As the trial of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, March 10, 2016, more Nigerians have continued to call on the embattled senator representing Kwara Central at the Senate to resign his position as the leader of the 8th National Assembly or step down for his Deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu to continue steering the ship of the Upper Chamber of the law making body.
However, the legal practitioners ENCOMIUM Weekly sought their views on this also spoke with a common voice, insisting Saraki must face the CCT as ruled by the Supreme Court.
According to the President for the Campaign for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Barrister Malachy Ugwummadu, the Senate president has no choice than to bear his cross at the CCT as charged. He added that Saraki’s fate, however, largely depends on whatever happens at the tribunal.
“There are no two ways to it. This is a matter of the provision of the law. He has to face the CCT first. Then, whatever the outcome of his case at the tribunal will determine whether he will still remain the Senate President or not. No one can predict what will happen at the CCT but he has to face the trial.”
In his reaction, Barrister Onwuenwunor submitted, “Nigeria operates constitutional democracy with the 1999 constitution as amended being the Grund Norm. This presupposes that the constitution is the supreme law and all principal officers of the country are subject to it. The Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki is thus subject to the overriding powers of this constitution and bound by it. He is consequently bound to answer charges preferred against him by the authority constituted pursuant to the provision of the constitution.
“Again, the pronouncement of the Supreme Court on the charges against him is final. He must have his day in court.”
Also corroborating the above submissions, Barrister Toyin Bamgbose-Falaiye stated categorically that Saraki is not above the law. So, he must submit himself to the dictates of the law as embedded in the Nigerian constitution.
“Senate President, Bukola Saraki has to carry his cross. This is a matter of what the law says, not what he likes. He’s not above the law. So, facing the CCT is non-negotiable. But no one is competent enough to concluded about what will happen at the tribunal. But whatever it is, he must appear before the CCT first. Whether or not he will continue as Senate president now depends on the outcome of his case at the tribunal. The Supreme Court ruling in that direction is perfect.
“It’s only unfortunate that most African leaders are power hungry. If it were to be in the developed world, such a person would have voluntarily resigned without being forced or told to do so. Now, at the end of it all, he’s likely to be impeached because he has a terrible case to defend already before the CCT. His case is even an embarrassment to the Senate. Whether or not he lobbies some people as reported doesn’t stop him from facing the wrath of the law if the tribunal pronounces him guilty of the charges against him.”
Seven-man panel of the Supreme Court presided over by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Muhmud Mohammed, unanimously ruled in its judgement on Friday, February 5, 2016, that Saraki’s appeal against the jurisdiction of the CCT and the competence of the charges lacked merit.
Justice Walter Onuoghen, who delivered the lead judgement reportedly dismissed all Saraki’s seven grounds of appeal, affirming that the charges instituted against him were valid and that the tribunal was validly constituted.
The judgment of the Supreme Court terminated an earlier order of a panel of the apex court presided over by now retired Justice John Fabiyi, which had on November 12, 2015, stayed proceedings in the trial of the Senate President.
In the 13 counts initiated by the Federal Government, Saraki was said to have made false asset declaration in his form submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau as a two-term governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.