The Code of Conduct Tribunal has fixed July 13 for ruling on Senate President Bukola Saraki’s motion asking the tribunal’s Chairman, Justice Danladi Umar, to disqualify himself from the trial over alleged bias.
Saraki is standing trial on a 16-count charge bordering on allegations of false asset declaration and money laundering proffered against him by the Federal Government.
Saraki, who had earlier pleaded not guilty to the charge, wanted the tribunal chairman to disqualify himself from further participation in the trial over allegation of bias.
At the resumed hearing in the case, Counsel to Saraki, Mr Paul Erokoro (SAN), while moving the motion asked the CCT chairman to disqualify himself from participating further in the trial because of allegation of bias.
Erokoro alleged that the CCT chairman had, on June 7, threatened Saraki that the delayed tactics employed by his lawyers would not reduce the consequences he would face at the end of the trial.
Erokoro submitted that by implication, the CCT chairman had implicitly admitted making the statement and as such, the chairman should disqualify himself in the interest of justice and fair trial.
He also submitted that the independence and the impartiality of the chairman envisaged in section 36 of the constitution could no longer be guaranteed.
He argued that there was a good reason for the CCT chairman to disqualify himself, saying that it had already been established that the chairman would not be able to balance the scale of justice.
“Once a judge, by word or action, shows that he cannot hold the scale of justice, he should disqualify himself,’’ he said.
When the other member of the panel asked what happens to the Tribunal if the chairman disqualifies himself, Erokoro said that there was a statutory provision for the establishment of the Tribunal Al.
He explained that the Tribunal Al would have the full complement of three members and that the appointing authority can do the needful by appointing more member.
However, the prosecuting counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) vehemently opposed the motion, saying that the application was frivolous, an abuse of court process and a deliberate attempt to delay the trial.
Apparently justifying the alleged prejudicial comment of the CCT chairman, Jacobs claimed that it was true that the trial was being delayed by the defence and that the chairman only warned on the consequences.
He also said that Saraki had filed similar application before the Court of Appeal seeking for the same relief and the appeal was still pending before the appellate court.
Jacobs argued that there was no record from the tribunal showing that the chairman made such statement.
“The defence did not attached any record of proceeding of the court indicating that your lordship made such a statement and failure to produce the record of what transpired that day is fatal to the application.
“My lord, giving evidence outside court record is clearly out of law and any evidence that is not proved through the record of proceedings is not admissible in law,’’ he said.
Jacobs, therefore, urged the tribunal to dismiss the application.