Saraki’s arraignment seen to boost investor confidence

The arraignment of Olusola Saraki, Nigeria’s Senate President, before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Abuja yesterday, may have sent positive signals to the international investment community to whom one of the turn-offs in developing economies is concern about respect for the rule of law. 

Multinationals typically list lack of respect for the rule of law, slow and winding legal processes, poor infrastructure, government policy flips and corruption, as turn-offs to doing business in developing economies such as Nigeria.

Economy watchers say that following on this, the appearance of Saraki at the tribunal, the legal arguments for and against, which saw him finally sittinng in the dock and the the exercise of legal protocols, displayed due process and respect for the rule of law.

Saraki was on September 11, faced with a 13 count charge bordering on alleged false declaration of assets, by the Code of Conduct Bureau.

But the Senate President  pleaded not guilty to the charges.
However, analysts who spoke with BusinessDay were unanimous in their submissions that the absence of a cabinet, especially an Attorney-General, in President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, leaves much to be desired.

They further argue that dealing with corruption and upholding the tenets of the rule of law, necessitate that all the necessary structures be put in place, while efforts be made to strengthen the institutions.

But, some lawyers who spoke with Business Day were divided on the procedures and   methodology in the whole drama which they interpreted differently.

Chukwuemeka Eze, principal counsel, Eze and Associates said, “My views on the current happenings at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) are both legal and political. Legally, CCT is a constitutional creation (Part 1, 5th Schedule to the 1999 Constitution, as amended) and it has a constitutional mandate.

“The Tribunal has jurisdiction to adjudicate upon complaints brought before it by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB). Such complaints should allege breaches of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act. Prosecution is supposed to be instituted in the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) or such officers in the Federal Ministry of Justice with the authority of the AGF to institute such proceedings.

​Another legal practitioner, Tolulope Aderemi, Partner, Perchstone & Graeys, said, “I must start by saying what is presently happening at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT)is a result of the dynamism of the Nigerian judiciary.
“Right from the history of the pre-colonial age through the colonial and military experiences up until the return to Constitutionalism, especially the current democratic dispensation, there has been a compelling need to re-organise and recognise some courts as ‘superior courts of record’.

At the resumed hearing of the suit on Tuesday, Tribunal Chairman, Justice Danladi Umar, vacated the bench warrant he earlier issued for the number three citizen’s arrest.
He also granted the Senate President bail on self-recognition. 

Saraki who arrived the tribunal premises at exactly 9:30am, appeared in the box at 11:24am and pleaded ‘Not guilty’ to all 13 charges. The Senate President who addressed the court before taking his plea, told the Tribunal that he was coming across the charges for the first time.
This is the first time in Nigeria’s history that a sitting Senate President is docked.

According to the Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), if found guilty, Saraki shall be face any or all of the following: removal from office, disqualification from holding any public office and forfeiture to the state, any property acquired in abuse of office.

At the resumed hearing on Tuesday, Prosecution Counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), however told the Tribunal that the accused was served over a week ago.

Although he did not oppose the bail application by Saraki’s lead counsel and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Joseph Daudu (SAN), he disclosed that the accused declared his assets four times between 2003 and 2011.
The Prosecution Counsel added that he had five witnesses to prove his case and asked for a two-day trail.
But Saraki’s lead counsel, Joseph Daudu, asked for adequate time to prepare for defence, saying: “Let’s go for Sallah and he (Saraki) will come back”.

Relying on Section 6 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, the counsel argued that the Tribunal is not a court.
Prior to Saraki’s appearance at the box, a heated argument ensued between both counsels as to whether the charges are criminal or otherwise, with Daudu insisting that the charges are not criminal.

But the tribunal chairman, Justice Danladi Umar ruled that “The charges are criminal in nature” and adjourned the case to October 21, 22 and 23.

Venue of the trial was filled to capacity, with an overflow outside the trial room.  Supporters of Saraki besieged the venue with placards of various inscriptions, while women chanted: “Ba Bukky, ba Nigeria”, a Hausa slogan which means, “No Bukky, no Nigeria”.

About 30 senators accompanied him to the Tribunal, including: Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Senators Shaaba Lafiagi, Ighoyota Amori, Rafiu Ibrahim, Theordore Orji, Mao Ohuabunwa, Sam Egwu, Ben Murray-Bruce, Aliyu Wamakko, Gilbert Nnaji, Emmanuel Paulker, Obinna Ogba, Kaura Tijani, Clifford Ordia, Ibrahim Abdullahi, Peter Nwaoboshi, Kabiru Gaya and Tayo Alasoadura.

Business day
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