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Bukola Saraki seeking to stop his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

In a decision akin to a re-write of the nation’s 1999 constitution, the Court of Appeal friday in Abuja dismissed the suit filed by President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki seeking to stop his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over a 13-count charge on alleged false declaration of assets.
The Justices of the appellate court in a split decision of two to one subsequently ruled that Saraki should go and face trial at the CCT despite the fact that the tribunal is at present composed of only the chairman and a member.
But Section 15(1) of the 5th schedule of the 1999 constitution states: “There shall be established a Tribunal to be known as Code of Conduct Tribunal which shall consist of a chairman and two other persons.”
Olisa Agbakoba, former President of the Nigeria Bar Association concurred with the dissenting jugdement of Justice Joseph Ekanem.
“I will go with the dissenting voice. Although, I am yet to see the full judgement to be able to give an informed opinion, I will go with the dissenting voice; the Supreme Court will finally lay to rest the controversy
The concurrent judgement of Justice Adumein and Mohammed Mustapha held that the tribunal was right in assuming jurisdiction in the matter because the chairman of the tribunal and member had no cause to doubt the Deputy Director in the Ministry of Justice, M. S Hassan on whether he has the authority of the Solicitor General or not, having come from the Federal Ministry of Justice as a deputy director.
They held that Hassan, being an officer in the temple of justice and a member of the Bar, could not have initiated the trial without the authority of the appropriate person.
Adumein and Mustapha also dismissed the claim of Saraki that his trial was unlawful having not been initiated by the person of the AGF, adding that the Law Officers of the Federation Act was clear that in the absence of the AGF, the Solicitor General of the federation may assume the function of the office of the AGF.
The duo also dismissed another claim of Saraki that the tribunal did not form a quorum of three membership as the Justices noted that although, the constitution was silent on the quorum but the Interpretation Act, a veritable legal tool had smoothly settled the matter with a provision that two members can sit in a tribunal matter.
They however agreed with the prosecution that the tribunal has limited criminal jurisdiction.
The appeal was consequently thrown out with Saraki ordered to go back to the Tribunal to face his trial.
Justice Adumein who delivered the lead judgment however faulted the mode of service of the charge on the Senate President.
He held that it was the law that the accused person must be personally served with the criminal charge as preferred against him.
According to him, the issue of service was a fundamental one and a foundation upon which a trial will be laid but noted that although Saraki was not properly served, his counsel failed to raise the issue before the CCT and therefore resolve the issue in favour of the prosecution.
But in a dissenting judgment, Justice Joseph Ekanem nullified the charge against the Senate President on the grounds that there was no evidence before the court that a Deputy Director in the Ministry of Justice, has the authority of either the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) or the Solicitor General of the Federation to file the charges.
Justice Ekanem premised his decision on a letter dated September 11, 2015 that Hassan wrote to the tribunal to apply for the trial of Saraki.
He argued that the tone of the letter, which read in part: “I hereby apply for the prosecution of the accused person before this tribunal as per the attached charge”, is a clear pointer that Hassan did not have the authority of the solicitor general before filing the charge.
Justice Ekanem further held that “where a word is not ambiguous and it is plain and clear as in this case that the proceeding was initiated by Hassan, it should not be difficult to arrive at a conclusion that Section 24 of the CCB and Tribunal Act 2004 had been breached by the said M.S Hassan”.
On that ground, Justice Ekanem set aside the charge against Saraki and also discharged him from being prosecuted.
Saraki has however vowed to challenge the ruling at the Supreme Court.
“We shall test this judgement in the Supreme court,” stated Magaji Mahmud, SAN, counsel to Saraki.
While speaking to journalists after the judgement, he expressed confidence that his client’s prayers would be upheld and treated favourably at the apex court.
“We are going to the Supreme Court for Justice and we are sure that substantial justice will be done in this matter,” Mahmud assured.
For most analysts, the jugdement against Saraki is akin to a re-write of the nation’s constitution, particularly as it relates to the composition of the CCT.
“Before you can talk of quorum, you must first fulfill the law regarding the composition. The issue of composition must first be settled. It says there shall be a Chairman and two other members. The CCT as presently constituted has not fulfilled this,” remarked a lawyer who pleaded for anonymity.
The Lagos lawyer also said the Interpretation Act cited to back the CCT’s current composition by the Appeal Court contradicts the constitution and when this happens, the constitution supersedes.
In this regard, analysts cited Section 1(1) of the 1999 constitution which states: “This constitution and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons in Nigeria.”
Section 1 (3) also states: “If any other law is inconsistent with the provision of this constitution; this constitution shall prevail. And that other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void.”
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