The trial of Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, over alleged false assets declaration has continued at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) with the Chairman, Danladi Umar ruling in favour of Senate President Bukola Saraki for the first time.
The Chairman of the tribunal and the other members arrived while the Senate President in company of some lawmakers and well-wishers were already seated.
At the commencement of trial, the prosecutor Rotimi Jacobs urged the tribunal to compel the defence to stick to only one counsel rather than “change counsels every day” to make the trial tidy.
“The counsel that started cross examination should finish it. The witness cannot be cross-examined by three lawyers. My learned brother should conclude cross-examining the witness,” he argued while requesting the tribunal to make the order.
“You can have several lawyers, but only one of them will address the court. That’s why we have lead counsel. The lead counsel who has started the cross examination is bound to conclude the case.
“It is not an opportunity for six lawyers to cross examine one witness. Why I am raising this, is that we have already spent days on cross-examination. My lord should regulate the proceedings.”
When the trial started, Kanu Agabi (SAN), Saraki’s lead counsel, had the cross examination of the witness, after which Paul Usoro (SAN) took over.
However, counsel to Saraki, Mr Paul Usoro said that the argument of the prosecutor was absurd in law because the defence, having announced all of his counsels, is entitled to use any of them for the justice of the case.
He concluded by saying that the request of the prosecutor was only to waste the time of the court but the prosecutor insisted that only one person can cross-examine the witness.
In his ruling, Umar held that Saraki had the right to engage as many lawyers as he wanted, and to choose which one of them would speak for him in court.
“The defence has the right to conduct their defence the way it suits them. What we are here to do is to give fair hearing. Paul Erokoro can now conduct the cross examination,” he held.
This is the first ruling the tribunal would give in favour of Saraki.
At the last hearing on Thursday April 28, the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Danladi Umar had ruled and accepted an amended 16-count charge filed by the prosecution against the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki.
This prompted counsel to the Senate President to take a fresh plea on the charges being raised. Dr. Bukola Saraki then pleaded not guilty to the amended 16-count charges of alleged false declaration of asset filed against him.
The former charge was filed on October 18, 2015 and Prosecution counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs, asked the court to accept the new charges, dated April 27, 2016 as the case against the Senate President.
The Senate President was first charged in September 2015 for alleged false and anticipatory declaration of assets.
Justice Umar, had earlier in the day also dismissed the application filed by Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki seeking Umar’s withdrawal from his trial, holding that the application lacked merit.