False Asset Charge: Saraki Closes Defence

Bukola Saraki

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has closed his defence after resuming for the continuation of his trial on false asset declaration on Tuesday.

Mr. Saraki returned to the tribunal on Tuesday to defend three of the 18-count charge of alleged false declaration of asset brought against him in 2015.

In December, he was ordered by the Appeal Court to return to the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, venue of the trial to defend the three charges.

At the continuation of the trial on Tuesday, Mr. Saraki’s lawyer, Paul Usoro, presented a single witness, who was a former commissioner of the Code of Conduct Bureau, Ademola Adegbo.

After introducing the witness, Mr. Usoro applied to admit Mr. Adegbo’s resume in court as evidence.

Mr. Edegbo was a commissioner and member of the board in 2015 when the case was first filed.

Reacting to the application for the submission of Mr. Adegbo’s resume, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, objected to the admissibility of the said document.

Mr. Jacobs said the resume intended to be admitted in evidence had no relationship with the three-count charge Mr. Saraki was asked to defend himself against.

In his response, however Mr. Usoro insisted that his client would like to tender the resume to demonstrate ”the degree of qualification obtained by the witness on the subject matter of the case.”

In a ruling, the tribunal chairman, Danladi Umar, admitted the document in evidence stressing that the resume ”would not constitute a problem for the prosecution.”

“Having listened to the submissions of counsel, I am of the opinion that the resume sought to be admitted is not an issue that should cause any contempt. I hereby admit that the resume is relevant and would not constitute any problem for the prosecution,” Mr. Umar said.

During the cross-examination of the defence witness, Mr. Jacobs asked a series of questions intended to show that the witness was ‘not constitutionally supposed to be occupying the office, as a CCB commissioner in 2015.”

According to Mr. Jacobs, Mr. Adegbo was legally supposed to have left office in 2015, having assumed the appointment as a commissioner of the bureau in 2010.

Reacting to a question put to him by Mr. Jacobs regarding the constitutionality of his stay in the office, Mr. Adegbo insisted that ”according to law, he was still a commissioner at the time.”

A drama ensued during the cross examination when a second member of the bench, Williams Atedze referred to Mr. Jacobs as; ‘You’.

Swiftly, Mr. Jacobs responded saying he was not a ‘you’ but that his name is ‘Rotimi Jacobs’.

Again, when Mr. Atedze attempted to address him during the heat of the questions and answers session, he (Atedze) asked Mr. Jacobs, ”to be careful.”

In a quick reaction, however the prosecution lawyer said: “I cannot be careful. I cannot be careful my lord! That shows that your lordship is intimidating me”.

Mr. Atedze then explained that the purpose of his warning was for the prosecution lawyer to avoid acting in a confrontational manner with the defence witness.

Subsequently, Mr. Jacobs agreed to be calm in his usage of language.

After a series of questions and answers, Mr. Usoro made two attempts to re-examine the witness on the things he said while responding to the questions asked by the prosecution counsel.

Both attempts were however objected to by Mr. Jacobs and the objections, upheld by the tribunal.

Subsequently, Mr. Saraki’s lead counsel approached the defendant for a short discussion.

When he returned to the bar, Mr. Kanu Agabi, a former Attorney General of the Federation told the court that his client (Saraki) does not intend to present any further witness. He therefore informed the court of their desire to close the defence.

The tribunal judge thus adjourned the matter till February 27 for adoption of addresses

Addressing journalists after the hearing, Mr. Usoro said the defence had intended presenting four witnesses, but decided to leave it at one, since they believed they would say what they had to say in their addresses.

“It is a matter of strategy. I think it is a dynamic strategy. You may decide in the cause of hearing your matter that you think you should change your strategy and simply close your case. Plenty of the things we want to ask the witness will come in the address,” said Mr. Usoro, a senior advocate of Nigeria.

In his opinion, however, Mr. Jacobs said the decision of the defence to close their case was at their discretion.

“It is at their discretion. The witness did not say anything about the charge. He did not contradict what we said. So I have nothing to bother myself about,” Mr. Jacobs said.

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