The Federal Government has asked the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, to dismiss the no-case submission filed by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, to fault the evidence on the 16 charges of false declaration against him, insisting that it has a “serious” case against the former Kwara governor.
The Senate President, through his no-case submission filed before the CCT on May 26, 2017, contended that none of the exhibits tendered, and no evidence given by the four prosecution witnesses linked him to the alleged offences to warrant him to defend the charges.
But arguing the Federal Government’s objection to the no-case submission on Thursday, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), said there was “serious prima facie case” against the Senate President.
The prosecution had closed its case after its fourth witness, Mr. Bayo Dauda, concluded his testimony on May 4.
Adopting the defendant’s written addresses today, the lead defence counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), said the petition which precipitated the charges had nothing to do with his client.
Agabi said the charges, especially counts 1, 2, 6, 9,10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 16, had no valid offences.
He said, “Our submission is that the prosecution has not made out a case warranting an answer from the defendant is dated May 21, 2017, and filed on May 26, 2017.
“Our reply on point of law is dated June 7, 2017. Let me elaborate very briefly as follows: We were told by the prosecution that the charges were precipitated by petitions tendered as exhibits 10, 11, 12, and 13.
“My lord should read the petitions. We beg your lordship to read them, they have nothing to do with the defendant.
“Let us assume the petitions were investigated, where is the report? Who are the writers? Why are they not here?
“The second point is that in counts 1, 2, 6, 9,10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 16, the defendant was charged with ‘making false declaration by making no declaration’.
“There is inconsistency in the charges. I urge your lordship to hold that is not an offence”, Punch quoted him.
In response, the prosecuting counsel for the Federal Government, Jacobs insisted that the prosecution had made a “serious prima facie case” against the Senate President.
Jacobs said, “Our response to the no-case submission is dated June 2, 2017 and filed the same day.
“One method your lordship should adopt to show that there is serious prima facie case against the defendant is to look at Exhibits 6 and 26 which are assets declarations made by the defendant after the investigation of this case.
“My Lordships will see that the defendant listed all the annexed properties and stated that they were acquired in 92 and 99 and, now. If my lord juxtaposes them with Exhibits 1 to 5, some of the properties he claimed acquired in 1999, 2002, and 2003, were not declared.”
Jacobs also faulted the Agabi’s contention anchored on the allegation that the petitions tendered as exhibits had nothing to do with Saraki.
Jacobs said, “In his address, he (Agabi) said the petitions had nothing to do with the defendant, although his name is mentioned. Prosecution does not depend on petition. Without a petition, a person can be prosecuted.”
On the issue of “failure to declare by not declaring does not constitute an offence”, Jacobs said, “We have shown in paragraphs 4.25 to 4.27 that till now, they have not told the tribunal the ingredients of the offence. Failure to disclose an asset amounts to false declaration which is an offence. The learned counsel cannot be right on that.”
On the issue raised by the defendant in their reply on point of law, to the effect that the prosecution failed to call certain witnesses that were never called, Jacobs said it amounted to re-adjustment of the argument of the defence.
He said, “They said we ought to call 200 witnesses and they listed them. They brought it ought up as a new issue started re-adjusting their argument. This cannot be done. At this stage, care must be taken about what my Lord can do at this stage.”
“They were inviting your lordship to give an opinion on the witnesses and evaluate their evidence. The Supreme Court has said your lordship cannot do that at this stage.
“At the stage, your lordship cannot express opinion on the evidence led until they defence give their own evidence. The Supreme Court warned that the ruling on a no-case submission must be kept brief.
“It is permitted to just say there is case to answer. The Supreme Court said, where a lengthy ruling was delivered an observation would be made on the facts and the prosecution would be right to appeal on the grounds that the judge is biased.”
Chairman of the CCT, Danladi Umar, after hearing both the defence and the prosecution, said the date for the ruling would be communicated to the parties soon.