The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has discontinued the trial of Justice Sylvester Ngwuta.
Ngwuta, a serving justice of the Supreme Court was earlier arraigned before the CCT last year on charges bothering on false assets declaration.
A two-man panel of the CCT, in a ruling on Tuesday upheld the argument by Justice Ngwuta, to the effect that, as a serving Justice of the Supreme Court, he could not be tried in any court or tribunal, except after he had been subjected to the investigatory and disciplinary processes of the National Judicial Council (NJC).
The CCT, in its decision, also relied on the judgement of the Court of Appeal in the case of Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, in which the appellate court held, in a December 2017 judgment, that by virtue of Section 158 of the 1999 Constitution, only the NJC was with the powers to deal try judicial officers for any misconduct while in office.
The CCT said a judge could not be prosecuted by any court of tribunal until the NJC deals with the allegations against him/he and takes a decision of either dismissing such a judicial officer or compulsorily retiring him or her.
It consequently quashed the charges against Justice Ngwuta and discharged him.
The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has adjourned indefinitely the trial of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki.
Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Danladi Umar, announced this in a bench ruling on Thursday in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
Senator Saraki is being tried on three of the 18 counts of false declaration of assets filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Justice Umar gave the bench ruling at the resumed trial, following the address of the Tribunal by the defence and prosecuting counsels.
He held that it was germane to await the decision of the Supreme Court on the appeals filed by both the Senate President and the Federal Government on the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
In his address, the prosecuting counsel Mr Rotimi Jacobs urged the Tribunal to proceed with taking the final address from the parties in the suit.
He based his request on the fact that the defence had already opened and closed their case and the Tribunal had adjourned for the adoption of final addresses.
However, Counsel to the Senate President Mr Kanu Agabi urged the Tribunal to be mindful of the dignity of the Supreme Court and prayed for an indefinite adjournment.
Agreeing with the defence counsel, the CCT chairman held that the Tribunal “has decided to tarry a while so that the integrity of Supreme Court would not be played with.”
“The Tribunal will adjourn this matter sine die pending the outcome of the appeals at the Supreme Court,” he added.
On Tuesday last week, the Tribunal had adjourned the case till March 8 to hear the final address by the parties in the suit and for its final judgment.
The parties will have to await the decisions of the Supreme Court to proceed with the rest of the trial.
Of the 18 counts levelled against Saraki by the EFCC, a three-man panel of the Appeal Court led by Justice Tinuade Wilson-Akomolafe had on December 12, 2017, nullified 15 counts.
The panel had, however, ordered him to defend himself on counts 4, 5 and 6, which had to do with how he acquired some of his properties in Ikoyi, Lagos.
The court held that while the Senate President declared in his asset form that the properties were acquired through the sales of commodities, the testimony of one of the prosecution witness, who is a banker to the lawmaker, indicated that the properties were bought through a loan.
In its bench ruling, the Tribunal consequently adjourned Saraki’s trial sine dine, pending the decisions of the apex court on the matter.
The Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, has insisted that he has no case to answer on 15 of the 18 charges filed against him by the Federal Government.
In a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, on Monday, Mr Saraki noted that the verdict of the Court of Appeal today, vindicates his innocence.
His reaction comes few hours after the Appeal Court ordered the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) to conduct a retrial of the Senate President on three out of the 18-count amended charges on false declaration of assets.
The statement read in part: “We noted the verdict of the Court of Appeal Court today in which it agreed with the decision of the Code of Conduct Tribunal that Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki has no case to answer on 15 of the 18 charges filed against him by the Federal Government.
“We believe that upholding the no case submission by Dr. Saraki with regards to 15 of the 18 counts charges vindicates the innocence of the Senate President. At least, today’s judgement has confirmed the position of the Tribunal that the prosecution’s case was entirely based on hearsay, not on any concrete evidence.”
Also according to statement, the Court of Appeal verdict makes the claims of the Federal Government over alleged operation of foreign accounts and false declaration of assets among other things, fall like a pack of cards.
