Saraki’s Court Case And The Vested Interests In Nigeria’s Justice System 

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Nneka Okoye

SarakiAs things stand, there has been a lot of talk recently about the Code of Conduct Tribunal hearing of the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki. In the weeks leading up to his election as the Number 3 citizen and Chairman of the National Assembly, Nigerians witnessed firsthand a concerted effort by leaders of the ruling party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), to stifle Saraki’s bid to become the Senate President at all costs.

Initially, following the general election victory of President Muhammadu Buhari — a native of Katsina State in the North West, and his deputy, Vice President Yemi Osibanjo – a native of Lagos State in the South West, the ruling party zoned the Senate Presidency to the North Central region of the country citing a need for a balance of power amongst the regions that had contributed to the massive overhaul of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

Political commentators also cited that given the three essential elements that had contributed to the APC’s formation of a national amalgamation capable of wrestling power from the PDP, Saraki was highly favoured to emerge as the Chairman of the National Assembly. These essential elements were: the South West-dominated Action Congress of Nigeria; the Northern-leaning Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), and; the New PDP faction of 5 Governors, countless Senators, House of Representative Members and state representatives that decamped to bolster the strength of the APC in the months leading to the election. Hence, as Saraki belonged to the New PDP faction of the ruling party, and Buhari and Osibanjo both belonging to the CPC and ACN respectively, many Nigerians saw logic in this particular power sharing formula. However, certain powerful individuals thought otherwise.

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Flash forward to a few days before the National Assembly inauguration, the ruling party’s National Working Committee, which is plainly controlled by one of the two originating factions of the APC, shifted its stance, citing that the Senate Presidency, which was previously zoned to Saraki’s North Central region, had been re-zoned to the North East. The candidate that this new arrangement was intended to prop-up was Senator Ahmed Lawan – an individual who many saw as a proxy of one of the South West leaders of the new ruling party. All this emanated alongside the De-facto leader of the party, President Muhammadu Buhari, stating on numerous occasions that he had no preferred candidate for the National Assembly elections – he just wanted a fair fight, and capable hands to steer the affairs of the legislature.

Riding off Buhari’s stance on the issue, and taking advantage of certain untimely strategic maneuvers of the Ahmed Lawan camp on the day of the National Assembly inauguration, Saraki emerged unopposed as the Senate President. Since then, his story has been one of a delicate balancing act between legislating for the common good, and dodging the political bullets that have constantly been aimed at him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the Code of Conduct Bureau/Tribunal (CCB/T). It is important to note however, that many political analysts like myself, and a plurality of Nigerians believe that the legal projectiles that have been aimed at Saraki since his ascension to the Senate Presidency, do not stem from a desire by these institutions to fix Nigeria under the APC’s change mandate, but from the caprices and self-preserving acts of key actors on the national stage.

For example, the Chairman of the CCT, Dan Ladi Umar, who incidentally – or not – happens to be the former Special Assistant on Legal matters to one of Saraki’s perceived political rivals – a former accidental-Minister turned North Western Governor – is being investigated by the EFCC for taking bribes. The EFCC in turn, for a while now, has had certain questions to answer at the Senate for diverting public funds into the pockets of those at the helm of its affairs. Because of this, observant minds have noted and noticed the shameless collaboration of the EFCC and the CCT – which are both currently in ‘save yourself mode’ – to take down Saraki at all costs, regardless of the dictates and provisions of the law. This aforementioned fact is crystal clear as clean waters because the prosecuting (or persecuting in this case) Counsel for the Federal Government in Saraki’s case is none other than the fiery long-time lawyer of the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) – a man who has been seen to be directing the affairs of the court from the prosecutor’s stand.

On Tuesday, September 22nd, when Saraki brought to the attention of the court, that cognizant to Section 3D of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, he was not served properly – as he was not given the opportunity to first refute the charges at the CCB, but was instead informed of his case in the media, Rotimi Jacobs said “No” – the Tribunal agreed. On Thursday, November 5th, when Saraki’s lawyers informed the Tribunal of a case that they had filed challenging the legality of the Tribunal’s right to sit and other technical foundations of the case, had been filed at the Supreme Court, Rotimi Jacobs said “Proceed” – the court agreed. On this same day, when Saraki requested for a month to prepare his defense after his lawyers withdrew from the case in protest, citing perceived “Judicial Rascality”, the CCT ruled that he had only a week. Rotimi Williams requested two weeks, the court agreed.

With the aforementioned developments and the activities leading up to the institution of the case – whether coincidental or accidental – if your eyebrows are raised in cautious suspicion regarding the in-step and in-sync nature of Rotimi Williams and Dan Ladi Umar’s legal dance at the CCT hearing, you are clearly on to something.

As things are, I am willing to wager a significant bet that there is clearly a nefarious script being acted out, and a political play in the works. In trying to fathom a guess as to who exactly the Director of this play is — your guess is as good as mine. However, it is evident who his lead actors are; it is even more clear that whoever he or she is, the justice system seems to be at their disposal, and he has penciled Saraki down as his first victim using the vested interests in Nigeria’s judicial system. Because of this, I hope Saraki wins. I hope he comes out on top.

No one person or group should ever be given so much power to determine or dictate the fate of another person under the law. Nigerians, open your eyes.

The drama continues…

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