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Asset declaration: Saraki, FG returns to CCT 6th February

*Matter to wait for Supreme Court or go on?

One very strong omen has emerged that the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, will be back at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for his trial in the False Asset Declaration charges brought against him by the Federal Government.

However, unlike the 13 then 18-count charges, Saraki will be limited to defend himself on three count charges as ordered by the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, which in its judgement nullified 15 out of 18 charges against the Senator.

Information available to www.gongnews.net showed that the tribunal has fixed the 6th February for the resumption of the trial following an application to that effect by the lead counsel to the Federal Government, Rotimi Jacob (SAN).

However, by legal processes, the 6th February date may only be for the mention of the case as the two contending parties have filed appeal and cross-appeal at the Supreme Court in respect of the decisions of the Court of Appeal.

Although, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 frowns at incessant adjournments of criminal matters, both Saraki and the Federal Government may settle for a stay of the trial, having joined issues with each other at the Supreme Court.

On his part, the Senate President is praying the Supreme Court to uphold the ruling of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, which in a no-case submission discharged and acquitted him on the ground that the charges against him were predicated on hearsay, which has no basis in law.

Saraki in the appeal filed by his lead counsel, Kanu Agabi (SAN), prayed the Supreme Court to set aside the judgement of the Court of Appeal delivered on 12th December, 2017, which voided 15 count charges against him and ordered him to defend himself from the remaining three.

On its part, the Federal Government has also filed a cross-appeal in which it prayed the apex court to restore the 18 counts charges back to the tribunal for Saraki to defend himself.

The grouse of the Federal Government, is that the Court of Appeal erred in law when it held that 15 charges against Saraki were voided because they were based on hearsay.

With the Federal Government asking that the 18 count charges be restored at the tribunal for Saraki to defend, it is uncertain if the same government would wish to go ahead with trial on the three counts only. She needed to prove just one count to get conviction.

However, as at press time, the CCT, under the Chairmanship of Danladi Yakubu Umar, had issued hearing notices to both Saraki and the Federal Government to appear before it on the 6th February, 2018 to take a common position.

The Federal Government had in 2015 filed a 13-count charge bordering on false declaration of asset against Saraki, but the charges were increased to 18 due to amendments effected by the complainant.

At the close of the Federal Government case, Saraki had made a No-Case submission to the Tribunal, claiming that he was not directly linked with the charges against him, that the charges were based on hearsay and that prima facie case was not established against him.

In his ruling delivered on 13th June, 2017, the CCT judge agreed with Saraki that a prima facie case was not made against him and that the entire charges were based on hearsay evidence and consequently, discharged and acquitted the defendant.

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