Law News
CCT trial: FG asks S’Court to dismiss Saraki’s appeal

The Federal Government has urged the Supreme Court to dismiss the appeal filed by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, challenging the majority judgment of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which affirmed the competence of the charges of false asset declaration preferred against him and the jurisdiction of the Code of Conduct Tribunal to entertain the case.

In its respondent’s brief of argument opposing the appeal filed by Saraki, the Federal Government through its counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), urged the Supreme Court to uphold the majority decision of the Court of Appeal which held that the Justice Danladi Umar-led CCT was duly constituted.

Saraki had, through his lawyer, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), raised seven grounds of appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal which was delivered on October 30, urging the Supreme Court to set aside the judgment, the entire proceedings of the CCT and the charges preferred against him before the tribunal.

The Federal Government filed its respondent’s brief on November 18, 2015 in response to the seven-ground notice of appeal dated November 2, 2015 and appellant’s (Saraki’s) brief of argument filed on November 9, 2015.

Urging the apex court to dismiss the appeal, Jacobs faulted the grounds of appeal by Saraki, arguing among others that there was no conflict between the provisions of paragraph 15 (1) of the Fifth Schedule to the 1999 Constitution and section 28 of the Interpretation Act, which according to him, “provides that two out of the three members of the CCT will form the quorum that can validly conduct the proceedings of the tribunal.”

On the second issue raised by the appellant who maintained that the tribunal was not a criminal court and thus lacked the power to issue arrest warrant against him, Jacobs argued that from the wordings of Paragraph 18(1) of the Fifth Schedule of the constitution, the powers conferred on the CCT to find guilt and impose punishment, could only be exercised by a criminal court.

The Federal Government’s lawyer also maintained as held by the majority decision of the Court of Appeal that the competence of the charges preferred against Saraki were not affected by the fact that it was signed by a deputy director in the Ministry of Justice at the time the Attorney-General of the Federation had not been appointed.

He faulted Daudu’s contention to the contrary, arguing that “the exercise of the power conferred on law officers to initiate criminal proceedings under subsection (2) of section 174 of the constitution is not dependent on the existence of a sitting Attorney-General of the Federation.”

Jacobs also faulted the appellant’s argument of improper service of the summons on him to appear before the CCT on September 18.

Jacobs dismissed the argument which he said was not raised before the CCT but only put forward for the first time at the Court of Appeal.

On the last issue raised by the appellant, Jacobs said contrary to his (Saraki’s) contention, the Court of Appeal was right to hold that the since the Federal High Court did not make any order on September 18, 2015 restraining the Code of Conduct Tribunal from sitting, the issue of disobedience of that order or the superiority of the Federal High Court would not arise.

He stated, “In view of the argument canvassed by the respondent in this brief, we urge your Lordships to dismiss this appeal and hold that:

“The Court of Appeal was right in its unanimous decision that the Code of Conduct Tribunal was properly constituted when it heard and determined the issues that culminated in the tribunal’s ruling of September 18, 2015 with the chairman and one other member.

“The Court of Appeal was right when it held that the Code of Conduct Tribunal, through a court of limited criminal jurisdiction was competent to issue a bench warrant against the appellant in the event of his failure to appear before it.”

The Supreme Court’s five-man panel headed by Justice John Fabiyi, who retires from the bench today (Wednesday), had on November 12, 2015 granted an order of stay of proceedings of the trial before the CCT.

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the appeal by the Supreme Court.

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