*Appeals Senate President’s Acquittal
The Federal Government on Tuesday appealed a Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, ruling that acquitted Senate President, Bukola Saraki, of charges of corruption and false asset declaration.
The CCT in Abuja had discharged and acquitted Saraki of all the 18 charges of false asset declaration and other related offences preferred against him.
The two-man panel of the CCT, led by its Chairman, Danladi Umar, unanimously upheld the no-case submission, filed by Saraki after the prosecution closed its case with 48 exhibits tendered and after the testimonies of the fourth and the last prosecution witness on May 4, 2017.
Umar therefore upheld the no-case submission made by the defendant’s counsel, Kanu Agabi.
However, the government filed eleven grounds of appeal at the Court of Appeal Abuja challenging the judgment of the CCT.
The notice of appeal was signed by Rotimi Jacobs SAN and Pius Akutah, an assistant Chief State Counsel.
The government is seeking an order to set aside the CCT judgement of June 14, and also for an order calling upon Saraki to enter his defence.
In the notice of appeal, the government said the CCT judgment was unconstitutional, without jurisdiction, unwarranted, unreasonable and against the weight of evidence.
It argued that the Tribunal failed to analyse and evaluate the evidence of the prosecution witnesses before reaching its no case submission.
The government held that the CCT failed to point out any apparent discredited evidence on the face of the record before upholding the no case submission.
According to the government, the power of the CCT when upholding a no case submission is to discharge Saraki and not to acquit him.
It said the CCT failed to be bound by the judicial precedent of a superior court of record and has denied the government its right to fair hearing as guaranteed by the Constitution.
Tangentially, I take the title of this article to be humdrum. Why? Goodluck Jonathan was prognosticated to be the last president of composite Nigeria, but the doom prognosis is now legend.
Without obviating the trepidation and tension that eclipsed the country before and during the 2015 general election, Nigeria survived Jonathan; I believe it will survive President Muhammadu Buhari.
However, the whirling of events in the past few weeks gives me colly-wobbles. The unity of Nigeria is not only held by a tenuous thread at this time, the country is also teetering on the brink of a violent hate war.
Since 2014, the agitation for an independent state of Biafra has revved. But no doubt, the agitation grew in decibel few months after Buhari ensconced himself in government. Why? I believe it is because of the sectionalism and nepotism that has become accenting features of this administration, and of course, the neglect of the south-east which the president does not take a liking to.
Inasmuch as the secessionist agitation is a live threat to the unity of Nigeria, the Kaduna declaration dispatched by a coalition of northern youth groups led by Arewa – that the Igbo must leave the north before October 1 and that their property will be expropriated – is a deadly uppercut to the bloody jaw of the nation’s unity.
Although, a good number of northern leaders condemned the declaration, some other persons, “elders”, from the region endorsed it. The fact is, with the proclamation a deeper wound has been inflicted on the nation’s body. And it is an open-sesame for hate mongers and sizzled bigots to tear what is left of the country’s “bond” to pieces.
It was not surprising that some militant groups in the Niger Delta delivered a riposte, in kind, to northerners in their region – that they should leave the area before October 1. A day to celebrate Nigeria’s independence is now a potential doomsday. And of course, secessionist agitators cashed in on the divisive lineaments of the declaration to call for an exodus of their people in the north. This is, principally, a chaotic time in the history of the country since the civil war.
As a matter of fact, I have never feared for Nigeria’s future until now. Yes. The compost of hate, caterwauling, bitterness and recriminations on social media induces severe fear and anxiety. But in the deep of this fear, I believe that the country will not teeter off the precipice. Why? What binds Nigeria is maximally strong but ludicrous.
Nigeria is not held together by God, values, sacred principles or beliefs, but by corruption, indiscipline, greed, nepotism, incompetence, lust for power and vested interest. These are the strong forces cementing and patching up every leak in the roof of the Nigerian dome.
Again, as the 2019 general election closes in, there are more ominous threats to the country’s survival. While Arewa bleats power must remain in the north in 2019 even if Buhari is incapacitated, Ohanaeze youth threaten secession of the south-east if an Igbo does not emerge as Nigeria’s president in that portentous year.
