Saturday 10th December, 2016
Translate Language:::
Share

FG drops prosecution counsel in Saraki's trial

FG drops prosecution counsel in Saraki's trial

· Says Jacobs, Senate President’s lawyer close allies
 
 Apparently unimpressed by the slow pace of the trial of the Senate President Bukola Saraki over false assets dec­laration, the Federal Government has dropped its counsel in the matter, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN).
In the place of Jacobs, the govern­ment has picked Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Dipo Okpeseyi (SAN) to handle Saraki’s prosecution.
The Senate President was ar­raigned before the Code of Con­duct Tribunal (CCT) last year on a 13-count charge of false declaration of assets while he was the governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.
Since Saraki was first arraigned before the Code of Conduct Tribu­nal on September 22, 2015, the case has faced several hitches, largely due to the Senate President’s rush to the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court to stop his prosecution.
The commencement of trial proper was slated for last Friday but was stalled by a fresh application Sa­raki filed to challenge the tribunal’s powers to try him.
Saraki, who stormed the tribunal with a contingent of 66 lawyers head­ed by a former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), argued that the charge against him was brought in violation of all due processes and in violation of his right to fair hear­ing as enshrined in the Nigerian Con­stitution.
 
A reliable source at the Federal Ministry of Justice who sought ano­nymity, told The AUTHORITY that the government was not comforta­ble with the new development where Saraki employed the legal services of Agabi whom Jacobs served as a Per­sonal Assistant when Agabi was the AGF and Minister of Justice.
The source also disclosed that the current Chairman of the CCT, Justice Danladi Umar, also cut his teeth in le­gal practice at Agabi’s Chambers.
According to the source, the Fed­eral Government is not at ease with the close affinity between Agabi and Jacobs because their relationship has been that of a “master and servant”.
“Everyone knows that Rotimi Jacobs was a Personal Assistant to Chief Kanu Agabi while the latter was AGF and Minister of Justice.
“This relationship has triggered government’s suspicion that Jacobs might not be able to continue with the pace and energy at which he be­gan the prosecution of the embattled Senate President.
“It is not as if Jacobs would sell out or bungle the case, but because of the close relationship between Aga­bi as Jacobs’ former boss, he might lack the will to prosecute the matter till the end.
“It is on that basis that the Fed­eral Government has replaced Roti­mi Jacobs with Dipo Okpeseyi, who is a member of the government’s new crack team of prosecutors that have been engaged to take up the prosecu­tion of the Buhari-led anti-corruption initiative” the source said.
The AUTHORITY recalls that af­ter the Supreme Court’s decision on February 5 this year, which dismissed Saraki’s appeal, the Senate President approached the tribunal with the application which had been deter­mined right from the tribunal to the apex court.
When the parties arrived at the tribunal last Friday, the prosecu­tion lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs, informed the CCT that he was ready for com­mencement of the trial, and that his witnesses were in court.
But responding, Agabi informed the court about a fresh motion he filed, challenging the tribunal’s juris­diction.
He said the motion was served on the Federal Ministry of Justice and not personally on the prosecution lawyer.
Jacobs protested what he de­scribed as the wrong service of the new motion by the defence, arguing that it was part of the ploy by the de­fence to prevent the commencement of trial in the case.
He noted that, while Agabi ef­fected personal service on him, re­questing the rescheduling of the re­sumption of proceedings in the suit, he (Agabi) chose not to serve him the fresh motion.
 
Jacobs noted that the issue raised in the new motion had been decided earlier by the tribunal, and up to the Supreme Court.
He said the Supreme Court’s judgment in the similar motion by Saraki has since been report and cit­ed as “Saraki vs FRN: SC 2016 NWLR at page 531.”
This scenario where Agabi “de­liberately” refused to serve the new application in Saraki’s suit on Jacobs further confirmed the FG’s fears of a deliberate attempt to frustrate the tri­al, the source said.
Consequently, Jacobs urged the tribunal to allow the prosecution to open its case, noting that under Sec­tion 368 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) the de­fence could raise objection at any stage in the case, but that the tribunal was empowered to reserve its decision which it could give with the judgment.
In his response, Agabi apolo­gised for the service of his fresh ap­plication on Jacobs’ client. He blamed the error on the fact that he was new in the matter.
He sought a date for the hearing of the motion, arguing that it was the law that once a motion was filed, even if it was frivolous, the court must hear it and pronounce on it.
Tribunal Chairman, Danladi Umar, adjourned to March 18 for the hearing of Saraki’s new motion and possible commencement of trial.
He directed Jacobs and Agabi to file all necessary papers before then. He also directed that henceforth, all processes should be served on the prosecution lawyer in person.
Saraki, in the new motion filed on March 4, wants the court to quash the charge against him or strike it out and discharge him of the offences on the ground, among others, that the tribunal lacked the jurisdiction to try him.
He argued that the process lead­ing to his arraignment was wrong and that he was denied fair hearing.

SHARE ON: