Deferment blamed on alleged pressure from APC, others
Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
The much-anticipated ruling on the appeal filed by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, against the federal government and Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), which was slated for monday by the Court of Appeal in Abuja, has been postponed indefinitely.
The appellate court failed to fix a date for the judgment with the Registrar, Mrs. Christie Aruna, explaining that the court resolved to communicate a new date to parties in the suit.
Aruna however did not give detailed information on why the judgment earlier fixed for yesterday by the presiding judge, Justice Moore Adumein, was cancelled.
Earlier, the supporters of the senate president including senators, chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who had stormed the court as early as 8a.m. for the judgment slated for 2p.m. left the court premises disappointed when the reality dawned on them that the judgment would not be delivered after all.
The appellate court which heard the appeal argued by Mr. Joseph Daodu (SAN) on behalf of Saraki and Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), standing for the federal government last Friday, had fixed judgment for October 19, having granted accelerated hearing to the appellant.
In the appeal, Saraki had challenged the power of the CCT to prosecute him on behalf of the federal government on false assets declaration.
He premised the appeal case on five grounds among which were that the tribunal was unlawfully constituted having not formed quorum because of the two members sitting at the trial instead of the mandatory three members and that the tribunal lacked power to assume criminal jurisdiction.
Saraki’s legal team led by Daudu, aformer President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), includes five other Senior Advocates of Nigerian (SAN); Malam Yusuf Ali, Adebayo Adelodun, Mahmud Magaji, Ahmed Raji and Kayode Eleja, who argued the case for him.
Moving his case, Daudu had raised five major issues for determination of the court to determine the legality of trial of the senate president at the tribunal.
Among others, the appellant counsel had argued that the CCT erred in law by proceeding with the trial with two members instead of mandatory three as provided by the constitution.
He had informed the court that the composition of the tribunal during the trial of Saraki violated paragraphs 15(1) of the 1999 constitution by sitting with two members instead of three and asked the court to nullify the CCT proceedings of last month due to lack of quorum.
But opposing the submissions of Saraki’s counsel, the federal government through its counsel, asked that the appeal case be dismissed for lacking merit.
Jacobs told the three-man appeal court panel that the constitution was silent on the quorum of the tribunal memberships.
He urged the court to invoke the Interpretation Act to resolve the issue in favour of the respondent.
The respondent counsel also submitted that the tribunal has criminal jurisdiction because of the use of words like “guilty” and “punishment” in the law that established the tribunal.
Justice Adumein had thereafter fixed judgment for monday.
Also, the trial of Saraki had been fixed for October 21, 22 and 23 by the CCT in Abuja in spite of the pending appeal against its decision on the legality of the arraignment of the senate president by the federal government.
Meanwhile, it could not be ascertained at the time of filing this report, whether the tribunal will still sit or not, since the outcome of the Court of Appeal where the two parties have already joined issues with each other had not been decided.
However, information has emerged that the presidency, some powerful forces from the North -west and All Progressives Congress (APC) were behind the unexpected postponement of judgment in the appeal filed by Saraki seeking to stop his trial before the CCT.
THISDAY was informed by a source shortly after the indefinite adjournment confirmed that there was pressure to delay the judgment at the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division.
Speaking with some journalists, the source said: “A governor from the North-west, the presidency and some APC chieftains all mounted pressure for the delay of the judgment.
“You can see that the courtroom is even under lock and key, which is not the usual practice when we are not sitting. I don’t know why today should be an exception.”