Saraki files fresh application to disqualify CCT chairman

ABUJA — The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has filed another application to disqualify Danladi Umar, the chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, from continuing to preside over his trial. Bukola and Saraki Danladi Umar Danladi Umar, chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, however, ordered security operatives attached to Saraki to leave the courtroom, even as the tribunal warned against posting clips of its proceeding on social media. Ajibola Oluyede, a counsel to Saraki, who is being tried for alleged false and anticipatory assets declaration, filed the application shortly after the trial resumed yesterday. He said the tribunal chairman still had a serious corruption case against him with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and premised his application on Section 36(1) of the constitution, which addressed the issue of biases and the rules of natural justice. Oluyede had unsuccessfully moved a similar application last week, which resulted in a heated exchange between him and Umar. After reading his motion, Oluyede called the attention of the court to a letter written to the Attorney-General by the EFCC chairman in February 2015, which was part of his exhibits against Umar. Oluyede read out paragraph four of the letter: “There are indications that the tribunal chairman might have demanded and collected money from the complainant through his said personal assistant. “However, efforts made to recover the telephone handset used by Justice Umar proved abortive, as he claimed that he had lost the telephone in 2012. “This has made it impossible to subject it to independent scientific analysis, with a view to corroborating the allegation. In the same vein, the complainant could also not make available his telephone set for analysis on the grounds that he had lost it. “Justice Umar also admitted that he met privately with the complainant in his chamber at the tribunal. This is a most unethical and highly suspicious conduct on his part.” Justice Umar had initially declined to entertain the motion, but prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, urged him to admit the application so that it can be argued. The letter cited is a 2014 petition sent to the EFCC, in which Rasheed Taiwo, a retired Customs official, claimed to have been pressured by Mr. Umar for a N10 million bribe. The EFCC has repeatedly said  it had no evidence to prosecute Umar over the matter.   Umar orders Saraki’s security out of  tribunal As proceedings continued, chairman of the tribunal ordered security operatives attached to Saraki to leave the courtroom. He gave the order shortly after counsel to the prosecution, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), and counsel for the defence, Kanu Agabi, announced their appearances. The CCT judge said his order was for the safety of all those present at the tribunal. “We have observed that some armed security agents are at the tribunal. We want such security men to stay outside. They should stay outside of the court hall not inside. It is for the protection of us here,” he said. Umar also warned against the recording of proceedings of the tribunal, adding that he was ready to make the trial open to all Nigerians, if parties to the case filed an application for it to broadcast. Nobody’ ll assassinate you, Agabi tells Umar Speaking afterwards, Agabi, Saraki’s lead counsel, urged the judge not to nurse fears because nobody would assassinate him. He said:  “My prayer is for peace and understanding. By God’s grace, you are in that post to be instrumental. I believe harmony and love will prevail. That is why I always urge you not to be angry because anger is not of God, but of the devil. “Generations to come will adore you if you are humble and humane. Nobody will assassinate you, but you should be an advocate for peace.” 19 political parties  ask Umar to step down Meanwhile, the leadership of 19 political registered parties, yesterday, called on the chairman of  the tribunal to step down from the ongoing trial of the Senate President, arguing that recent events indicated that he was an interested party in the matter. Annoyed by what they described as witch-hunt, the parties noted that Justice Umar would not be impartial or unbiased in this case, given the circumstances of his relationship with the EFCC. Besides, the parties also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to direct an immediate investigation to unravel the circumstances which led to the EFFC issuing the letter of clearance to Justice Umar over his alleged involvement in N10 million bribery scandal. Addressing newsmen in Abuja, National Chairman of Labour Party, LP, Alhaji Abdulkadir Abdulsalam, who read the text of the media briefing on behalf of the parties, said Justice Umar had failed to demonstrate a dispassion required of anyone sitting in judgment over others. The political parties are Labour Party, LP; Action Alliance, AA; National Conscience Party, NCP; Democratic Peoples Party, DPP; African Democratic Congress, ADC; Democratic Party of Nigeria, DPN, and MPPP, among others. The parties noted:   “We believe his continued stay on the bench while this defendant is appearing before the tribunal supports the conspiracy theory that there is an agenda to convict Dr. Saraki by all means.” The political parties which said they were not against the trail of the Senate President, added, however, that, “President Buhari needs to act now, not to stop Saraki’s trial but to ensure that the process of fighting corruption does not end up being even more corrupt than the corruption it seeks to eliminate.”