*Swore to do justice in Saraki’s case
The Chairman, Code of Conduct Tribunal, Danladi Umar, made a shocking revelations yesterday when he openly confessed in the open court that the tribunal was under external pressure to convict the former Lagos State Governor, Alhaji Ahmed Tinubu.
The ex- Lagos governor was charged dragged before the tribunal over false declaration of assets and operation of foreign accounts by the Federal Government in 2012.
Meanwhile, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, said there is no evidence linking him to the property at No. 15 Mcdonald, Ikoyi Lagos, the Federal Government is accusing him of not declaring.
Saraki put this argument through his counsel, Paul Usoro ( SAN), during the cross examination of an operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Michael Wetkas, who is a principal witness in the ongoing trial.
Umar has however swore that he will resist similar pressure if it comes in respect of those being tried at the moment.
But the CCT Chairman has dismissed as false, allegations 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.
When the trial resumed yesterday, Umar pledged to do justice without any recourse to external influence that may arise in the course of the trial.
Umar was reacting to the number of Counsels representing Saraki in the trial. According to him, the records of the Tribunal showed that there were about 100 Counsels standing for the defendant.
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 defense team, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN) rather than every other person in the defence team doing the job.
His decision was 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 rang her 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.
In his contribution on the issue, the Prosecution Counsel, Rotimi Jacobs said he made the point that all Saraki’s Counsel 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 defense 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 Ikoku 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.
Meanwhile, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki said there is no evidence linking him to the property the Federal Government is accusing him of not declaring.
His counsel, Usoro put up the argument during the cross examination of an operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Michael Wetkas, who is a principal witness in the ongoing trial.
According to Usoro, “There is no evidence before this tribunal that as at 2008 the defendant was in possession of the property of 15a Macdonald Street, Ikoyi Lagos.”
Usoro explained that contrary to Wetkas earlier statement, as at 2008, Tiny Tee, a company owned by Saraki was not in possession of the property.
Wetkas had earlier told the tribunal that the Senate President during his assets declaration of 2008 did not declare the property of 15a Macdonald Street Ikoyi, Lagos.
The witness had said “Our findings shows that 15a and b MacDonald Street, Ikoyi Lagos property is the same as blocked 15 flat a and b MacDonald Street Ikoyi Street, Lagos.
“The letter from the Presidential Implementation committee on Sales of Government Properties did not tell us that 15a and b existed separately.”
“The managing Director of Carlye property also said the property belonged to the defendant.”
Wetkas alleged that Saraki in his asset declaration of 2011 declared the property as 15a and b.
He said, “There was a letter by the ministry of Housing to Saraki, saying there was a Presidential concession that number 15 MacDonald Street Ikoyi, Lagos be sold to him. This is why we maintained that there was no property as no 15a and b Macdonald street.”
Responding to a question from Usoro on whether some of the alleged correspondent between the EFCC’s investigating team and the Lagos land Registry on number 15 MacDonald Street Ikoyi, Lagos, was tendered before the tribunal, Wetkas said, “No I did not tender the correspondents because they did not give us information on 15a, the only place we got the information was the President Committee on Implementation of Federal Government Properties.”
On whether the EFCC,’s investigating team came across any document during their investigation that the said property was bought personally by Saraki, Wetkas answered, “We didn’t come across any document that says the property was personally bought for Saraki but we believe this because the property was paid for through the account of Carlye Property and Skyview Properties which he declared.
“Also a loan of N135m was collected from Access bank out of which over N123m was paid and the offer letter from the bank was signed by Saraki’s wife.
“The MD of Carlye Property admitted that all transaction were directed by Saraki and he also listed number 15 as part of the property. Saraki also declared this number 15 in his 2011 assets declaration, these made us believe that the property personally belonged to Saraki.