Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
The Court of Appeal in Abuja has formally assumed jurisdiction in the appeal brought before it by the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, to challenge his trial by the federal government on alleged false assets declaration at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
The presiding judge at the appellate court, Justice Moore Adumein, in a decision on Thursday, granted accelerated hearing to the suit in which Saraki is asking the court to stop his trial at the CCT pending the determination of his case.
Justice Adumein took the decision after listening to the fierce argument by counsel to Saraki, Mahmoud Abubakar Magaji (SAN), on the need for the matter to be expeditiously determined because of the utmost urgency involved.
Apart from granting accelerated hearing to the appellant, he also fixed October 16 for definite hearing of the case.
The Senate President had through the counsel, prayed the court for an order to stay, stop or halt his trial on a 13-count charge of false asset declaration against him by the tribunal pending the hearing and determination of his motion on notice pending before the appellate court.
Listed as respondents in the appeal case are the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), CCT, the Federal Ministry of Justice and one Mr. Musiliu Hassan, a lawyer in the ministry.
The appeal by Saraki followed the ruling by the tribunal that the federal government has power to initiate a criminal charge against him even in the absence of the
Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice vested with powers by the constitution to initiate such trial.
Against this backdrop, the Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Danladi Yakubu Umar, had in a ruling last month, held that in the absence of a substantive AGF, the Solicitor General of the Federation has the constitutional powers to execute or carry out the functions.
Justice Umar also held that any lawyer in the Federal Ministry of Justice or a private legal practitioner has power to prosecute on behalf of the federal government once such counsel has the mandate of the Solicitor General of the Federation.
Dis-satisfied with the ruling, Saraki through his counsel, had stormed the Court of Appeal to ventilate his anger on the decision of the CCT.
Among others, the Senate President asked the appellate court to halt the proceedings at the lower tribunal since the court and the tribunal cannot by law be hearing same cases at the same time.
He pleaded that the CCT be ordered to stop any further action on issues bordering on charges preferred against him by the federal government pending the outcome of the appellate court decision in his appeal.
The CCT in which Saraki appeared on September 22 had fixed continuation of his trial for October 21, 22 and 23 for the federal government to prove the charges brought against the senate president.
But Saraki had on the day pleaded not guilty to the 13-count charges against him and maintained that he was being prosecuted at the tribunal by the opposition on vendetta of his emergence as senate president.
He also faulted the CCB for its failure to first invite him to draw his attention to discrepancies, if any, to his asset declaration form for clarification as demanded by law.