Saraki Loses Bid To Disqualify CCT Chairman | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Saraki Loses Bid To Disqualify CCT Chairman

Posted: Oct 6, 2016 at 4:20 am   /   by   /   comments (0)



Tony Ezimakor


Abuja – Danladi Yakubu Umar, chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on Wednesday insisted that he would not disqualify himself from the trial of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on the false assets declaration charges.

The Senate president had in June asked the CCT chairman to step down from the case over his anti-Saraki comment.

Counsel to Saraki, Paul Erokoro (SAN), had in a 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 that the delayed tactics adopted by lawyers to the Senate president would not reduce the consequences he would face at the end of the trial.

The defence counsel submitted that the independence and the impartiality of the chairman of the tribunal envisaged in section 36 of the constitution could no longer be guaranteed hence he steps down.

Umar Danladi while outlining reasons why he would not accede to the demand to disqualify himself at the resumed hearing of the matter on Wednesday, however, apologised profusely for the comment against the defendant.

Addressing the tribunal in an emotion-laden voice, Umar said he made a mistake.

“As human beings, we are bound to make mistakes and it is only the Almighty God that is infallible,” he said.

He stressed that the alleged comment was without any prejudice to the Senate president and the trial.

Ruling on application by Saraki that he disqualifies himself from the case, Umar insisted that the alleged comment was made without any sinister motive, adding that as mortals, everyone is accountable to the Almighty.

“We will give accounts 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”, he said.

He maintained that the alleged comment was not intended to prejudice the defendant in any way and that the trial would proceed as scheduled.

According to him, the chairman of the tribunal cannot afford to step down from the trial as that would tantamount to bringing the case to an end.

He pointed out that the 5th schedule of the 1999 constitution confers jurisdiction on assets declaration matters on the tribunal alone and not in any other court of the land.

He further pointed to paragraph 51 of the Nigerian constitution which established the tribunal, noting that the instrument makes provisions for the chairman and two other members, adding that “the moment the chairman rescues himself from proceedings, the tribunal will collapse because it must have a chairman.”

The tribunal boss also cited paragraph 4 of the same schedule and pointed out that a person holding the office of the chairman cannot be removed from office unless he reaches the retirement age, adding that for the president of the country to remove the chairman, he must write the National Assembly and that the National Assembly can only act on such request with two thirds majority.

Umar maintained that rather than disqualify himself, the defendant can hold the alleged comment as ground for appeal at a higher court.

The trial on Wednesday, however, was stalled following the absence of the lead counsel to the government, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN).

Oluwaleke Atolagbe, who stood in for him, informed the tribunal that his principal will join the tribunal later but could not give specific time the SAN will arrive the court. It turned out that the senior lawyer was engaged in another matter before another court.

The trial was subsequently adjourned till November 7 by the chairman following the consent of lawyers to Saraki led by Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN) and those of the Federal Government led by Oluwaleke Atolagbe.