The Court of Appeal, Abuja, has fixed May 31 for the hearing of a fresh appeal by Senate President, Bukola Saraki, challenging the jurisdiction of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) to try him on charges of false asset declaration.
A five-man panel of the court, led by Justice Abdul Aboki, chose the date Monday to accommodate a request by Saraki’s lawyer, Kanu Agabi (SAN) for a 14-day adjournment to enable him study the response filed on behalf of the respondents, the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).
When the case was called Monday, Agabi told the court that he was just served with the respondents’ cross appellant’s reply brief and would require time to look at it.
Respondents’ lawyer, Henry Ejiga, who apologised for the absence of his principal, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) did not object to Agabi’s application for a 14-day adjournment, following which the court adjourned to May 31 for the hearing of both the appeal and cross-appeal.
Saraki is, in his appeal, challenging the jurisdiction of the CCT to try him based on a charge initiated by the office of the AGF. It is his contention that it is only the CCB that is empowered to prosecute cases before the CCT.
CCB and AGF crossed appeal and argued that the motion, on which the CCT ruled, which formed the basis of the appeal by Saraki was an abuse of court process.
They contend among others, that the issue of jurisdiction, having been resolved by the Supreme Court in an earlier appeal by Saraki, ought not to be raised again.
It argued that the apex court, having held in a judgement of February 6, that the CCT was with the jurisdiction to try Saraki, the CCT ought not to entertain another motion filed by Kanu Agabi (SAN) for Saraki, challenging the tribunal’s jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, Saraki’s trial before the CCT resumes today with his team of lawyers expected to resume their cross-examination of the first prosecution witness, Michael Wetkas.
On May 11 when proceedings were last held, Wetkas said his investigation team relied on information provided by the Presidential Implementation Committee on the Alienation of Federal Government Properties in reaching the conclusion that Saraki made anticipated asset declaration.
Wetkas said the presidential committee informed his team that it did not have on its record, 15 A and B, Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, as declared by Saraki in his 2003 asset declaration form.
He said contrary to Saraki’s claim, the committee identified the property it sold as No.15, and Block 15, Flat 1 to 4, Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Wetkas noted that, Saraki, on assuming office as Kwara State governor in 2003, declared that he acquired 15A and B, Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos in 2000, whereas, the presidential committee wrote to his investigative team that it sold 15, Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos to Saraki through his company, Tiny Tee Limited, in 2006.
“The only authority that we could refer to was the presidential committee or the Lagos State Land Registry or the Presidential Implementation Committee. The other letters referred to by them (Saraki’s lawyers) were by private individuals.
“We relied on the document from the Presidential Implementation Committee which said they only had 15, Mcdonald Road and Block 15, Flat 1 to 4, Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, which was occupied by another lessee.
“We relied on the numbering of the properties by the presidential implementation committee and they stated that 15, Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi was sold to Tiny-Tee. That was the strength of our conclusion,” the witness said.
Wetkas said he did not physically inspect the property at 15, 15A and B, Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, but ylthat other members of his investigative team did, and that they are in a better position to tell th tribunal what they found.
On why he did not personally visit Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, Wetkas said he needed not to because the letter from the Presidential Implementation Committee to his team had clarified issues on the existence o otherwise o th property.
“There was no need for me to ask the implementation committee to take me to the properties. The letter clarified that there were only two properties as 15 and Block 15, Flats 1 to 4,” the witness said.
Wetkas confirmed that the asset at 15, Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, was at various times offered to a company, Energy Marine Resources and occupant of the house, Mr. Virtus Nwosu.
The witness also confirmed that it was eventually sold to Saraki’s company.