Can Saraki Escape Corruption Trial as CCT Suspends His Trial

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Ameh Ogwuche

SarakiThe trial of Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) was Monday November 23,  put on hold in line with the order of the Supreme Court.

On November 12, a five-man panel of the apex court led by John Fabiyi, ordered Danladi Umar, chairman of the tribunal, to halt the trial of Saraki  pending the determination of an appeal filed by him (Saraki).

The embattled Bukola Saraki penultimate Thursday November 19 gave the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions two weeks to conclude the investigation of allegation of corruption against the chairman of Code of Conduct Tribunal, Justice Danladi Umar.

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Saraki is facing a 13-count charge of alleged false declaration of assets at the Code of Conduct Tribunal presided by Justice Danladi Umar.

One of the supporters of Saraki, Senator Dino Melaye allegedly sponsored several civil society groups to write petitions against Danladi Umar to possibly remove him as the chairman of the CCT where Saraki is facing corruption trial.

Dino was recently named as the Chairman, Senate Committee on Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. His appointment by Saraki to oversee the Senate Committee on FCT is  seen in several quarters as a way of rewarding him for his role in enthroning Saraki as Senate President against Senator Ahmed Lawal, the candidate of the ruling  All Progressive Congress, APC.

A non-governmental group being operated by Senator Dino Melaye under the aegis of Anti-Corruption Network Thursday last week forwarded a petition to the Senate over allegations of fraud, bribery and inflation of contracts by Umar.

A  member of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Obinna Ogba representing Ebonyi South Senatorial District presented a petition against Umar on the floor of the Senate, during plenary. He explained that the petition was signed by one Ajaso. I Ajaso on behalf of a group, and submitted for investigation.

Similarly, another group, under the aegis of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, had also on Tuesday November 10,  petitioned the two chambers of the National Assembly, demanding an immediate probe of an alleged N10,618,837,435 million bribery scandal against the CCT boss.

The group’s petition was signed by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, and addressed to Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, respectively.

The question that begs for answer is whether the fight against an individual can possibly stop an institution from functioning in the fight against corruption?

The Nigerian Senate in the past had refused to investigate or interfere in any case that is pending in the court. The 8th National Assembly, particularly the Senate under Saraki should be very mindful of its action at this crucial period not to bring the legislative arm of government which is the symbol of democracy into ridicule.

Justice Danladi Umar alleged corruption case is already in the court. For Saraki to give two weeks to  Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions to conclude the investigation of  allegation of corruption against Umar is merely being seen as retaliatory moves.

The suit against Umar  was lodged before  the Federal High Court in Abuja by a non-governmental organisation under the platform of the Registered Trustees of the Mission for Peace and Development Initiative, through their lawyer, Chief Mike Ozehkome, SAN.

The plaintiff, said it has documents showing that the CCT chairman, demanded a N10m bribe from a retired Comptroller of Customs, Mr. Rasheed Taiwo, to terminate further hearing on a case that was pending against him at the tribunal.

It is now strange for Senate to commence investigation into an issue that a competent court is handling. This is also contrary to Senate Standing Order Rule that prohibits the Senate from investigating or interfering with any matter that is already in the court.

Whichever way the drama goes, Nigerians are watching. But it is very necessary to strengthen the institutions to enable them function properly.

If the institutions are not strengthened, the war against corruption and bad governance will only remain a mere song that will not have any positive change in the system. A weakened government institution gives room to corruption and tempts the upright man to embark on shady deals. It also creates room for the kind of fighting between the public figures as we are witnessing today.

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