Justice Ngwuta’s Trial: Federal Government Appoints New Prosecutor

Alleged Money Laundering: Justice Ngwuta's Trial StalledThe Nigerian government has appointed Mrs Olufemi Fatunde of the Federal Ministry of Justice, as the Lead Prosecutor in the trial of Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, a Supreme Court Justices who is standing trial for alleged corruption.

At the resumed hearing of the case in Abuja, Mrs Fatunde announced appearance as the new Head of the‎ Prosecution team following the withdrawal of the former Head of the Prosecution Team, Charles Adeogun-Philips.

Shortly after announcing her appearance, Mrs Fatunde made an oral application seeking an adjournment of the case to enable her study the file and also interview the witnesses.

Lawyer to Justice Ngwuta, Mr Kanu Agabi, however did not oppose the application and Justice John Tsoho subsequently adjourned the case to March 16 and 17, 2017, for continuation of trial.

Justice Ngwuta is one of the justices arrested and detained by the Department of State Services (DSS), on October 8, 2016 for corruption and breach of professional ethics.

In November, he had entered a not guilty plea to the 15-count charges leveled against him by the Federal Government.

Saraki’s Trial Resumes At Code Of Conduct Tribunal

Saraki, trial, Code of conduct tribunalThe trial of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has resumed at the Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja.

This comes after more than five months and following the dismissal of his appeal by the Appeal Court, challenging his trial by the Code of Conduct Bureau.

At the resumed trial, the prosecuting counsel, Mr Oluwaleke Atolagbe told the tribunal that the case was adjourned for conclusion of trial but this was countered by the defence lead counsel, Mr Kanu Agabi who said that the case was for continuation of trial instead.

The key witness Mr Michael Wetkas, also maintained his stance to continue with his evidence. He was cross examined on counts two, three and four on the mode of payment of property purchased by the Senate President in 2006.

The defence counsel in charge of the cross examination for the day, Mr Paul Usoro reminded the tribunal that the cross examination was suspended on counts 8 and 9 which concerns the properties in Abuja.

Under cross examination by counsel to the Senate President, Mr Paul Usoro, the chief prosecution witness read out charge number two which alleged that the Senate President declared that he purchased his property in Ikoyi, Lagos state from proceeds of food commodities, when he purchased it with loans from a commercial bank.

He was then asked to read the asset declaration form of the Senate President for the year 2007 and Mr Wetkas agreed that the form indicated that the properties were bought with a loan from the bank.

He was, however, quick to add that four years after in 2011 the same properties were declared to have been acquired from proceeds from the commodity business of the defendant.

The witness was then asked to read the bank statement of the defendant and he read that the loan obtained to purchase the properties in dispute has been liquidated prior to 2011 declaration in five trenches between May 2007 and May 2008.

He insisted that the manner in which the loan was repaid contravened the money laundering act.

But when counsel to the Senate President asked if the offense was that of money laundering and that the tribunal should not be the court to try Dr Saraki, the prosecutor, Rotimi Jacobs, raised an objection, arguing that earlier during investigation, it was proven by some people that the money used to repay the loan was given to them by the Senate President in the Kwara government house.

While the defence counsel says it has made significant progress in debunking the testimonies of the prosecution witness, the prosecutor accused the defence of wasting time.

The defence says it will continue with the cross examination at the next adjourned date.

CCT Fixes July 13 To Rule Saraki’s Motion Asking Chairman To Disqualify Himself

CCT, Saraki, Senate President, Bukola SarakiThe Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on Tuesday heard the motion filed by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, asking the Chairman of the tribunal to disqualify himself from presiding over his trial for alleged false declaration of assets.

Arguing the motion, Paul Erukoro, who is counsel to the Senate President said that it would no longer be possible for the Chairman to be fair to both parties in the suit.

Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Mr Danladi Yakubu Umar, had on June 7 accused the Senate President of trying to delay his trial.

The tribunal Chairman, who was reacting to the allegation of delay tactics by the prosecution counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs against Saraki’s lawyers said that the consequences of the trial and the charges will in no way be reduced on the accused person by his tribunal.

Mr Paul Erukoro said that the prosecution did not object to the facts of the statement and proceeded to read the statement but the prosecutor objected to reading the statement and his objections was upheld.

Erukoro then referred the tribunal to the written address of the prosecution where they, according to him admitted that the Chairman of the tribunal made the statement.

He also told the tribunal that the Chairman of the tribunal was personally served as required by law so that he can refute any part of the motion if he so wishes but the Chairman did not do so.

He said that it is therefore in order to agree that all sides agree that the Chairman made the statement.

He added that the position of the prosecutor that the chairman spoke out of anger and that meanings should not be read into his statement is not admissible.