Speaking of the three remaining charges, the office of the Senate president noted that it has strong faith in the ability of the judiciary to dispense justice. It also reaffirmed its unshaken believe in the innocence of the Senate President over the charges.
“The verdict of the Court of Appeal, just like that of the Tribunal before it, aligned with our position that the preposterous claims made during trial by the prosecution concerning operation of foreign accounts, making anticipatory declarations, collecting double salaries, owning assets beyond his income and failure to declare assets owned by companies in which the Senate President owns interests, among others, have fallen like a pack of cards and lack any basis.
“On the remaining three counts, which really touch on two issues, referred back to the Tribunal for the Senate President’s defence, it should be noted that the Appellate Court only gave a summary of its decision today promising to provide the parties with Certified True Copies of the Judgment soon. As soon as it makes the details of the judgement available, our lawyers will review the grounds of the decision and take appropriate action.
“We remain convinced about the innocence of the Senate President on the three ( or two) counts because we believe the decision of the Court of Appeal is not consistent with the submissions made by both parties at the Tribunal.
“Thus, it is our view that that aspect of the judgment will not stand,” the statement read.
The Court of Appeal has ordered the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) to conduct a retrial of the Senate President Bukola Saraki on three out of 18-count amended charge on false declaration of assets brought against him by the Federal Government.
The appellate court in the appeal filed by the Federal Government against the decision of the code of conduct tribunal that the Senate President has no case to answer knocked out 15 of the 18 count charges as incompetent.
Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson in her judgment on Tuesday held that there was no evidence to substantiate the 15 counts as valid charges.
The Judge, however, held that on counts 4, 5 and 6 bothering on the purchase of house 17 A and B at Mc Donald Street, Ikoyi, Lagos by the Senate President the prosecution was able to establish a prima facie case against the Senate president.
Specifically, the appellate court held that the prosecution established that there were false claims in the set declaration forms as to how the two houses in Ikoyi were acquired.
The court held that the Senate President needs to provide an explanation to the discrepancies established by the prosecution that the properties he claimed were bought from sales of rice and sugar in his asset declaration form were bought from loans acquired from a commercial bank.
“The court concluded that credible evidence was led by the prosecution on counts 4, 5, 6 to warrant the defendant to be called upon to defend himself on how he acquired the properties disclosed in the three counts.
“And it is hereby ordered that counts 4, 5 and 6 be remitted to the code of conduct tribunal. The Appeal is dismissed in part in respects of counts 1,2,3,7,8,10,11,12,13,14,16,18,” Justice Akomolafe-Wilson said.
However, she said that the prosecution established a case against the Senate President in counts 4, 5, 6.
The case is returned to the Code of Conduct Tribunal in respect of the three counts.
A three-man panel of Justices of the appellate court, led by Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson in Abuja had earlier in November adjourned its judgment to December 12, on an appeal filed by the Federal Government challenging the dismissal of the 18-count criminal charges it preferred against the Senate President, Saraki, before the CCT.
The Code Of Conduct Tribunal has approved April 20, for the arraignment of Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, before a two-man panel of the CCT in Abuja.
This was made known in a statement signed by the CCT Head, Press & Public Relations, Ibraheem AL-Hassan on Wednesday.
Justice Ngwuta’s case file was submitted to the Code of Conduct Tribunal by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN), on a 10-count charge bordering on false asset declaration.
Count one states: “false declaration of assets contrary to section 15 of Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, Cap C15 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria punishable under Section 23 (2) of the same Act.
According to the statement, service of the summons had on Tuesday been effected to Justice Ngwuta.
The Federal Government has filed an appeal against the decision of Justice Jude Okeke of the FCT High Court, upholding the no case submission in the corruption case against Justice Adeniyi Ademola; his wife, Olabowale, and Mr Joe Agi.
It was also gathered that the government, through the Ministry of Justice, has also filed a fresh case against Justice Ademola and his wife, this time in the Code of Conduct Tribunal, for allegedly living above their means and failure to declare their assets.
