There has been a lot of drama at the ongoing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal of Dr. Bukola Saraki, Senate President, Federal Republic of Nigeria. At every sitting from when the tribunal first sat in September 2015, there has always been a new twist to the matter at hand.
The Senate President has been accused of not declaring all his assets as expected of public servants. Many of the secrets of Bukola Saraki have been brought to the fore by whistle blowers who want their identities to be protected. Some of the documents include personal account details of the defendant, telex transfers as well as reports stored in the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU). Other developments include the collection of salaries by Dr. Bukola Saraki from the Kwara State Government after relinquishing office to Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, the incumbent Governor.
The lead counsel to Dr. Bukola Saraki, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, maintained that the assets declaration forms his client filled and submitted were duly examined by the Code of Conduct Bureau. The witness told the tribunal that the bulk of evidence linking the defendant to money laundering had been burnt to ashes.
The Potential Amendment of the CCB/CCT Act
Justice Umar continued hearing on the 13 count criminal charges before him. This order intensified the move by the Senate to amend the CCB/CCT Act. Senator Peter Nwaoboshi’s bill for an act to amend the Code of Conduct Act, has passed reading on the floor of the Senate. Also, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, sponsored by Isa Misau has passed its first reading. Sahara Reporters alleges that the amendment is a plot by Senators loyal to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, to get him off the hook. The Senate also invited the Chairman of the CCT to appear before it.
However, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has said that the Senate has no right to summon the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Justice Danladi Umar. The Senate summoned Justice Umar on Monday, April 18, 2016, over corruption charges brought against him. SERAP made its remarks via a statement issued by its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni. According to SERAP, “the summons represents a direct assault upon the principle of judicial independence as it undermines the constitutional principle of separation of powers and guarantee of a judicial system that is free from outside influence of whatever kind and from whatever source”.
Not stopping at this, SERAP, has petitioned Professor Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights asking him to “use your good offices and position to urgently request the National Assembly of Nigeria, specifically the Senate, to withdraw amendments to the Code of Conduct Bureau and Code of Conduct Tribunal Act which if passed into law would seriously weaken the act, undermine the fight against corruption in the country, exacerbate extreme poverty and violations of internationally recognized human rights.”
Last week, Justice Umar ordered armed security operatives to arrest one of Saraki’s lawyers, Mr. Richard Oluyede after he insisted on moving a motion that sought to disqualify the judge from presiding over Saraki’s trials.
There is currently a group of Nigerians who have taken to the entrance of the National Assembly called #OccupyNationalAssembly calling for accountability from all the honorable members of the National Assembly. According to them, they are neither anti-Saraki or pro-Saraki but they want everyone to be accountable to their constituencies. On the other hand, there are different groups of people who are protesting for and against the trial of Dr. Bukola Saraki.
Nigerians are anxious to know what will become of this trial. Would these undeclared assets be forfeited to the government? Will the Senate President retain his office? Will it be swept under the carpet? Nigerians look forward to the verdict of the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
(Sources: Vanguard newspaper, The Cable, Sahara Reporters, Premium Times and Pulse NG)