Showing posts with label CCT. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CCT. Show all posts

Friday, 3 June 2016

The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) had fixed June 7, 8 and 9 for the continuation of trial of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on alleged false declaration of assets.

In a statement signed yesterday by the Head, Press and Public Relations, CCT, Ibraheem Al-hassan, the Chairman of the Tribunal, Danladi Umar, had yesterday fixed the dates for continuation of cross-examination of the Principal Witness 1 (PW1), Mr. Michael Wetkas.

According to the statement, the decision for the adjournment to the new dates was sequel to the abrupt written request from the lead prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), stating that his PWI, Mr. Wetkas, was scheduled to testify before the Federal High Court, Abuja, the same date (June 1).

“The letter, which was captioned; Charge No: CCT/ABJ/01/2015 Federal Republic of Nigeria V Dr. Olubukola Saraki Request For Adjournment and addressed to the Registrar of CCT, was dated June 1 and signed by Rotimi Jacobs & Co.

“It reads in part: “We refer to the above-named charge in respect of which we act as the prosecution counsel. This matter was earlier adjourned to today, June 2, 2016 for continuation of cross-examination of PW 1.

“We, however, regret to inform the honorable tribunal today as he is billed to testify before the Federal High Court, Abuja, (Justice Ademola).”

According to Hassan: “The letter had shown that the initial impression that the tribunal had adjourned indefinitely was false, as publicised yesterday by some media organisations.”


Saturday, 16 April 2016

Says report politically motivated

Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Basic Education and Services, Zakari Mohammed has described a report linking him with power outage at the ongoing trial of the Senate President Bukola Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal  (CCT) as absurd.

He said the media report was designed to malign his political career as well as to set him on collision course with security agencies going by the magnitude of such disruption of judicial process.

An online media, Sahara Reporters had  insinuated that Mohammed was behind the power outage last Wednesday during the ongoing trial of Senate President,  Saraki at the sitting of CCT.

Mohammed, in a statement yesterday  said  being a lawmaker and a law abiding politician, he was well aware of the process of justice  to have circumvented it, being a political son to Saraki notwithstanding.

He, however regretted that the publication might be politically motivated since the reporter made no effort to balance the story by asking for his reaction.

He said: “The said publication was not only false, but an outright balderdash, sheer rubbish and a deliberate attempt to use this medium to tarnish my hard-earned reputation.

“The so-called stage-managed and politically-motivated report was designed to hoodwink the unsuspecting public to believe that I am a violent political office holder.

“To set the records straight, I had no hands in the outage at the CCT Tribunal. I have no relationship with any staff or technicians at the tribunal which would have made me to influence the outage.

“I also do not work with or own shares in the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company to have wielded contacts to disrupt power supply to the tribunal.

“I have never met with technicians in charge of the alternative source of power for the tribunal.

“In the jaundiced story, which was branded as an exclusive copy, no attempt was made to speak with the management of the tribunal on what led to the outage.

“Other than a curious security source, there was no fact to substantiate the so-called scoop which by all-intent was meant to achieve a predetermined agenda.

“In defiance of the ethics of journalism, I was not contacted by the publisher of Sahara Reporters for my own side of the story. I am the most accessible member of the Federal House of Assembly.

“As a journalist and the former chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Media and Public Affairs, I obliged the press unfettered access to information. Sahara Reporters chose to give me a blackout to destroy my person for a purpose.

“It was true that I attended the court session like other members of the National Assembly. We all experienced the outage at the sitting and bore the heat like everyone. It sounds absurd that I will sponsor outage to cause discomfort for myself and others.

“There is no nexus between the outage and Justice being dispensed by the tribunal. Whether there is an outage or not, the trial has started in full swing and Saraki has never boycotted any sitting.

“The ACJ Act is clear on cases on timelines for a court or tribunal to dispose of cases. No individual can slow down the court not to talk of an ordinary citizen like me.

“The story was meant to set me on a collision course against security agencies. It is part of a bigger picture to haunt core loyalists of Saraki like me.

“I am not a fraudulent, violent and disruptive individual. I cut my teeth in politics through the rungs without ruffling feathers.

“With about 95 per cent of the contents of the story devoted to my political antecedents and 2019 politics, it was obvious that some forces with a hidden agenda were behind the story.

“Tomorrow belongs to Allah, I am not a desperate politician. I will rather concentrate on my present mandate than being overwhelmed by 2019 politics.

“It is incontrovertible that I owe my political tutelage to Saraki Dynasty of which the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki is its scion. I cannot disown or deny the Senate President because he is on trial for allegations yet to be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

“He remains a leader in whom I am well-pleased in and out of political office.

“Those who sneak to the President of the Senate at night and attack him through any wild medium in day time should know that their  antics will soon be discovered.

“Sahara Reporters should not allow itself to be held hostage by these never-do-well individuals masquerading as sources because of dirty politics in Kwara State”.

The Nation

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Olayinka Aileru

The Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 seeks to revolutionise the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria. One of the objectives of the Act, as contained in Section 1, is to ensure speedy trials, and the efficient management of the criminal justice system in the country. The ACJA recognises the defects in our criminal justice system, one of which is the frequent delays which characterised criminal trials. The delays are mostly due in part to the manner in which lawyers often explore the loopholes in the law to frustrate trials usually by filing of frivolous applications and objections in court. The average time a criminal trial proceeding takes prior to the enactment of the Act is four to six years. Also, how much a trial can be delayed depends on the caliber of the lawyers involved, the status of the accused person and the nature of the offence charged.

