Will the trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki commence as scheduled on Wednesday (tomorrow)?
The answer to that question was lost in legal conundrum on Monday, barely 48 hours before Saraki is billed to appear at the Code of Conduct Tribunal to answer 13 charges of false asset declaration between 2003 and 2011 when he was the governor of Kwara State.
The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Monday adjourned indefinitely its judgment in an appeal filed by the Senate president, challenging the validity of the charges against him before the CCT.
However, another panel of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which had earlier promised to deliver its judgment on the case before the next scheduled appearance of the Senate President before the tribunal on October 21 did not sit on Monday.
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.
The development has sparked uncertainties about the CCT’s proceedings on Wednesday, when Saraki’s trial has been scheduled to commence.
Both the prosecution lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN); and the defence lead counsel, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), said they did not know the status of Wednesday’s proceedings at the CCT.
They said they were confused.
Jacobs, who also represents the respondents to Saraki’s suit at the Court of Appeal, told the Punch in a telephone interview on Monday that he could not confirm whether or not the CCT proceedings would go on as scheduled.
“We don’t know yet. We don’t know if the Court of Appeal will deliver its judgment before the tribunal’s next adjourned date,” he said.
Daudu also expressed similar concern when contacted on Monday.
“We don’t know yet. We are confused too, but it is our work to straighten it out. So I can’t tell you anything now,” Daudu said.
The appeal court justices, led by Justice Moore Adumein, had on Friday heard and adjourned Saraki’s appeal till Monday for judgment.
Saraki had on September 22 pleaded not guilty to the 13 charges preferred against him by the Code of Conduct Bureau.
He had filed an appeal against the ruling of the Justice Danladi Umar-led tribunal on the grounds that it wrongly assumed jurisdiction on the case when it came before it on September 18.
But another senior lawyer in Saraki’s camp, Mr. Mahmud Magaji (SAN), who indicated that Saraki would not be at the tribunal on Wednesday, said that the tribunal had no reason to conduct proceedings in the matter until the Court of Appeal delivered its judgment.
“The matter is before the Court of Appeal, we have argued our brief and judgment has been reserved. So how can a lower court sit over the same matter?” he argued.
When asked if Saraki would appear before the tribunal on Wednesday, he said, “How can he? It seems you don’t understand this issue. The matter is already before the Court of Appeal. We must allow the Court of Appeal to decide it either way before the trial at the tribunal can continue.”
But a Lagos lawyer, Mr. Jiti Ogunye, insisted that the CCT had no reason to halt Saraki’s trial in view of the fact that there was no specific order of stay of its proceedings and the new Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, which provides that criminal proceedings cannot be stayed.
He said, “The Court of Appeal has not granted any order of stay of proceedings of the tribunal. As a matter of law, by virtue of the provisions of the new law in town, which is the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, which is the law guiding the proceedings of the trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki, we can conclude that the law does not envisage that the Court of Appeal would stay its proceedings.”