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Thursday, 15 March 2018

FG vs Saraki: Supreme Court issues ruling

FG vs Saraki: Supreme Court issues ruling

The Supreme Court has adjourned indefinitely hearing in the appeal filed by the Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki and the Federal government to challenge the decision of the Court of Appeal in the trial of Saraki on false assets declaration.

The apex court put off the two appeals sine die to enable Saraki and government file and exchange process relating to the legal tussle within the time allowed by law.

At the proceeding, Counsel to the Federal Government Mr. Rotimi Jacobs SAN informed the court that the Senate President had just served on him, his response to the cross appeal of the government.

He insisted that he needed time to study the reply and file his own process and serve same on Saraki as required by law.

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Jacobs asked for adjournment to enable him do so and which was not opposed by counsel to Saraki, Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN).

Justice Mohammed Musa Dattijo who presided over four other Justices of the court however said that the court will not give definite date for hearing until all processes have been filed.

Justice Dattijo said that the Registrar of the court will communicate hearing date to parties involved as soon as their processes are confirmed filed and exchanged.

Saraki and government are contesting the decision of the Court of Appeal, Abuja division which it nullified 15 out of 18 count charges filed against Saraki by government for being baseless and frivolous but asked Saraki to open defense on the rest three charges.

While Saraki is however praying the Supreme Court to void the entire 18 count charges, the Federal Government in its own cross appeal is praying the apex court to uphold the entire charges against the Senate President for defense.

The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) where Saraki was arraigned in 2015 by government on 18 count charges of false assets declaration had discharged and acquitted him on the ground that the charges were based on hearsay evidence that could not be relied upon to convict the defendant.

Chairman of the tribunal Mr. Danladi Yakubu Umar in his ruling in a no- case submission made by Saraki agreed that the charges have no proper foundation in law and struck them out.

This prompted the government to move to court of appeal to challenge the tribunal decision.

The Tribunal (CCT) had on March 8 adjourned indefinitely the defense of Saraki in the three count charges pending the time Saraki’s appeal at the Supreme Court would be determined.

Saraki is to defend himself on three of the 18 counts of false assets declaration filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The adjournment, according to the Danladi Yakubu Umar-led CCT, was to await the decision of Supreme Court on the appeal filed by Saraki and the Federal Government’s cross-appeal in respect of the case.

“The tribunal has decided to adjourn sine die (indefinitely) pending the outcome of the appeals at the Supreme Court,” Umar ruled after dismissing the prosecution’s objection to an adjournment.

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‘The decision of the supreme court will “invariably affect” the decision of the tribunal”, adding: “We have to protect the integrity of the Supreme Court first but we need to hear from you (the prosecution and defense counsels.)

Responding, Mr. Rotimi Jacob, counsel to the federal government, had advised the court to proceed with the defense “in view of the position of law today.”

He argued that section 306 of the administration of criminal justice act enjoins the court not to entertain any application for stay.

“So the appeal before the Supreme Court is not an issue of reference. And section 305 also permits the court to go ahead assuming it is an issue of reference,” he added.

But Kanu Agabi, Saraki’s counsel, said the idea of staying the proceedings “is not our initiative.”

“It is the initiative of the tribunal and we commend you for it. The prosecution also has an appeal at the supreme court, so it is not just us,” he said.

The tribunal consequently adjourned the matter sine die.

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