Still, I believe we will survive 2019.
The 1985 song, ‘Nigeria Go Survive’ by Veno Marioghae conveys my thoughts. Nigeria will survive even when everyone knows that it is not working. It will. Yes, again, because it is where “I chop, you chop”.
In conclusion, the Buhari government must work at forging a united country. Nigeria has never been this divided. It has been said countless times that Buhari is sectional. This is a fact, and I know he knows it. The excuse that Jonathan too was sectional in his appointments and in the distribution of resources is what it is, an excuse.
Buhari must do better. Soon the sun will set on his government, how does he want to be remembered, as a sectional leader? As former President Olusegun Obasanjo once said, the problem with Nigeria is that it lacks a national leader. Buhari can make himself one before the end of his administration. His legacy should matter to him now. He is 74!
Saraki’s CCT discharge
Conspiracy theorists are now conjuring up funny stories of why Senate President Bukola Saraki was cleared of 18-count charge of false asset declaration by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on Wednesday. As a “religious reporter” of the trial, I say with accustomed dispassion that the federal government bungled the case from its parturition. The witnesses called by the government were at best vacuous and impotent. They gave layers and layers of contradictory statements. In fact, one Samuel Madojemu, the chief investigator of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), the agency which filed the charges against Saraki on behalf of the government, publicly said his organisation did not carry out an independent investigation of the allegations against the senate president before filing the charges. Imagine?
Osinbajo’s north-south consultations
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has shown much of the rare leadership stuff he is made of. His deft intervention in the hate exchange between the south-east and the north saved a combustible situation. If it were to be some other presidents or even his “boss”, a listless committee would have been set up to look into the issue. But Osinbajo personally intervened in the matter, dousing the sputter of tension. That is leadership!
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Senate President Bukola Saraki has released a statement on the decision by the Code of Conduct Tribunal to discharge and acquit him, after a two-year trial.
The CCT, on Wednesday, brought Saraki’s trial to an end over false assets declaration by dismissing an 18-count charge.
In a unanimous decision, Saraki was cleared of the charges as the two-man panel said the prosecution, FG, failed to provide evidence to support the charges.
The senate president described the ruling as a vindication of his position, adding that the outcome has renewed his confidence in the Nigerian judiciary.
He however made it clear that he holds no grudge against anyone who might have played a part in his persecution.
The statement reads: “Today, June 14, 2017, the Code of Conduct Tribunal sitting in Abuja discharged and acquitted me on a case of false declaration of assets, which started in September 2015.
“You would recall that at the beginning of the trial, I maintained that I will clear my name. The conclusion of this trial has vindicated my position. With the outcome of this case, our faith is renewed in our courts and our hope is restored that the judiciary in our country could indeed provide sanctuary for all those who seek justice.
“I thank the Almighty Allah, the ultimate Judge and the repository of all powers. He alone has brought about this victory. I am immensely grateful to all my colleagues in the National Assembly for their abiding support. All through my trial, they demonstrated their strong conviction about the choice we all decided to make two years ago. I thank members of my family for their unflinching support. I thank all friends and supporters back home in Kwara State and across the length and breadth of our country for their prayers and their sacrifices.
My gratitude also goes to all members of my legal team for their tireless efforts to ensure the cause of justice is served.
“After undergoing the crucible of a tortuous trial, my vindication today calls for celebration. It is my belief however that if there should be any celebration at all, it should be a celebration of the hopes that this judgment gives us as citizens that despite all the challenges that we face as a country, we are well on our way to building a country where the innocent needs not be afraid. I therefore urge all my supporters to refrain from any unbridled triumphalism. The challenges that our country faces today are enormous and do not allow for wanton celebration. Instead, we should all reflect on the significance of this moment and what it meant for our democracy.
“On a personal note, I harbour no grudge against anyone, regardless of the role they might have played in the persecution that I had endured in the last two years. I believe that If my trial had in anyway given hope to the common man that no matter the forces arraigned against him, he can still get justice in our courts, then my tribulation had not been in vain.
