Senate President Bukola Saraki is to have a fresh start over his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, is to set up a fresh panel that will hear his challenging the jurisdiction and competence of the charges by the tribunal over alleged false asset declaration preferred against him.
The CJN, it emerged Wednesday, is set to disband the Justice John Fabiyi-led five-member panel which on November 12, 2015, granted an order of a stay of proceedings in the Senate President’s trial before the CCT.
The move is premised on the fact that Justice Fabiyi has attained the mandatory age of 70 and a valedictory court session is to be held for him on November 25, 2015, his birthday.
Other Justices of the Supreme Court, who are on the panel with Justice Fabiyi, are Justices Suleiman Galadima, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, John Okoro and Amiru Sanusi.
Besides the his retirement, another reason for a new panel is anchored on the controversy generated by the stay of execution on the matter by the Supreme Court, which some senior lawyers said contravenes provisions of sections 306 and 369 of the new Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
Legal minds like Mr. Femi Falana SAN, Jiti Ogunye, Malachy Ugwummadu, Prof. Itse Sagay SAN, Chief Folake Solanke SAN and Chief Adegboyega Awomolo SAN, , had described the Supreme Court’s ruling as inconsistent with the law which prohibits granting of a stay of proceedings in criminal cases.
With the order of a stay of proceedings by the Supreme Court, the CCT, which had on November 5, adjourned till November 19 for the commencement of Saraki’s trial, must await the decision of the apex court on the Senate President’s main appeal.
Saraki, through his lawyers, led by Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), had appealed to the Supreme Court to challenge the September 30, 2015 judgment of the Court of Appeal, which affirmed that the 13 counts of false asset declaration preferred against him before the CCT were competent.
The appeal court also affirmed that the Justice Danladi Umar-led CCT had the required jurisdiction to entertain the charges against the Senate President.
Lagos-based lawyer, Johnson Esezoobo, has called on the CJN to review the granting of a stay of proceedings in the trial of the Senate President at the tribunal.
A statement by Esezoobo described the decision by the Supreme Court as an abuse of and misuse of power, advising that “institutional safeguards should be put against abuse and misuse of power”.
He said, “From the provisions of the constitution, it is absolutely not a difficult issue to resolve except that the remedy available is not what we have been used to in our democratic practice.
“If it is agreed that when an illegality is committed, it must be redressed, we must also find out how to go about it under the constitution.”
However, Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN, has however, faulted the criticisms trailing the order of a stay of proceedings granted Senate President Bukola Saraki by the Supreme Court on his false asset declaration trial.
Ozekhome described the criticisms of the order by human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), and Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) as incredible “perverse interpretation” of the law, contending that the senior advocates “seek to bind the Supreme Court with the uninterpreted provisions of a law that only applies to trial courts”.
Ozekhome, in an opinion article titled ‘Awomolo-Falana’s comment – A case of unfortunate sentiments Vs law’, argued that Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, which states that “an application for a stay of proceedings in respect of a criminal matter before the court shall not be granted,” only applied to the trial court, and not to appellate courts.
“It ought to be noted that the trial of Saraki, which is currently before the CCT, is not before the Supreme Court of Nigeria. From the plain wording of section 306, the ACJA does not apply to the Supreme Court of Nigeria, or any other appellate court for that matter, but to the CCT.”