Good morning and thanks for joining us again as we continue to bring you crucial parts of the alleged false assets declaration trial of Nigeria’s Senate President, Bukola Saraki, from the Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja.
The live updates of cross examination of prosecution witness continue this morning with me, Samuel Ogundipe, and my colleague, Evelyn Okakwu, who’s been covering the trial from the beginning.
After a 12-day break, cross examination of prosecution witness resumed yesterday with defence counsel, Paul Ilokoro, sparring with star witness for the prosecution, Michael Wetkas.
The court is already packed with usual faces, prosecution and defence lawyers, journalists and the Senate President’s aides, legislative colleagues and supporters.
If you feel lost in the trial, click here, here and here to keep yourself up to date about major highlights of the trial since it started, report filed after yesterday’s hearing and live updates of yesterday’s proceeding, respectively.
By 10:00 a.m., we expect the tribunal chairman, Danladi Umar, to be seated.
The chairman of the tribunal, Danladi Umar, has arrived.
By 10:46 a.m., he has immediately kicked off proceedings.
Defence and prosecution teams are introducing themselves.
11:07 am Prosecution lawyers are pleading with Mr. Umar to stay proceeding pending the arrival of their lead counsel, Rotimi Jacobs.
The chairman rejects the plea, but Kanu Agabi, lead counsel to the defence, says the chairman should grant the prayers of the prosecution, saying they could find themselves in such a situation.
Mr. Umar has adjourned the hearing for an hour to allow Mr. Jacobs arrive.
11:32 am Mr. Agabi has introduced 80 lawyers who are here to defend Mr. Saraki.
Mr. Agabi is Nigeria’s former attorney general and has legal experience spanning decades.
Mr. Jacobs has now arrived, but not early enough to stop the tribunal chairman proceeding with another case. The Senate President, Mr. Saraki, has stepped out of the courtroom to return in an hour when his case is slated to billed.
11:35 am: Earlier, Mr. Saraki arrived with a contingent that included Timi Frank, the APC Deputy National Publicity Secretary and one of the senate president’s key supporters. The team arrived 10:05.
12:33 pm The tribunal has now resumed. It is almost two hours since the chairman adjourned for “an hour”.
The defence counsel pleads with the chairman of the tribunal not to record Mr. Jacobs’ lateness in his official manifest so “that future generation will not see it in the records that he came late”.
It is not common to see a defence team make a case for the prosecution.
12:44 pm Justice Umar says there is a need to expedite the cross-examination of the top prosecution witness, Michael Wetkas, because there are other grounds to cover in the trial.
But Mr. Agabi fires back, saying “there’s a case that has been before you for over three years and you still granted adjournment, but whenever we ask you for a day you will ask for covenant”. He rejected the chairman’s suggestion to do the trial every weekday.
The hearing proper is continuing with Paul Usoro, one of the defence counsels, cross-examining Mr. Wetkas.
03.02 pm: Cross examination continues with Mr. Usoro grilling Mr. Wetkas on the properties located at 15 McDonald Road, Ikoyi.
Here are the seven senators present in solidarity with their president: Rafiu Ibrahim (APC-Kwara), Matthew Urhoghide (PDP-Edo), Mohammed Lafiagi (APC-Kwara) Ordia Clifford (PDP-Edo), Isa Misau (APC-Bauchi), Aliyu Abdullahi (APC-Bornu) and Sani Mohammed (APC-Niger).
03.05 pm: Mr. Umar has returned 36 minutes later, from a 15-minutes break, prompting Mr. Agabi to complain that the chairman is making their work more difficult by proceeding on unnecessary breaks in the middle of trial. “This tribunal has a human face,” Mr. Umar retorted.
04.28 pm: Mr. Agabi applies for an adjournment of the trial till next Wednesday to allow lawyers attend a book launch by Yusuf Ali, but Mr. Jacobs counters, saying the cross-examination is taking too long.
Mr. Umar said he would only adjourn until Tuesday, “this matter is more important than that event. Because of the respect I have for you, I granted you the relief to rest until Tuesday, but asking me to adjourn it further than that is asking for too much”.