The most common delay tactic is raising of preliminary objections by challenging the jurisdiction of the trial court, or the validity of charge itself based on some perceived defects (sometimes imaginary and illusory). The trial court will be forced to give a ruling on the objection one way or the other. Upon the ruling of the trial court, an appeal will quickly be filed at the Court of Appeal. Also depending on how smart the lawyer is, this may take another two years. In the meantime a stay of execution would have been granted stopping the continuation of the original proceedings by the trial court. After the judgement of the Court of Appeal on the objection, a subsequent appeal may be lodged at the Supreme Court which may take another two years before it is heard.

All the while that these would be happening, the accused would have been granted bail. Some of the key witnesses might have died or travelled. The investigating police officer, the case officer or the trial judge himself might have been transferred or retired from service. By the time the Supreme Court finally decides that the trial court should hear the case on the merit, the public would have forgotten all about the case, the prosecution would no longer be interested as other high profile cases would have come up in the interval. Lethargy soon sets in and the case would die a natural death.

These and many more are some of the ills that the ACJA 2015 seeks to correct. Of particular importance and relevance in addressing this problem is Section 396 of the ACJA. Section 396 effectively deals with the incessant delays caused by the raising of preliminary objections. The section provides that all preliminary objections are to be raised after the taking of plea by the accused persons. Unlike the old practice, Section 396 (2) provides that argument on a preliminary objection are to be taken along with the substantive issues, and the ruling thereon to be taken at the time of delivering final judgement.

The ordinary effect of this is that unlike before when ruling on a preliminary objection will be delivered immediately, or soon after argument before the consideration of the main issues, such ruling will now be adjourned till after the hearing of the case on the merits, and at the conclusion of trial. This has the implication of speeding up the trial process, because any appeal on the preliminary objection will be taken together with whatever appealable issues that may come up from the substantive issues considered at trial. This will effectively curb the going back and forth which characterised trial proceedings under the old dispensation. Another beauty of Section 396(2) is that the provision is mandatory on a trial court. The operative word is “shall” which imposes an obligation, and not a discretion.

The view is shared in some legal circles that the provision of Section 396(2) of the ACJA infringes on the 1999 Constitution particularly Section 294(1). Section 294(1) of the Constitution provides that every court established by the Constitution shall deliver its judgement within 90 days of final addresses and conclusion of evidence. According to the critics of Section 396 of the ACJA, when a trial court adjourns ruling on a preliminary objection till after the conclusion of the substantive issues, there is the possibility of not delivering the ruling within the 90 days window prescribed by the Constitution, as there is no guarantee that the entire trial proceedings will be concluded within 90 days.

While conceding that the possibility of the trial proceedings extending beyond 90 days is very real, it is submitted that the dangers of breaching the Constitution is at best fictional and illusory. In the first instance it is submitted that the provisions of Section 294(1) of the Constitution only applies to final judgements, and not to preliminary rulings in the course of a trial proceedings. Even if it conceded that Section 294(1) of the Constitution can be given a very wide interpretation to encompass interlocutory rulings, whatever effect that a long adjournment on a preliminary ruling may have on the Constitutional “90 days Rule” is obviated by the Constitution itself in Section 294(5).

Section 294 (5) provides that the decision of a court shall not be set aside on the ground of non-compliance with the 90 days rule prescribed by Section 294(1), unless it is shown that the failure to deliver the judgement within the 90 days occasioned a miscarriage of justice to the party complaining against the non-compliance. The Supreme Court in the case of Akoma v Osenwokwu (2014) 11 NWLR (Pt 1419) held that it is not enough for the party complaining to merely allege miscarriage of justice on appeal, he must show sufficient evidence of the acts of injustice suffered by him by the non-compliance with Section 294(1).  Thus, as long as no injustice is done to an accused person, it will be in order for a trial court to adjourn ruling on a preliminary objection till the time of delivery of final judgement after the conclusion of trial.

Apart from Section 396 of the ACJA, another revolutionary provision is Section 306 which abolished the practice of stay of trial proceedings pending the hearing of appeals on a preliminary point. As stated earlier, ruling on preliminary points or objections are to be taken at the time of delivery of judgement. However, it often happens that some judges who are still fixated on the old procedure deliver ruling on the preliminary objection before proceeding with the trial. This will in effect create an opportunity for appeal. The implication of Section 306 is that the appellate courts no longer have the power to order stay of proceedings at the trial court, pending the hearing of the interlocutory appeal. What this means in essence is that the trial court will be in order to continue with the trial proceedings notwithstanding the appeal filed.

The trial of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal has offered the best opportunity for the judicial consideration of some of the innovative provisions of the ACJA. Sadly however, the appellate courts, for reasons best known to them, have been reluctant to give full effect to the provisions of the ACJA. Despite the provisions of Section 306 of the ACJA, the Supreme Court granted a stay of proceedings at the CCT pending the hearing of the appeal in which the Senate President challenged the jurisdiction of the CCT. With due respect to the learned justices of the Supreme Court, the decision granting stay of proceedings in the case has no basis under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act. One important point to bear in mind is that the exercise of appellate jurisdiction, including the powers of an appellate court, are statutory in nature, as there is no inherent right of appeal, or power to hear appeal. Thus the exercise of appellate power must always be in accordance with the provisions of the law.

The provision of Section 306 of the ACJA is a novel statutory provision which was enacted to address the mischief of using appeals to stall criminal trials in Nigeria. The provision in essence sought to remove the discretionary powers of Nigerian courts to grant stay of proceedings pending appeals in criminal trials. The inherent danger in the order granted by the Supreme Court is the fact that lower courts in Nigeria will feel bound by the decision based on the principle of stare decisis. This in essence will have the implication of rendering nugatory the efforts of the National Assembly in enacting Section 306 of the ACJA. It is thus hoped that the Supreme Court will in the not too distant future have another opportunity of giving proper effect to the provisions of Section 306 of the ACJA.

Aileru Olayinka is a legal practitioner, he writes from Lagos.

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