The Chairman of Code of Conduct Tribunal, Mr. Danladi Umar, on Tuesday, shocked the audience at the trial of Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, with the revelation that he was under external pressure to convict the former Lagos State Governor, Alhaji Ahmed Tinubu, during his trial. Tinubu, a national leader of All Progressives Congress (APC) who was discharged and acquitted by Umar, was charged with false declaration of assets and operation of foreign accounts by the Federal Government in 2012, similar offences like what Senator Saraki is currently facing. Umar said this as he reassured on Tuesday that the panel has remained firm and fair in adjudication of cases before it. He vowed that he will resist similar pressure if it comes in respect of those being tried at the moment.
He however described as false, insinuations that he was being influenced to see the conviction of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki. “During Bola Tinibu’s case, we were under influence to convict him but we did the right thing. “I swear by the Almighty Allah to do justice. On our part, the insinuation that we are being influenced to see the conviction of the accused is false. During Bola Tinubu’s case, we were under influence to convict him but we did the right thing”, Umar stated. At the resumed trial of Saraki on assets declaration charges, Umar said that he will do justice without any recourse to external influence that may arise in the course of the trial.
Umar’s comment arose after the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), had said some dailies (not the Daily Times) are prejudicing the trial with analysis of evidence and comments. Umar had noted the large number of lawyers representing Saraki at the Tribunal showing that there were about 100 counsels. He insisted that to ensure orderliness, all the counsels may not be allowed to cross examine the witness. He stated that all the other lawyers can assist the leader of the defence team, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), rather than every other person in the defence team doing the job. His said that there has been too many counsels cross examining the witness.
This, he said, made the process untidy. “So, henceforth, only the lead counsel, Agabi can do the cross examination. For purpose of the records of the court, it will be tidy for only the lead counsel to do the cross examination. In his response, Agabi reminded the Court that all the persons in the case will account to God and they should all be worried by that fact. But Umar maintained that there was nothing that he has done to distort the records of the court. Still speaking, Agabi said: “Are you surprised that those who come before you are afraid? People come here and they are ruled by fear of prejudice. Prejudice ought not to have a place in this court but we are afraid”.
On his part, the other member of the tribunal, Atedze William, stated that the issue had been settled and that an accused person is entitled to as many lawyers as he wanted. According to him, the Chairman’s remark was only to ensure that there was order in court. He added that a friend of his wife told her on phone that there was an article against her husband. “The article was entirely about me. The writer was shooting at the wrong person. Those who know my background know that I am not somebody that keeps quite when things are going wrong. There is a lot of misgivings as to the proceedings here. “If you ask any staff here, you will be told the same thing. “Coming back to the proceedings, our concern is national interest. When someone says one member is not contributing enough, does he want us to be fighting here?
“We have our differences and they are settled in chambers. We will not destroy the Tribunal. This is about Nigeria”, Atedze William said. Making his contribution, the Prosecution Counsel, Rotimi Jacobs said he made the point that all Saraki’s Counsels can speak through the lead counsel. But Atedze interjected, describing Jacobs’ position as insincerity of the bar. “This is insincerity of the bar. There is no law that stops the counsel from cross examining a witness”, he said. But Jacobs noted that every Court has a duty to regulate its own court. “Their fear of prejudice is unfounded because no court has turned down any of your rulings”, Jacobs stated. But Agabi noted that he did not accuse the court of prejudice.
The argument would have had a philosophically influence on the Chairman as he searched and read a verse in the Quran to support his stance. Recall that before the last adjourned date, Umar had ruled in favour of Saraki for the first time when he dismissed Prosecution’s application to restrain cross examination to the leader of the defence team. As the issue died down, the tribunal continued with cross examination of the First Prosecution Witness, Mr. Michael Wetkas, who admitted before the Tribunal that Saraki has no link with the ownership of Ikoyi property. Under further cross-examination by Saraki’s Counsel, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN), the witness also told the tribunal that investigation did not link Saraki with the ownership of Victory Oil as alleged.
“I don’t know whether the Lagos State Land Registry keep documents of land owned by the Federal Government,” the witness said. He said Lagos State Land registry did not give information on No 15 Mac-Donald road, Ikoyi, Certificate of Occupancy of 15 Mac-Donald road issued by the Minister of land and Urban Development at Inland Registry Ikoyi, Lagos in 2006. “We did not check with the Lagos Inland Registry. My understanding was that the Presidential Implementation Committee should have the record of Federal Government houses in ikoyi.” On Tiny-Tee, the witness said that Saraki declared interest on Tiny -Tee.
The witness said he did not see document/information or anything that talks about buying the property for the defendant. “We believe the property were bought for the defendant because it was paid for through the account Skyview property that belong the defendant. Second a loan N125m from account with Access out of which N123m representing about 75percent. The Loan offer letter was signed by the wife of the defendant.