A witness from the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), Mr Samuel Madojemu, has admitted to not having a formal report of investigation on the verification exercise carried out on the assets of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
This was made know at the resumed trial of Senator Saraki over alleged false declaration of assets, on Wednesday.
Mr Madojemu read out the list of assets declared by Senator Saraki and those of his wife and children when he held office as Kwara state governor and upon his assumption of office as a senator.
He told the tribunal, led by Mr Danladi Umar, that the Senate President’s case was the only one ever investigated without a written report because the exercise was carried out by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He therefore admitted that his own role and that of the CCB, were limited to the review of the EFCC report and that the CCB only compared the asset forms of Saraki with the findings of the commission.
The witness added that no formal report was written because the directive to probe the assets, was received orally.
Lawyers to the Senate leader, however, insisted that the witness lacked the ground to testify against him having failed to participate in the investigation exercise.
The prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Jacobs, on the other hand dismisses the objection of the defence team, saying that he had more witnesses to prove his case.
The tribunal subsequently adjourned proceedings to April 5, for re-examination of the witness by the prosecution.
The trial of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, over alleged false assets declaration, has continued, with the cross examination of prosecution witness, Mr Samuel Madujemu.
The witness told the tribunal that he is not in possession of the report of investigation conducted on the senate president’s asset declaration. Under cross examination, the defence counsel, Kanu Agabi, asked if he was a member of the team in 2006 when a team was set up to investigate Saraki’s claim.
The witness said he was not a member of the team but was a member of the team set up in 2015 to review the earlier report by the 2006 team.
When asked why he swore an affidavit affirming knowledge of the investigation, Mr Madujemu said that the earlier report as told to him by the EFCC, was scanty.
Also, when asked if he had any record by the EFCC declaring the report scanty, he said that he had a mental record because he had only been informed orally by the EFCC members of the team.
The witness was also asked why he did not invite the Senate President as part of his investigation and in response, he said the statements on the senate president’s asset form were enough for the investigation.
He further stated that besides that, it was the prerogative of the chairman of the Code of Conduct Bureau to invite a public servant for interview, even though it was the convention at the bureau.
The trial of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over alleged false declaration of assets continued on Tuesday in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
At the resumed hearing of the case, a witness, Amazu Nwachuckwu, gave testimonies about how the Senate President allegedly transferred funds from Nigeria to service his mortgage obligation through an offshore account in the United Kingdom.
Nwachuckwu, who works as a Funds Transfer Officer in Guaranty Trust Bank, explained how Dr. Saraki purportedly transferred over $3 million between 2009 and 2012 from his domiciliary account with the bank to American Express Europe Services Limited.
The defence team, led by Mr Paul Usoro, however, argued that their client never maintained a foreign account as a public officer.
Mr Usoro added that Senator Saraki obtained a loan of 375 million Naira from the bank to acquire a property in London.
He maintained that it was not in breach of any law.
Further hearing in the case has been shifted to January 18, even though Mr Usoro has informed the Tribunal that he had more questions for the witness.
The CCT had earlier struck out an application filed by the Senate President against the Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Danladi Umar.
Senator Saraki had accused Mr Umar of bias and asked him to disqualify himself from hearing the case.
Human rights group, the Social Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has questioned the rationale behind the amendment of the act establishing the Code of Conduct Bureau and Code of Conduct Tribunal by the Senate.
The upper legislative chamber on Thursday altered the law, transferring the controlling power over the CCB and CCT to the legislature, away from the President.
But in a statement, SERAP condemned the action, which it insists does not serve the interest of Nigerians but that of the lawmakers.
The statement adds: “This is in fact a blatant case of conflict of interest and betrayal of trust. The clear victims of this betrayal of trust are the economically and socially vulnerable sectors of the population who have been terribly let down by their own lawmakers.”
The group called on Nigerians to reject the move and pledged to work with other members of the civil society to vigorously fight what it describes as a perversion of the rule of law.