He also told the Tribunal to reject the proposition of the prosecution that the judgment should be left to the end of the trial because the motion is asking him to disqualify himself from the trial.

Should he go ahead, it will be assumed that he has taken his decision again, citing the decision of the tribunal on April 27, 2016.

Abuse of Court Processes

Responding, the prosecution counsel said he had filed a counter affidavit showing that the prayer being sought is the same trial they have been seeking since the start of the trial.

He added that considering the motion would mean the Chairman taking over the duties of the Appeal Court.

Mr Jacobs also said that the affidavit of concern submitted to the tribunal is not known to law as the law says only a reasonable person who was in trial can speak on an issue.

According to him, the persons listed in the affidavit of concern are political supporters.

He also argued that the Chairman of the tribunal did not state the consequences of offences but the consequences of a trial which can mean an acquittal.

He said that the Chairman did not say “I will convict you” instead he said the consequences of trial, which can be anything; either acquittal or conviction.

He told the tribunal that what the Chairman meant by his statement is that he must conclude the case.

He concluded by saying that the application is frivolous and an abuse of court processes intended to delay the matter.

Tribunal Disbandment

The other member of the tribunal then asked the defence to speak on the issue raised by the prosecution that they want the tribunal to be disbanded.

Mr Erukoro explained that the circumstances will bring to the attention of the executive, the need to properly constitute the tribunal, if the Chairman of the tribunal agrees to disqualify himself.

He added that the law makes provision for appointing persons to hear the case.

Having heard both parties the tribunal initially adjourned to Wednesday, June 22 for ruling but the Chairman quickly changed his mind, saying he would be travelling for two weeks

So he would be adjourning the matter for ruling after his return. He suggested Thursday, July 7 and again suggested July 13 which all the parties agreed with.

Saraki’s Trial Adjourned After Motion Seeking CCT Chairman’s Disqualification

sarakiThe trial of Nigeria’s Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, for false asset declaration has been adjourned after he again asked the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal to disqualify himself from hearing the case.

He is calling for the disqualification of Mr Danladi Umar, citing what he called an ‘unguarded statement’ which he claimed was made by the chairman on the sitting of June 7.

The Senate President quoted the chairman as saying: “I am not happy at the delay tactics by the defence counsel and I must say this thing out that this delay tactics will not reduce the consequences the defendant will met from the Tribunal at the end of the trial”.

‘Now Lives In Fear’

Dr Saraki in his motion filed by his counsel also said that the threat of consequences issued by the Chairman of the Tribunal had caused him to lose confidence in the impartiality of the chairman and that he was not confident that he could get justice from the Tribunal if the Chairman continued to preside and ultimately decide the case.

He also claimed that he ‘now lives in fear’ and is deeply worried that the Mr Umar had already decided his fate.

“It is therefore imperative for him to step aside from the case,” a counsel to Dr Saraki told the Tribunal on Wednesday.

However, a prosecuting counsel, who told the Tribunal that the principal prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Jacobs, was at another proceedings at the appeal court, informed the Tribunal that they have received the motion.

He went further to tell the Tribunal to discountenance the motion at the Wednesday sitting since what was before the Tribunal was the continuation of cross-examination and that the Tribunal should proceed with that.

At this point the Chairman of the Tribunal asked him if he had replied to the motion and Mr Pious Ukeyima said he had just received a further affidavit at the premises of the Tribunal and would be needing time to respond to it.

“The prosecution intends to oppose the motion,” he said and insisted that the cross-examination should continue.

The Chairman of the Tribunal then told the defence counsel that he would hear the motion on Tuesday June 21 and then proceeded with the trial.

He reminded the counsel to Dr. Saraki that it was not the first time, he had been asked to disqualify himself from the trial.

At this point counsel to Dr. Saraki, Mr Kana Agabi, told Mr Umar that his statement had prejudiced the hearing of the motion, insisting that the statement of the Chairman of the Tribunal showed he had made his design already.

But the chairman of the Tribunal told him that he, Mr Agabi, had misconstrued his statements.

“Saying I will continue with the proceedings doesn’t mean I have decided not to disqualify myself,” he told Dr. Saraki’s counsel urging him to be patient until the hearing.

Having heard both parties in the suit, the chairman of the Tribunal then adjourned the proceedings to June 21 for continuation of hearing.

CCT Trial: Saraki’s Lawyer’s Ill Health Stalls Appeal

Bukola Saraki, Senate President, CCTThe hearing of the appeal of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) at the Abuja Federal Court of Appeal has been stalled on Thursday.

The court was unable to sit on the matter as a result of the ill health of Dr. Saraki’s counsel, Mr Kanu Agabi.

