The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has adjourned the trial of Nigeria’s Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, over alleged false declaration of asset till Wednesday, June 1.
According to the Tribunal the trial will begin by 10:00 a.m. local time.
At the beginning of Wednesday’s proceedings, only the prosecution counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs, was at the Tribunal.
The Tribunal, however, proceeded with its sitting with the defence counsel announcing their appearance.
At that point, the prosecution witness, an operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Michael Wetkas, walked in.
After all formal introductions, further cross-examination of Mr Wetkas continued.
Mr Wetkas was cross-examined on the count six.
Responding to questions from the defence counsel, Mr Wetkas agreed that the property which is in the Maitama area of Abuja was acquired in 1993 but was transferred to Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited in 2003.
On further questioning, he retracted his statement, saying he did not know when the property was transferred.
The witness was then asked to read exhibit 20, 21 and 23.
He took a glance at the exhibits and pointed out that exhibit 20, which was a letter to the Federal Capital Development Authority from the EFCC, was not signed.
“Usually letters from the commission are always signed,” he told the Tribunal.
The letter, according to him, was sent to the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) to establish the ownership of the said property.
He said he believed that the signature page would have fallen off in the administrative process, saying that for the FCTA to have acted on the document “it means it was signed”.
“To prove this, there is a letter from the FCTA in response to that letter,” he said.
When asked why he reached out to the FCTA, he said it was because they kept record of landed property in Abuja.
He was further asked if there was anyone who would have the official records of the said property.
“It should be the Abuja Geographical Systems which is a parastatal under the FCTA,” he answered in the affirmative.
The witness was then asked to read page 133 which is the Power of Attorney referred to in the letter to the FCTA which is said to have been transferred to Carlisle Properties and Investment by one David Baba Akawu.
He read the document and confirmed that it was indeed the Power of Attorney, transferring the property to Carlisle Properties and Investment which was not declared by the defendant.
When asked who were the parties in the transfer document, the witness said it was only David Baba Akawu and Carlisle Properties in 1993.
He was then asked if the property was acquired 10 years before the Senate President became a public officer and he said yes.
The defence counsel further questioned if there was a mention of Dr. Saraki’s name in the Power of Attorney and the witness said he already told the Tribunal that there were only two parties in the document.
Mr Wetkas was also asked if the defendant’s name was mention in the said Transfer of Attorney, but he said his (Saraki’s) personal name was not mentioned.
At this point, the defence counsel was interjected by the Tribunal Chairman who said his question was repetitive.
But the defence counsel, Mr Paul Usoro, requested that the Chairman took a look at charge number six, which implied that the Senate President acquired the property in 1993 and did not declare it.
The Chairman then asked the defence lawyer if what he was trying to achieve was to show “that Carlisle is different from the Senate President” and the Defence lawyer said that was what he ultimately wanted to achieve.
Cross examination of the witness continued, with the property in Maitama still in contention.
When it was 4:00 p.m. the defence asked for an adjournment, but the prosecuting counsel opposed it, insisting that the defence had taken too much time in cross-examining his witness.
This position infuriated a member of the Tribunal, Atedze, who voiced his displeasure over what he termed grandstanding by lawyers in the case.
He noted that as much as speed would be required the Tribunal could not stifle the attempt by the accused person to defend himself.
But Mr Jacobs insisted that the delay in finishing with the cross-examination was deliberate.
But counsel to Dr. Saraki pointed out that his client must be allowed to defend himself to the best of his ability.
Done with hearing their arguments the Tribunal adjourned the hearing till June 1.