The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has finally appeared before the Code of Conduct Tribunal where he is being charged for alleged false declaration of assets.
Mr. Saraki failed to appear before the tribunal on Friday, and again on Monday, despite an arrest warrant issued against him. He faces a 13-count charge bordering on corruption and false assets declaration.
Mr. Saraki said Monday that he would appear before the tribunal, after the Court of Appeal in Abuja dismissed his application for a stay of execution. He arrived at the tribunal at about 9.320 a.m, accompanied by deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, and other senators. The tribunal has disallowed live broadcast of its proceedings. But you can follow highlights of the session below.
UPDATE 1: The Chairman of the Tribunal came into the courtroom at 10.32 a.m, and apologised for the delay in the commencement of proceeding. He said the tribunal was sorting out some matters.
UPDATE 2: Officials of the Tribunal seems desperate to stop the live coverage of this trial. Shortly before the Senate President arrived, an unnamed member of the Tribunal beckoned on TVC (television station) to stop the live coverage. And for over 10 minutes after, there was power cut at the chamber.
-The light was still out when Senate President arrives. But the light is still out.
-The light is back.
– Tribunal announces it was banning live coverage of proceedings
UPDATE 3: Argument ensues as to where Saraki should be seated
UPDATE 4: Prosecutor Rotimi Jacob says the business of the day is for the accused person to take his plea
UPDATE 5: Prosecution wants the Senate President to be seated at the dock
Mr. Saraki’s counsel, J.B. Daudu, says Tribunal is not a court to try criminal cases
Tribunal Chairman, Danladi Umar, insists Mr. Saraki must take his plea.
UPDATE 6: [11:16] Argument still ongoing with Mr. Saraki’s lead counsel saying that according to paragraph 18, Subsection 1 of the 5th Schedule of the 1999 Constitution and that the case is either not criminal in nature or that the Tribunal has no jurisdiction to hear it.
UPDATE 7: The prosecution counsel argued however that going by Section 2 of the Administration of Justice Act, 2015, the matter can be heard since the Tribunal was set up by An act of the National Assembly. The Tribunal chairman is currently analysing both points
UPDATE 8: The Tribunal ruled that the trial is criminal in nature. “I hold that the trial before the tribunal is purely criminal,” Chairman Danladi Umar said. He further ruled that the accused enter go ahead to take his plea.
UPDATE 9: Saraki goes to the dock. The 13-count charge of corruption levelled against him by the Code of Conduct Bureau being read to him.
UPDATE 10: Saraki is asked to plead either guilty or not guilty.
UPDATE 11: Saraki responds: “I believe that I am here as the Senate president, to indicate my respect for the Tribunal. I am puzzled why I am being compelled. He said he is not guilty.
UPDATE 12: Before pleading not guilty, the Senate President reiterated the provision of Paragraph 18 of the 5th Schedule of the Constitution – the point earlier argued by his counsel
That provision says:
18. (1) Where the Code of Conduct Tribunal finds a public officer guilty of contravention of any of the provisions of this Code it shall impose upon that officer any of the punishments specified under sub-paragraph (2) of this paragraph and such other punishment as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.
(2) The punishment which the Code of Conduct Tribunal may impose shall include any of the following –(a) vacation of office or seat in any legislative house, as the case may be;(b) disqualification from membership of a legislative house and from the holding of any public office for a period not exceeding ten years; and(c) seizure and forfeiture to the State of any property acquired in abuse or corruption of office.(3) The sanctions mentioned in sub-paragraph (2) hereof shall be without prejudice to the penalties that may be imposed by any law where the conduct is also a criminal offence.(4) Where the Code of Conduct Tribunal gives a decision as to whether or not a person is guilty of a contravention of any of the provisions of this Code, an appeal shall lie as of right from such decision or from any punishment imposed on such person to the Court of Appeal at the instance of any party to the proceedings.(5) Any right of appeal to the Court of Appeal from the decisions of the Code of Conduct Tribunal conferred by sub-paragraph (4) hereof shall be exercised in accordance with the provisions of an Act of the National Assembly and rules of court for the time being in force regulating the powers, practice and procedure of the Court of Appeal.(6) Nothing in this paragraph shall prejudice the prosecution of a public officer punished under this paragraph or preclude such officer from being prosecuted or punished for an offence in a court of law.(7) The provisions of this Constitution relating to prerogative of mercy shall not apply to any punishment imposed in accordance with the provisions of this paragraph.
UPDATE 13: On the various assets allegedly acquired by the Senate President, which the Conduct Bureau said were beyond his legitimate earnings, the Senate President said he is not guilty. He said he acquired the assets through the selling of rice.
On Count 3, which refers to his refusal to declare assets worth N280 million acquired when he was Kwara State Governor, the Senate President said he is not guilty. The Senate President pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The Tribunal Chairman adjourned the case to Wednesday, 21st October, 2015