JUSTICE Danladi Umar, chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, on Tuesday, May 17, said he was under serious influence during the trial of Ahmed Bola Tinubu, former Governor of Lagos State and National leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC. Justice Umar who made the revelation at the resumed hearing on the 16-count criminal charge against the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said pressure was mounted on him from a certain quarter to take specific decisions.
Though he failed to disclose those that attempted to influence him, however, Justice Umar said he remained resolute and ensured that justice was eventually done in the matter. He said, “During the trial of Bola Tinubu we were under serious influence. But you saw what happened. We did what we needed to do base on what was before us.”
It will be recalled that the federal government had charged Tinubu before the CCT over allegations that he falsely declared his assets as well as operated 10 foreign bank accounts while in office as a governor between 1999 and 2007. The tribunal subsequently terminated further hearing on the three-count charge in 2011, even as it discharged and acquitted the defendant.
The tribunal freed Tinubu on the ground that federal government failed to fulfil the necessary condition precedents before the charge was filed. It held that the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, which recommended the prosecution, never accorded the defendant the opportunity to explain alleged discrepancies in his assets declaration form.
Saraki who is facing similar charges had earlier prayed the tribunal to equally discharge him the same way it discharged Tinubu, saying he was not also allowed by the CCB to offer explanations. While refusing Saraki’s prayer, Justice Umar, in a ruling on March 24, admitted that the tribunal discharged Tinubu in error. According to Justice Umar, “The tribunal has since realised that the decision it made on the case between FRN vs Tinubu was in error and has clearly departed from it.”
Nevertheless, the issue resurrected again Tuesday following attempts by the CCT Chairman to allay fears of Saraki and his lawyers that the tribunal was being manipulated by external influence. Justice Umar assured the parties that he would only be guided by the interest of Justice and evidence laid before the tribunal. He stressed that both himself and the second member of the panel would ultimately render accounts to God.
Besides, Justice Umar urged both the prosecution and defence lawyers to conduct themselves in a manner that would enhance speedy determination of the case. “The bench is begging the bar that we must make progress in this matter,” he added.
More so, Justice Umar directed the defence team to restrict the number of lawyers who would cross-examine the prosecution witness to just one. He said the cross-examination process had been untidy with the frequent change of lawyers by the defence team. “It is certainly unreasonable that all the 100 counsel of the defence will have a bite at the cherry.”
In his response, Saraki’s lead counsel, Kanu Agabi, SAN, said the CCT boss successfully allayed fears that his client would be prejudiced. Meantime, the second member of the CCT panel, William Atedze, debunked a newspaper publication accusing him of not contributing to the decisions and proceedings of the tribunal.
He branded the publication nonsense, saying it was wrong for anyone to insinuate that he has been docile. “I believe the article must have been written by a layman. A lawyer would not have written that nonsense. “Are we supposed to be fighting on the bench? The bench is not a motor park. If there are differences we resolve it in chamber”, Atedze fumed. – Vanguard
— May 17, 2016 @ 18:00 GMT