given justice, resorted to the Federal High Court for the determination of the issues of competence of the prosecutor as well as compliance with the procedure stipulated in the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.
3. The Federal High Court on Thursday, September 17, 2015, therefore ordered that the all parties in the case should appear before it on Monday, September 21, 2015. The implication of this ruling by a Court of competent jurisdiction is that the sitting today has been overtaken by event. It is for this reason that Dr. Saraki chose to go about with his normal official schedule.
4. Today at the Tribunal, Counsel to the Senate President, Mr. M. A. Mahmud (SAN), raised a motion stating that there is a pending constitutional matter before the Federal High Court to be decided on Monday and that the Tribunal should hold the trial until the constitutional matter is disposed of.
5. We are however dismayed that the Tribunal chose to disregard the order of the Federal High Court and the motion to suspend hearing till Monday when all parties are expected to argue their positions on the constitutional matter.
6. It is also a surprise to us that despite the application by the lead counsel to the Senate President that he will produce Dr. Saraki on Monday and the personality of the person involved as the Number three man in the country, the Tribunal insisted on issuing a warrant of arrest as if its intention is simply to embarrass Dr. Saraki. We are not unmindful of the fact that the Tribunal is acting under political influence and external pressure. This is dangerous to our democracy.
7. The conduct of the Tribunal today left nobody in doubt that it cannot do justice on the matter before it. It is also clear that today’s decision is an abuse of the rule of law which portends danger to our judicial system. The Tribunal has equally set a bad precedent in the way and manner it conducted itself during the proceedings.
8. We want to emphasise the fact that this is not part of any war against corruption but using state institutions to fight political opponents and seeking to achieve through the back door what some people cannot get through democratic process.
9. We need to caution here that in a desperate bid to settle political scores and nail imaginary enemies, we should not destroy our democratic institutions and heat the polity for selfish reasons. Let us all learn from history.
9. The Senate President is a law abiding citizen and his absence from the Tribunal today was based on the legal advice he received from his counsel that the Tribunal will respect the decision of the Federal High Court which is obviously a superior court of records. Also, he relied on a letter from the Chief Justice of Nigeria directed to the Chairman of the Tribunal last May that they are not judicial officers and are inferior to the regularsanni High Court as defined by the law and that they take official oath not judicial oath.
10. We will like to state therefore that Dr. Saraki will not do anything to undermine the judicial process and authority but he will always act to protect his fundamental human rights.