THE recent Supreme Court judgement which pontificated that the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT has the requisite jurisdiction to try the President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, on allegations of false asset declaration has effectively positioned the Kwara-born politician in the eyes of the storm.
The apex court panel of seven Justices unanimously dismissed an appeal by Saraki challenging his trial by the tribunal. In the lead judgment, Justice Walter Onnoghen held that the Tribunal had quasi criminal jurisdiction to ensure public probity and accountability of public officers, a position the tribunal had maintained all the while.
Interestingly too, Onnoghen held that the tribunal had the requisite jurisdiction to try the appellant (Saraki) without full complement of the three-member panel. It is also apparent that the 1999 Constitution as amended has not made definite stand on what number constitutes a quorum of the tribunal, but the Section 28 of the Interpretation Act did so very clearly.
“The Interpretation Act holds that a two-member panel that includes the Chairman and one other member constitute a quorum to sit on any matter. This rubbishes all arguments being put forward over time by Bukola Saraki vide his lawyers. Little wonder therefore that Saraki’s appeal suffered similar fate on October 30, 2015 when the Court of Appeal dismissed his petition challenging his trial at the tribunal.
Justice Moore Adumein had held that the appeal lacked merit. Saraki had earlier challenged the legal propriety of the 13-count charge that was preferred against him by the Federal Ministry of Justice at the lower court which equally threw away his request before he went on appeal.
Now the die is cast and Saraki is face-to-face with the reality of going to the CCT. As the situation stands, Saraki ought to resign as Senate President. His resignation is not just for him to attend to the serious criminal issues before the tribunal, it is also as a sign of respect for the office of the Senate President of Nigeria which he presently occupies. A situation where he now politicises his ordeal is quite unfortunate because, those who live in glass houses should ordinarily not throw stones. But he chose to throw stones in the APC glass house and now it is time for him to bear the consequences of his actions. Saraki in the lower court said he had nothing to hide. Now a date has been fixed for him to appear again at the CCT.
Instead of going straight to the tribunal to face trial he is reported running about wanting to see Bola Ahmed Tinubu and President Muhammadu Buhari. The implication of such a rat race is that he may really have some things to hide. It means the tribunal is on the threshold of making history, to be the first institution to sting a sitting Senate president. Instead of this shameful outing, the best option for Saraki is for him to stand down as Senate President. He must at this point in time stop deceiving himself because he will certainly take something away from the exalted office if he refuses to toe the path of honour.
Bukola Saraki has no business remaining as the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria while answering charges on corruption and false declaration of assets. Nigeria should be saved the agony of watching the Senate President appearing on the dock every time like a soap opera in a Nollywood movie. But if he insists, he will unintentionally be making all would-be occupier of such exalted office careful in future. It will also go a long way in instilling discipline in political parties in the country, not just the APC.
It is obvious that those senators who insist that Saraki could, and should, combine the roles of Senate President and criminal defendant rest their argument on his presumed innocence until proven guilty as guaranteed by our constitution. They are behind the scene nudging him on to perdition. Such characters are simply putting self-interest over and above public interest. Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should know by now that all eyes are on them and not just Saraki. They must take steps to defend the image of the nation’s hallowed red chamber.
Nigerians expect their senators to be more concerned and circumspect about public interest. They should know that where the nation is heading with President Muhammadu Buhari is a nation where our people detest the ruining of its institutions. No corrupt person or criminal should occupy any public office hence forth. Nigerians are sick and tired of corruption. So whether some senators want it or not, whether they want to go and mill around the CCT each trial day or not, the law will surely take its full course on Saraki.
It is incontrovertible that Saraki is presumed innocent until proven guilty; but he should save the nation’s exalted office of the Senate President of the shame he is about to foist on it whether he is guilty or not.
Mr. Dan Owegie,a chieftain of the APC, wrote from Benin City, Edo State