The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has adjourned the trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki indefinitely.
Saraki is being tried on three of the 18 counts of false assets declaration filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The three-count charges border on alleged false declaration of his assets at the end of his tenure as governor of Kwara state and alleged failure to declare his outstanding loan liabilities of N315, 054, 355.92 out of the loan of N380, 000, 000 he obtained from Guaranty Trust Bank Plc.
At the resumed trial, Danladi Umar, CCT chairman, called the attention of the parties to a letter from the defendant dated January 19, 2018, seeking a stay in the criminal proceedings as a result of two appeals pending before the supreme court.
He said going by sections 305 and 306 of the administration of criminal justice act, an appeal does not mean stay in proceedings “but in view of the fact that there are some issues in the appeal before the supreme court which are involved in this case, we think it is germane to consider the integrity of the apex court.”
Last year, the court of appeal restored three out of the 18 counts of false assets declaration against Saraki which were earlier dismissed by the CCT.
Saraki subsequently filed a seven-ground notice of appeal before the supreme court, resisting the three charges.
The federal government had also filed a cross-appeal before the apex court against the part of the judgment which affirmed the dismissal of the other 15 counts.
On Thursday, the CCT chairman said the decision of the supreme court will “invariably affect” the decision of the tribunal”, adding: “We have to protect the integrity of the supreme court first but we need to hear from you (the prosecution and defence counsels.)
Responding, Rotimi Jacob, counsel to the federal government, advised the court to proceed with the trial “in view of the position of law today.”
He argued that section 306 of the administration of criminal justice act enjoins the court not to entertain any application for stay.
“So the appeal before the supreme court is not an issue of reference. And section 305 also permits the court to go ahead assuming it is an issue of reference,” he added.
But Kanu Agabi, Saraki’s counsel, said the idea of staying the proceedings “is not our initiative.”
“it is the initiative of the tribunal and we commend you for it. The prosecution also has an appeal at the supreme court, so it is not just us,” he said.
“We must be mindful of the integrity of the supreme court. The first principle established by the supreme court is that a right of appeal ought not to be fettered. Our appeal at the supreme court is fettered by this proceeding.”
In his ruling, the CCT chairman said the tribunal will be guided by the constitutional right to fair hearing and the right to appeal.
“Since the supreme court is giving an accelerated hearing of the appeals, we will be hesitant to proceed pending when the appeals are determined.
“To be on the safer side, the tribunal has decided to tarry for a while so that the integrity of the court will not be tampered with.”
He, therefore, adjourned indefinitely pending the decision of the supreme court.