The Supreme Court today in Abuja halted the trial of the Senate President Dr. Olubukola Abubakar Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal on charges of false assets declaration.
The trial initiated by the Federal Government against Saraki was put on hold by the Apex Court pending the time the court will determine the appeal file by Saraki in which he is challenging the legality of his trial at the CCT.
At the hearing of Saraki’s application for stay of proceedings at the CCT, prosecution counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs ( SAN) who had earlier objected to granting of stay of proceedings made a dramatic u-turn, with an undertaken that the prosecution will not go ahead any longer with the trial of Saraki once the Supreme Court can grant accelerated hearing in the pending substantive appeal.
Jacobs told the panel of five justices presided over by Justice John Afolabi Fabiyi that nothing on the side of the prosecution will be done to prejudice the apex court on the pending issue of Saraki before the court.
To ensure speedy hearing of the substantive appeal, Jacobs informed the court that he will file his brief of argument against substantive appeal of Saraki by next week Monday.
He then urged the court to compel the appellant (Saraki) to also file his own brief of arguments within two days so that an earlier date could be fixed for hearing of the substantive matter of the case.
The u-turn made by the Federal Government suddenly overtook the earlier objection to Saraki’s application seeking a stay of the trial CCT.
In his argument against the application of Saraki for stay of further proceeding at the tribunal, Jacobs submitted that no court of law in the country has power to grant stay of proceedings in any criminal matter in view of the introduction of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
He specifically said section 306 of the Act has removed the discretional and inherent powers of any court, including the Supreme Court to grant a stay of hearing in a criminal matter.
According to him, the motive of the legislature in enacting the ACJA was to put to an end the usual delay suffered in the prosecution of criminal matters, which had led to inability of the authority to curb corruption.
However, the argument of Jacobs that the Supreme Court has no power to stop proceedings of any lower court did not go down well with the justices who considered the pronouncement of Jacobs as an affront to the Supremacy of their court.
Feeling the pulse of the justices, Rotimi Jacobs made a u-turn by appealing to the justices not to make pronouncement on the practicability of section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
He submitted that the decision of the Apex Court may not augur well especially in the trial courts where such decision can be abused to grant stay of proceedings even when there was no need for such.
Instead of making pronouncement on the practicability of section 306 of ACJA, Jacobs begged the Apex Court to allow the two parties go into the main appeal instead of trading on stay issue.
He made undertaking that the federal government will not do anything until the supreme court has made final decision on the appeal issue.
Earlier, counsel to Saraki, Joseph Daudu (SAN), who led seven other Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) to argue Saraki’s case had urged the apex court to stop the proceedings at the CCT pending the hearing of the substantive appeal.
Daudu told the court that the appellant is challenging the jurisdiction of tribunal and the legality of his trial at the tribunal.
Among others, Saraki claimed that the tribunal was not properly constituted with two members instead of three as required by law.
He submitted that the apex court should put the trial at the CCT on hold pending the final determination of the main appeal.
Justice Fabiyi while ordering the proceedings at the CCT stopped, gave seven days each to both parties to file and exchange briefs of their arguments on the substantive appeal.
In line with the undertaken of Jacobs, the court ordered nothing should be done at the CCT level on the pending trial of the Senate President.
Justice Fabiyi announced that a date for hearing of substantive appeal will be communicated to parties as soon as the date is fixed.
Speaking with journalists after the brief ruling, Saraki’s lead counsel Mr. Joseph Daudu SAN said that the decision of the court and that of Jacobs had vindicated the decision of the lawyers who last week left the tribunal abruptly after obtaining the leave of the tribunal to withdraw from the trial.
With the decision of the Supreme Court, the Senate President will no longer appear at the CCT on November 19 as earlier fixed by the tribunal Chairman Mr. Danladi Yakubu Umar for the trial.
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