Assets Declaration: Tribunal Chairman Refuses Saraki 's Application, Declares Statement a Mistake
Again, the Chairman of the the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Danladi Umar, on Wednesday declined an application to recuse himself from the trial of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki over statement which the Senate President claimed was prejudicial to me.
However, Danladi admitted that the statement was a mistake saying, "As human beings, we are bound to make mistakes and that it is only the almighty God that is infallible."
He said that the alleged comment was made with free mind and without prejudice to the Senate President and the trial.
Umar said he was surprised that since the alleged statement was made, nobody had bothered to find out the veracity of the comment.
He said: "We will give account of our deeds on earth to God on the resurrection day and we must therefore be fair and just in anything we are doing while on this earth".
Umar said that the alleged comment was not intended to prejudice the defendant and that the tribunal would move on inspite of the criticism that had tailed the comments.
He also said that, as the chairman, he could not afford to step down from the trial because the 5th Schedule to the 1999 Constitution conferred jurisdiction on assets declaration matters on the tribunal in alone and not on any other court in the country.
He further pointed out that paragraph 51 of the constitution which established the tribunal made provisions for the chairman and two other members adding that " the moment the chairman recuses himself from proceedings, the tribunal would collapse because it must have a chairman.
Beside, he said that paragraph 4 of the schedule made it clear that a person holding the office of the chairman could not be removed from office until the person has reached the retirement age adding that for the president of the country to remove the chairman, he must write to the National Assembly and that the NASS could only act on such request with two thirds majority.
Umar said that the request that he should step down was not contemplated by the constitution and that the absence of the chairman would naturally collapse the CCT.
He however, said that the defendant could challenge his ruling on appeal, adding, "disqualifying myself will tantamount to bringing the trial to an end."
He consequently adjourned the trial to November 7, for continuation of trial.
The trial was adjourned by the chairman based with the consent of lawyers to Saraki led by Chief Kanu Agabi SAN, and those of the Federal government led by Mr. Oluwaleke Atolagbe.
At Wednesday's proceedings, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs SAN, who was bill to lead the prosecution was said to be attending another court matter at the Abuja High Court in Abuja.
Atolagbe, who represented him told the tribunal that his principal would join the tribunal but however could not specify the exact time he would come.
Saraki had earlier pleaded not guilty to the 16 count charge of false assets declaration. This is the second time he would ask the tribunal chairman to disqualify himself from further participation in the trial over allegation of bias.
The tribunal chairman rejected the applications.
Saraki, had through his counsel Mr Paul Erokoro (SAN), while moving the motion asked the CCT chairman to disqualify himself from participating further in the trial because of allegation of bias.
Erokoro alleged that the CCT chairman had, on June 7, threatened Saraki that the delayed tactics employed by his lawyers would not reduce the consequences he would face at the end of the trial.
He submitted that by implication, the CCT chairman had implicitly admitted making the statement and as such, the chairman should disqualify himself in the interest of justice and fair trial.
He added that the independence and the impartiality of the chairman envisaged in section 36 of the constitution could no longer be guaranteed.