CCT: Justice Umar over-rules Saraki, orders trial to begin

Senate President Bukola Saraki has lost another bid to stall his trial as Justice Danladi Umar of the Code of Conduct Tribunal Tuesday ordered the senator’s trial to commence right away.

Saraki on Monday filed an appeal and a stay of proceeding at the Abuja Appeal court, seeking an opportunity to challenge the jurisdiction of the CCT.

The Senate president has asked for adjournment more than five times since September when the Code of Conduct Bureau decided to prosecute him over a 13-count charge of false asset declaration when he was Kwara’s governor.

Umar entertained both arguments by the defence and prosecution, then ordered a stand down to prepare his ruling on Saraki’s appeal.

The CCT chairman ruled that the defendant’s application for adjournment offended provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.

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Rotimi Jacobs, the lead prosecutor, told the tribunal that his witness was in court and was ready for trial to commence.

But defence counsel, Paul Usoro, asked the CCT to adjourn the case till a period after the hearing of his client’s motion for stay of proceedings of the CCT which was filed on Monday.

“Our prayer is for an adjournment not for stay of proceedings. We are asking for an adjournment based on our motion filed before the Court of Appeal for stay of proceedings of the trial before this tribunal‎,” Usoro said.

But Jacobs opposed the application for adjournment. He claimed it had the same implication as a motion for stay of proceedings which has been prohibited by section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.

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Jacobs maintained that the defence only decided to file their appeal and motion for stay of proceedings on the eve of the day scheduled for commencement of trial in order to ensure that the trial was stalled. He described the motion as illegal and abuse of court process.

“Nothing can be built on an illegal process. You can’t build something on nothing. They will both crumble,” Jacobs said.

According to him, section 396 of the ACJ Act provides a party in a criminal case is only entitled to adjournment not more than six times. And since the commencement of the case in September last year, the matter had been adjourned more than five times on Saraki’s request.

In one of Saraki’s many appeals, the Supreme Court ordered him to go back to CCT for his trial, lambasting him for abusing court process all along.