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Ade Adesomoju, Abuja
The Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja was during the proceedings early Thursday thrown into turmoil over the fresh application filed by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, asking the chairman of the tribunal, Danladi Umar, to disqualify himself.
Saraki is being prosecuted before the CCT on 13 counts of false asset declaration which he allegedly made while serving as Governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.
The application filed by a counsel, Mr. Rapheal Oluyede, who appeared for the first time in Saraki’s defence team before the CCT on Wednesday, asked Umar to disqualify himself from further handling the trial on the basis that the tribunal chairman was allegedly under criminal investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Oluyede argued in the motion that Umar would likely be biased in conducting the trial because the EFCC, was allegedly leading the prosecution of Saraki before the CCT.
The prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), who interrupted Oluyede while introducing the motion, said had said appication had not received the approval of the lead defence counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), who was absent during the proceedings on Thursday.
Jacobs said as of the time the motion was filed on Wednesday, Oluyede had yet to become a counsel on record in the case.
The prosecuting counsel said though he would have to file a response to the application, not until the lead defence counsel (Agabi) said something about it.
The tribunal chairman, who passed an EFCC letter clearing him of capability in the alleged N10m bribery allegation referred to in the fresh application to Jacobs, described the motion as “rubbish”.
He questioned Mr. Adebayo Adelodun (SAN), who announced the appearance for the defence in Agabi’s absence, for allowing such application to be filed by Oluyede “in his own right as a lawyer”.
But Adelodun said as the lead counsel at the moment had the right to yield the floor to Oluyede.
Referring to the suit filed by Oluyede before the Federal High Court in Abuja in which similar allegation against him was made, the tribunal chairman said Oluyede was a “busy-body” in the trial.
Umar said the suit was dismissed by the Federal High Court in Abuja last Friday.
”As far as this tribunal is concerned, this application has not been filed, it is rubbish and it is thrown out,” he said.
Umar ordered Oluyede to sit down to enable the tribunal to proceed with the business of the day which was the cross-examination of the first prosecution witness, Michael Wetkas.
In response, Oluyede insisted on introducing the motion, and went ahead to accuse the tribunal chairman of having “too many cloudy relationships with the EFCC”.
“This is part of the reasons we asked you to recuse yourself,” he said.
Umar threatened to commit the lawyer to prison if his directive to him to sit down was further disobeyed.
While Oluyede resisted the directive, Umar ordered the police in court to “take him away”.
But the lawyer refused to yield as about five policemen who went towards him were not enthusiastic to give effect to the directive until calmness returned in the proceedings.
Jacobs then urged the tribunal chairman to be patient, as he reiterated that the EFCC had since cleared him (Umar) of the allegations in March 2015 while the charges against Saraki were only filed before the CCT in September 2015.
“My lord be patient, we will handle the application as we effectively did at the Federal High Court. We will expose the frivolity of the application even to the person who filed it,” he said.
While calmness was being restored, the defence counsel, who takes the lead for the team in Agabi’s absence, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN), walked into the court room.
Without referring to the drama that took place before his arrival, Usoro simply informed the tribunal that the defence was ready to continue the cross-examination of the first prosecution witness.
The cross-examination was going on when Agabi walked into the courtroom.
Source: Punch News