The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on Wednesday dismissed an application filed by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, asking the chairman of the tribunal to disqualify himself from participating in his trial.
Giving the ruling, the Chairman of the Tribunal, Mr Danladi Umar, said: “I am completely surprised that the defendant applicant filed a motion asking me to disqualify myself from adjudicating in this matter.
“The applicant has drawn an inference from media report that I made a statement intended to prejudice the process.
“Nevertheless, we shall not be distracted but show courage to perform our duties as judicial officials in this temple of justice.’’
Mr Kanu Agabi (SAN), counsel to Saraki, had in the application accused Umar of making remarks that portrayed bias against his client.
The chairman on June 7 while expressing his displeasure at the delay tactics employed by Saraki’s legal team warned that the delay strategy would not reduce the consequences of Saraki’s action.
At the hearing of the application on June 21, Agabi argued that Umar’s statement gave the direction that his client would be found guilty thereby exposed to “consequences.”
In a counter argument, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), the prosecution counsel, said Agabi interpreted the tribunal chairman’s remarks out of context and described the motion as unwarranted and should be dismissed.
Umar, however, said:“ I would have disqualified myself but for the constraints placed on me by the 1999 Constitution that established the Code of Conduct Tribunal.’’
He said the application to disqualify the chairman of the tribunal was not been contemplated by the Constitution.
“Even for the president to remove the chairman or a member of the tribunal, there must be a written address to the National Assembly and a two-third consent from both chambers of the legislature.
“This is so because the tribunal is not like the Federal High Court or the Industrial Court with many judges.
“ The strength of this tribunal is built around the chairman and so if I disqualify myself from this trial, it means the applicant’s trial would have been aborted,’’ Umar said.
The chairman said: “the allegation by the applicant is based on mere conjecture of the media and not well founded. The motion is hereby dismissed’’.
The chairman thereafter adjourned the trial between Nov.7 and Nov.8.
Saraki is standing trial before the tribunal over false declaration of assets.
The president of the Senate has challenged the jurisdiction of the tribunal over the matter up to the Supreme Court but lost.