“Once again, I thank my colleagues in the 8th Senate for standing firm. Regardless of the distraction of my trial, we have achieved more as legislators than the previous Senates. Now that this distraction is over, we can even achieve so much more. We must now proceed from here with greater vigour to deliver on the expectations of Nigerians and show that this 8th Senate can indeed play a central role in improving the quality of lives of our people.
“Lastly, I thank all the gentlemen of the press for your abiding interest in this case, which I believe had contributed in no small measure in ensuring that truth and reason ultimately prevailed.”
Legislative Aides to lawmakers on Tuesday staged a wide protest in the National Assembly over delays in payment of their salaries and allowances.
The protesters who carried placards and obituary pictures said they were protesting the death of a legislative aide to the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Rep. Yusuff Lasun.
The protesters said that the aide, Hassan Abiodun died because he was unable to pay the sum of N165,000 as cost for surgery for appendicitis.
Speaking to newsmen during the protest, one of the aides, Mr Dayo Faduba said that if the salary had not been delayed, the diseased would have afforded to pay the hospital dues.
He added that the late aide died when the appendix ruptured one day after the due date of his surgery and he eventually gave up on Friday June 9.
Reading a press statement signed by Lawson Oviasogie, Faduba said that the delay in salaries had become common since the commencement of the 8th National Assembly.
“We are here today with heavy hearts to mourn the untimely and unfortunate death of one of our colleagues, Hassan Abiodun (ltalo).
“Even as we mourn, we see clearly that his death MAY have been averted. He died while waiting for salary to operate his appendicitis.
“Hassan is a victim of a flawed and unjust system and the unjust conditions of Aides in the National Assembly,” he said.
The aides berated the management of the National Assembly for moving the payment account of the aides from a known national commercial bank to a “microfinance” bank “masquerading as a commercial bank”.
NAN reports that SunTrust Bank is registered as a Mortgage Bank.
He said that since the management of the National Assembly started operating with Sun Trust Bank, payment of had always been delayed.
He therefore also blamed the bank for the death of their colleage adding that if they had paid on time, Hassan may not have died.
“This delay in payment, which has been the hallmark of Alhaji Sani Omolori led administration, is occasioned partly by the CNA unilateral decision to domicile Aides salary account with a mushroom and unknown financial institution known as Sun Trust Bank.
“From all indications, it is manifest that Sun Trust Bank does not have the capacity and infrastructure to handle the volume of transaction the CNA has foisted on them.
“Indeed, we are convinced that the decision to domicile our salaries with Sun Trust Bank is motivated by ulterior motive aimed at bolstering the financial standing of the Micro Finance bank masquerading as a commercial institution.
“The delayed payment of Aides salary is not an isolated incidence. Rather, it is a crescendo of series of actions from the management that highlights the utter contempt, disregard and disdain with which the National Assembly Management holds Aides.
“Some instances will suffice. lt is on record that unlike in other Assemblies, the current management has refused to pay the quarterly Duty
“Tour Allowance (DTA) and Trainings of Aides for 24 months amounting to 8th quarters and no reason has been adduced for this unconscionable dereliction. Perhaps, to perpetuate the regime of subjugation, the management has shown more than a passing interest in who leads the National Assembly Legislative Aides Forum (NASSLAF).
The protesters made their demands very clear to the Management of the Assembly. Their demands include:
1. Timely and regular payment of our monthly salary;
2. Ancillary to (1) above is the need to move Aides Salary account away from Sun Trust bank to a ’proper’ bank;
3. Payment of our outstanding quarterly Duty Tour Allowances (DTA) and Trainings;
4. Allowing Aides the freedom and environment to choose a leader to pilot the affairs of NASSLAF.
Meanwhile, the protesters met with the President of the Senagte Dr. Bukola Saraki as he arrived for plenary on Tuesday.
Saraki who gave them a brief audience promised to wade into the matter while also directing his Deputy Chief of Staff, Gbenga Makanjuola to meet with the aides and get details of their grouse.
Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the President of the Senate on New Media, Mr Bamikole Omishore told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that Saraki had already summoned the management of the National Assembly over the matter.
Omisore added that the President of the Senate was unhappy with the development and is poised to get to the root of the matter.
NAN has been unable to reach the office of the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives for comments.