The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has frowned at what it described as the delay tactics being employed by lawyers to Senate President, Bukola Saraki in his on-going trial for false asset declaration.
Saraki’s legal team consisting of about 100 lawyers, including about 10 Senior Advocates, has spent 11 days on the cross-examination the first defence witness, Michael Wetkas, and was yet to conclude.
The tribunal has also expressed discomfort over what it called incidents of misrepresentation of proceedings in the media.
Tribunal Chairman, Danladi Umar, who spoke at the resumption of proceedings Tuesday, said the tribunal was equally bothered by the concern expressed by the prosecution that the defence was deliberately delaying proceedings.
At the commencement of proceedings, lead prosecution lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) complained that the defence was unduly delaying proceedings having spent 11 days cross-examining a single witness presented by the prosecution.
Umar said: “I am not happy at the delay tactics by the defence counsel. And I must say this thing out, that this delay tactics will not reduce the consequences the defendant will meet from this tribunal at the end of the trial if he is found guilty.”
Lead defence lawyer, Kanu Agabi (SAN) however told the tribunal that the defence team was not comfortable the tribunal Chairman’s view on the allegation of delay made by Jacobs.
“From the defence side, we are not worried about the law and facts that will be placed before this tribunal by the prosecution. But we are worried about enemies, who may wish to use this tribunal to achieve their ulterior motive.
“As the tribunal Chairman, we love you, we respect you, but we are afraid of consequences, especially as just stated by this tribunal this morning. Our fears have been reinforced, but we pray against consequences that are against natural justice,” Agabi said.
On the issue of misrepresentation, Umar was particularly angered by some media reports to the effect that the tribunal had adjourned Saraki’s trial indefinitely.
“Journalists should be punished” for publishing falsehood, “it is a criminal offence. If I have my way I would bring back Decree 2 of the olden days to take care of the irresponsible journalists in this country”.
“How can they dare to publish that we have adjourned the trial of this defendant (Saraki) indefinitely? It is the highest point of irresponsible journalism. But I thank God for them that we are in a democratic era and that is why they are doing what they are doing now.
“They are embarking on sensational journalism to sell their newspapers at the expense of truth. That is not journalism, but a serious crime that can lead them to jail,” Umar said.
Agabi, who agreed with Umar on the need for the media to be accurate in their report of proceedings, said he admires journalists a lot, because of their contributions to the enthronement of democracy in the country.
He said what Nigeria needed now was peace and not Decree 2. He urged Nigerians should pray for peace rather than anything that can disturb the peace of the nation.
Another member of Saraki’s legal team, Paul Usoro (SAN) later cross-examined Wetkas.
Under cross-examination, Wetkas insisted that Saraki procured undeclared properties through bank loans of over N2.5billion.
When asked if he found any economic and financial infractions in the activities of Skyview properties limited (a company linked to Saraki), Wetkas said: “The only thing we found out during investigation is that, both Plots 2481 and 2481 Cadastral Zone, Maitama, Abuja were residential properties, and that loans were taken by Skyview from Guranty Trust Bank to develop the properties.
“The loan was in two tranches of N1.8billion and over N700million. When we interview the Managing Director of Skyview, he said the transactions were at the instance of the defendant, and that the property belongs to the defendant, that formed our basis of the ownership,” Wetkas said.
When asked if he ever confronted Saraki with their findings, Wetkas said he never did.
At this point, tribunal Chairman indicated his intention to adjourn proceedings on the ground that tribunal members had an engagement outside the tribunal premises.
Agabi and Usoro however sought a long adjournment. Agabi said he had written the tribunal about an appointment he has with his physicians.
Usoro also said he was engaging on a trip to Ghana. The tribunal later adjourned till June 15 for continuation of the trial.