Senate on Tuesday suspended its plenary and the ongoing screening of ministerial nominees, apparently to pave the way for the commencement of the trial of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, for false asset declaration.
The Code of Conduct Tribunal had adjourned till October 21 to commence Saraki’s trial for the 13 charges preferred against him by the Code of Conduct Bureau, which alleged that the Senate president made false asset declaration as Kwara State governor between 2003 and 2011.
The Senate president had appeared before the tribunal on September 22. The Justice Danladi Umar-led tribunal, after Saraki was arraigned, had fixed October 21 for the commencement of trial.
The Acting Clerk of the Senate, Mr. Nelson Ayewo, issued a late statement on Tuesday, stating that further plenary at the upper legislative chamber had been postponed till Thursday (tomorrow), meaning the screening of the nominees would not continue today as scheduled.
However, Saraki on Tuesday filed a fresh application for stay of the proceedings of the CCT.
The Senate president’s legal team, led by Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), filed the motion for stay of proceedings before the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal.
Saraki had during his arraignment pleaded not guilty to the charges of false asset declaration.
It however remained unclear as of Tuesday night whether the Senate President would appear before the tribunal on Wednesday (today) in view of one of his lawyers’ reaction to Monday’s inability of the Court of Appeal to deliver its judgment on Saraki’s main appeal, in which he is challenging the validity of the charges preferred against him at the tribunal.
One of its lawyers, Mr. Mahmud Magaji (SAN), on Monday said that the CCT would no longer have the power to continue to hear the charges until the Court of Appeal delivered its judgment.
The fresh motion for stay of proceedings filed by Saraki’s lawyers on Tuesday seeks an order of the Court of Appeal staying proceedings of the CCT pending when the appellate court would deliver its judgment.
The Court of Appeal had on Friday struck out a similar application for stay of the CCT proceedings by Saraki after hearing his main appeal.
The Justice Moore Adumein-led tribunal appeal panel said it would amount to judicial waste of time if it went ahead to hear the appeal and had to deliver a separate ruling on it after the main appeal had been heard.
The Court of Appeal in Abuja had promised to deliver its judgment on the case before the next scheduled appearance of the Senate president before the tribunal on October 21. But the appeal court had on Monday curiously deferred indefinitely its ruling on the appeal.
No new date was fixed for the judgment as lawyers, journalists and a large number of people interested in the case met the courtroom already locked by 2pm when the three-man panel was scheduled to sit on Monday.
It was learnt that the filing of the fresh motion for stay of proceedings was due to the Monday’s failure of the Court of Appeal to deliver judgment in the appeal by Saraki as earlier scheduled.
The lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), on Tuesday night confirmed that he had been served with Saraki’s motion for stay of proceedings.
The Senate president is challenging the trial on among other grounds that the CCT not being a court could not exercise judicial powers and that the charges filed at the time an Attorney General of the Federation had not been appointed were incompetent.
But the respondents’ counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), asked the Court of Appeal to dismiss the appeal, arguing that the appeal lacked merit and was based on misconception and wrong interpretation of the law.
Credit : Punch