The trial was on Wednesday stalled due to the absence of the prosecution’s chief witness, Mr Michael Wetkas, who was testifying in another case.

The Senate President is being tried at the tribunal for alleged false declaration of assets while serving as the Governor of Kwara State.

Appeal Court Reserves Judgment In Taraba Governorship Appeal

TarabaThe Court of Appeal has reserved judgment in the three appeals and cross appeal that emanated from the judgment of the Taraba State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.

The tribunal, which sat in Abuja because of the security concerns in the North Eastern region of the country, in its judgment sacked the governor of the state, Mr Darius Ishaku of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on the ground that he was not sponsored by any political party as required by law.

The unanimous judgment of the Musa Danladi Abubakar led tribunal, in a petition filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its governorship candidate, Mrs Aisha Alhassan, held that the purported nomination of the sacked governor by PDP breached Section 85 of the Electoral Act 2010 and ordered the governor to vacate office.

Lawyer to Governor Ishaku, Mr Kanu Agabi (SAN) urged the court to set aside the judgment of the Taraba tribunal, adding also that the appeal ought not to have come up because it was not attached with any valid witness statement.

Agabi said that there was nothing to show on the deposition of the witnesses that any fee was paid and not a single of the deposition was signed by the Commissioner for Oath.

Counsel to Aisha Alhassan and her party, the All Progressives Congress, Abiodun Owonikoko submitted that there was no primary election by the PDP to elect the appellant as its candidate in the election, a submission he said was affirmed by the tribunal and urged the court to uphold the judgment of the tribunal.

The five member panel led by Justice Abdul Aboky reserved ruling of the court on a date that would be conveyed to parties in the matter.

The acting National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had in November faulted the judgment of the Taraba tribunal saying their work was marred by political interference from security officials.

Mr Uche Secondus promised the party would support the Taraba Governor, Darius Ishaku, till justice is served.

Fraud Allegation: Court Releases Oronsaye Pending Bail Hearing

Mr.-Stephen-OronsayeThe Former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mr Stephen Oronsaye, who was arraigned before a Federal High Court in Abuja over his alleged involvement in a 1.2 billion naira graft while he held sway as Head of the Civil Service, has regained temporary freedom till July 21 when his bail application would be heard.

In the charge filed before the court, the former top bureaucrat, alongside two other persons, Osarenkhoe Afe and Frederick Hamilton Global Services Limited, allegedly siphoned about N1.2 billion from the federal treasury during his tenure as Head of the Civil Service.

Oronsaye and his co-accused persons pleaded not guilty to the 24-count charge, bordering on money laundering and corruption slammed against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the prosecutor, Aliyu Yusuf, urged the court to set a date to commence trial and that the accused persons be remanded in prison custody.

Lawyer to the former Head of Service, Mr Kanu Agabi, however prayed the trial Judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, to grant his client bail on liberal terms.

Counsel to the other accused persons, Oluwole Aladedoye, who aligned with the submissions of the counsel to the 1st accused person, held that section 32(3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 allows an oral application for bail and prayed the court to admit his clients to bail as, according to him, the offences for which they are charged are bailable.

In response, the Prosecution Counsel opposed the application for bail, saying that he was served with the application in the court and that he needs time, under the law to respond.

In his ruling, Justice Kolawole ordered that the accused persons should be released to their counsel, who must write an undertaking to produce them in court on July 21, when their bail application will be argued.

The anti-graft agency alleged that one of the accomplices in the alleged crime, Abdulrasheed Abdullahi Maina, who is now at large, all connived to commit procurement fraud in the biometric enrollment job purportedly awarded to Innovative Solutions Limited without following due process.

The court thereafter slated October 28 and 29, November 3 and 5 and December 2, 2015 for trial of the accused persons.

State Lawyers Demand Same Salary As Federal Counterparts

lawyersA former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Kanu Agabi has backed the call by Law Officers Association of Nigeria for an increased and harmonised salary structure for lawyers in the civil service.

Addressing members of the association in Abuja, Mr Agabi advised the federal government to implement the harmonised salary structure for lawyers at the federal level saying it is inappropriate for lawyers at the state level to earn more than their counter parts at the federal level.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the salary disparity between their members and lawyers in the employment of various state governments.

Agabi also advised members of the association not to lose faith by upholding the tenets of the judiciary in the discharge of their duties.

However, the chairman of the law officers association of Nigeria, Yusuf Abdulkadir, criticised the attitude of the federal government over its failure to implement the harmonized salary structure for lawyers in the federal and state civil services.

During the meeting, the lawyers stated that a strike action is not an option. A lawyer from the Office of the Solicitor-General, Olusola Moore, admitted that government is aware of the plight of lawyers in the federal ministry of justice.