Tribunal ignores rented protesters, orders Saraki’s corruption trial to proceed day-to-day

A number of hired protesters besieged the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) sitting in Abuja on Monday in support of Senate President Bukola Saraki who is standing trial on a 13-count criminal charge of false assets declaration and fraud.

The protesters, some of whom hid behind their placards, came with inscriptions like “Nigerian Youths and Students Stand Firm with Saraki”, “Let the Senate Continue Working”, “No to the Ongoing Witch-hunt of Saraki”, “Leave Saraki Alone”, “Say No To Political Witch-hunt” and “Who Is Afraid Of Saraki?”

They were however barred from gaining access to the CCT by armed security men.

As usual, Saraki was accompanied to the tribunal by some senators.

That notwithstanding, Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Danladi Umar, directed that the trial will henceforth proceed on a day-to-day basis until the conclusion of the case.

He said the trial will run from 10am to 6pm every day.

The court shall observe two breaks – one at 1pm and the other at 4pm.

Umar said his decision to conduct the trial day-to-day was in line with the provisions of section 396(6) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.

He gave the directive in response to a request for one hour stand-down by the lawyer who represented the prosecution on Monday, Mr. Gabriel Esegine.

Esegine told the tribunal that the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, asked for the stand-down to enable him to appear briefly before the Court of Appeal in Abuja.

But in response, Umar, who was not satisfied with the request for stand-down warned that the tribunal would no longer wait for anybody.

He said, “By virtue of 396 (6) the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, criminal trial of a defendant after arraignment shall proceed day to day.

“This is what the tribunal intends to do. I’m saying this to both the prosecution and the defence, this tribunal will not wait for anybody.

“We will start by 10am till about 6pm till the conclusion of the case.

“For the benefit of those who want to pray we will give a break for about 15 minutes. By 4pm, we will give another 15 minutes break to enable people to stretch their legs.”

The lead defence counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), however joined the prosecution in pleading with the tribunal to grant the stand-down.

“My lord I want to beg that you accede to the prosecution’s request for a stand-down. I understand their application even though they never understood mine,” Agabi joked.

The day-to-day trial order is coming on the heels of an intensified bid by the Senate under Saraki to amend the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and Code of Conduct Act.