Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has said the Senate lacks the power to summon Danladi Umar, the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, to testify in respect of a criminal investigation.
In a statement Tuesday, Mr. Falana advised the Senate to withdraw the “illegal summon” which had been issued and served on Mr. Umar.
The Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges, and Public Petitions had on Monday summoned Mr. Umar to appear before it on Thursday to answer questions on allegations of bribery against him.
Mr. Umar is presiding over the corruption trial of Bukola Saraki, the Senate president, who is facing a 13-count of false assets declaration and fraud before the CCT.
The summons came hours after the CCT judge had ruled that Mr. Saraki’s trial would sit daily between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., with a one hour break in between, till the end of the trial.
In his statement, Mr. Falana noted that the allegation involving Mr. Umar was already a pending criminal case before the court.
“Following the allegation that the Personal Assistant of the Tribunal Chairman allegedly received a bribe from a suspect on behalf of his master the matter was investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,” said Mr. Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
“At the end of the investigation the Tribunal Chairman was exonerated while his Personal Assistant was indicted.
“Consequently, the suspect has since been charged to court. Since the case has not been concluded or terminated it is the height of contempt on the part of the Senate or any of its Committees to decide to conduct another trial on the same subject matter.”
In July 2015, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission arraigned Mr. Umar’s personal assistant, Ali Gambo, before an FCT High Court on charges of conspiracy, bribery, and abuse of office.
Mr. Gambo’s arrest and subsequent arraignment followed a petition that he received N1.8 million bribe on behalf of Mr. Umar, ostensibly to quash a case before the CCT.
Mr. Falana said the Senate lacked the power to investigate allegations of corrupt practices and other criminal offences.
“Instead of exposing the Nigerian people to further undeserved embarrassment over the Saraki case the Senate is enjoined to enhance the fight against corruption by passing the Whistle Blowers Bill, the Proceeds of Crime Bill and the Witness Protection Bill which were passed by the 7th National Assembly but were not signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan,” said Mr. Falana.
“For the Nigerian people to take the war against corruption seriously the members of the legislative and executive arms of Government ought to be prepared to demonstrate leadership by example.
“In a country where the majority of the states are owing arrears of salaries the legislators should be prepared to make sacrifice by reducing their fat salaries and jumbo allowances.”