Presidency: Saraki’s trial purely a judicial process •Senate President appeals against arrest order
THE PRESIDENCY said on Sunday that the trial of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, by the Code of Conduct Tribunal for alleged false asset declaration was purely a judicial process.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement, caution against linking the President with the Saraki’s trial, saying Buhari had no hand in the trial.
Shehu said there was no provision in the law for the Code of Conduct Bureau and the CCT to take instructions from any quarters, describing as uninformed the views that the CCT, which he said was equal to any superior court of record, could only act upon external instigation.
“As an independent institution equal to any superior court of record, the tribunal is set up by the Constitution to determine the issue of default, false declaration or forgery in assets declaration. This therefore is purely a judicial process and has nothing to do with the Presidency,” the statement noted.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party had on Saturday accused the Buhari-led government of desperation to remove Saraki as the Senate President.
The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, said Buhari was intolerant, particularly over the treatment being meted out to Saraki.
But the Presidency advised anybody not satisfied with the CCT action to go to court.
Shehu statement read in part, “If anyone has an axe to grind with what they (CCB and CCT) are doing, they should do it in a judicial manner by challenging those actions in a proper court of law. Let them hire a good team of lawyers to prove their innocence. Government has no desire to persecute anybody.
“The President has vowed to respect the rule of law and this is what he is doing by staying out of this matter. He has said times without number that the war against corruption has no sacred cows.
“Even if the President wants to help, there is no way he can do anything. Is he going to ask the judge to stop the trial?
“The President has sworn to an oath to protect the Constitution and will not violate that oath.”
Justice Danladi Umar of the CCT in Abuja had last Friday ordered a bench warrant against Saraki for failing to appear before the tribunal to answer false declaration of assets charges.
Umar had specifically ordered the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, or other security agencies to arrest Saraki and produce him in court on Monday (today) to take plea in the 13-count charge slammed on him by the CCB.
Meanwhile, there were indications on Sunday that the Senate President might still not appear before the CCT on Monday (today) despite the bench warrant issued on him by Justice Umar.
Counsel for Saraki, Mr. Mahmud Magaji (SAN), said he had appealed against the ruling by the tribunal judge.
The lawyer said, “We have been able to file a notice of appeal as well as stay of execution. When you have a valid notice of appeal and stay of execution, it puts the order of the court so granted in abeyance, unless and until the final determination of that content of that order that is being challenged at the Court of Appeal. That is the position of the law.”
He also confirmed that the notice of appeal and stay of execution had been received by the CCT.
“We filed it at the registry of the Code of Conduct Tribunal in the same court and it has been served on them since Friday; and then we are good to go. They have a copy of it and we have filed an appeal too. The rule is that you cannot file a stay of execution until you file notice of appeal and so we are good to go,” he said.
The Special Adviser (Media) to the Senate President, Yusuph Olaniyonu, also told one of our correspondents on Sunday that Saraki’s legal team would determine what would happen on Monday.
“The legal team of the Senate President and their client will decide what will happen because there are three cases coming up. One at the Federal High Court, one at the Court of Appeal and another at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, I am not in a position to say what will happen,” Olaniyonu said.
Meanwhile, while the judicial process is on, Saraki on has been fighting to remain afloat by enlisting the support of his base in Ilorin, Kwara Stat.
Saraki was said to have paid an unscheduled visit to Ilorin on Sunday, where he was said to have enlisted the support of his kinsmen and the emirate.
Shortly after the visit, the National President of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union, a socio-cultural group of Ilorin indigenes, Alhaji Abdulhamid Adi, in an interview with journalists on Sunday, described Saraki’s trial by the CCT as politically motivated.
“I see it more or less as political persecution. It is purely political. Maybe there are some political opponents that are trying to get at him. We believe he will come out of it. You are presumed innocent until proven otherwise,” Adi said.
But the National Publicity Secretary of the Afenifere Renewal Group, Kunle Famoriyo, and a member of the National Executive Council of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Mohammed Abdulrahman, have demanded the resignation of the Senate President.
Famoriyo, in an interview with The Punch, said it was honourable for Saraki to resign.
“He (Saraki) shouldn’t wait till he is embarrassed completely. In the Western world and other civilized countries, once there is any doubt about one’s character, the next thing for one to do is resign. It is not a matter of whether it is a politically instigated case or a witch-hunt. One would have to go and defend himself. He needs not get an injunction because that injunction is an abuse of the court process. Every time there is a problem, people would run to court to get an injunction and that slows down the process.
“The fact that one asks for an injunction is already a sign of guilt. If one is not guilty, he should appear in court to defend himself,” he said.
Abdulrahman also said, “I have told Saraki to step down since. In any civilised country, one doesn’t become that powerful to stall the democratic process, especially when it has got to do with representation.”
Also, the Deputy National Organising Secretary of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, Campbell Umeh-Nzekwe, said Saraki was too controversial and unfit to lead the Senate.
He, therefore, urged Saraki to step down and defend himself before the CCT. Umeh-Nzekwe said this during an interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday.
The APGA leader said Saraki had already started working against Buhari’s anti-corruption war, including his refusal to appear before the tribunal last Friday.
He said, “Saraki was never fit to lead the Senate from day one. He was aware of this and that was why he even confessed that he went to hide in a car park so that he could sneak into the Senate and betray his party and emerge as Senate President.
“We thank God that there is a new sheriff in town. Saraki should step down and defend himself at the tribunal. He should stop embarrassing the Senate because the whole world is watching.
“The President of Guatemala, Otto Perez Molina, recently resigned just to answer allegations of corruption. Why must Nigeria’s be different?”
Umeh-Nzekwe slammed the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Olisa Metuh, for defending Saraki.
He said he was not surprised that Metuh could defend corruption having been accused by workers of the PDP of mismanaging N12bn alongside other members of the PDP National Working Committee.
The APGA chieftain said it was ironic that Metuh, who had been calling on Buhari to start his anti-graft war from within the APC, was now crying foul over Saraki’s probe.
When asked if Saraki’s case was a political witch-hunt, Umeh-Nzekwe said the truth was that the CCT had just woken up to its responsibilities because Nigeria now has an anti-corruption crusader as President.
The APGA boss slammed the National Association of Nigerian Students for threatening to embark on a series of protests in support of Saraki.