It is no longer news that Senate President Bukola Saraki is facing the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), but what may not be so obvious is the fact that justice administration in Nigeria is also standing trial.
Though there may be divers interests from different quarters, ultimately, Nigerians are unanimous in their desire for a free, transparent judicial process that abides by established judicial procedures.
This cannot exactly be said for the trial of Saraki at the CCT as there are strong indications of unethical compromises involving Justice Danladi Umar which incidentally tainted the ruling of the CCT delivered last Thursday, March 24th striking out Saraki’s application.
The question is, what would Justice Danladi Umar be doing in a nocturnal meeting with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir David Lawal and the National Leader of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Chief Bola Tinubu on the night of Wednesday 23rd of March, less than 24 hours to delivering the ruling.
The SGF had hurriedly invited Umar for the meeting having sensed that public sentiments and legal opinions were weighing heavily in favour of Saraki’s application and against any possibility of striking out his application.
The fact is that the charge against Saraki is defective and in violation of Section 379 of ACJA which requires defendant’s statement to be part of the charge when being filed and also Section 3(d) which is an established precedent that requires prior invitation of the accused before charges are filed.
According to an impeccable source in close proximity to the Office of the SGF who craved anonymity, Umar on arrival at the meeting met Tinubu already seated with the SGF and the meeting which was very brief went straight to the point which was – Saraki must go.
Both men pressed it upon Umar to assume jurisdiction the next day and also proceed with the trial same day; a move that was contested by Kanu Agabi, Saraki’s lead counsel, after Umar assumed jurisdiction.
In order to avoid any mistakes, an untyped, hand-written ruling was given to Umar to go and read the next day striking out Saraki’s objection.
Expectedly, this impunity brought the CCT to grave disrepute the next day as Umar surprised the already exasperated audience with his incoherent delivery of the ruling, as he could hardly read the ‘ready-made’ judgment because it was not his writing and the sentences were difficult for him to piece together without creating moments of awkward silence and prolonged pauses which the audience could not help but notice.
Another issue of concern is the connection between Tinubu’s Nation newspaper and the CCT Chairman. A day before the ruling, Nation Newspaper carried a half page news advancing a legal argument why the CCT will rule against Saraki and to the shock of observers in the court, the wordings used by Justice Danladi Umar turned out to be the exact words of the Nation newspaper legal report.
It is bad enough that Justice Danladi Umar perfected the legal argument advanced by the Nation newspaper but how then did the Nation newspaper know the words to be used by Justice Umar if not that whoever planted the story was the same person that gave Umar the judgment he read?
It is understandable though that the SGF oversights the CCB and CCT and wields an overbearing influence over the tribunal but his involvement in altering the course of justice may erode trust and confidence in the capacity of the CCB and CCT to serve justice in matters brought before them.
Of recent the CCT chairman has become a regular visitor to the SGF which our source said may not be unconnected with the plot to hasten the conviction of Saraki at all cost.
The underhand deal to convict Saraki by hook or crook is however, not without benefit to Justice Danladi Umar. Umar has a case of N10m bribery allegation hanging around his neck and also a pending recommendation for his removal from the CCT by the former Attorney General to the Federation (AGF) Mohammed Adoke and former SGF, Chief Pius Anyim.
Our source also informed that she had learnt within the week that the SGF had spelt out the terms clearly for Umar that it is either Saraki is convicted or he (Umar) will be convicted. Umar was however assured that the recommendations for his removal will be withdrawn if he does the needful.
Sadly, the present scenario is a threat to Nigeria’s democracy and rule of law as it has become obvious that an accused before Danladi Umar’s CCT who has issues with the presidency cannot get justice.
The foregoing is reminiscent of the Justice Ayo Salami saga and makes a mockery of President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption posture. It further empties Mr. President’s claim of non-interference in judicial processes, especially with the involvement of principal stakeholders in his administration in derailing judicial process.
Meanwhile a group of lawyers under the aegis of Lawyers in Defence of Democracy has expressed their resolve to petition the presidency and the Senate on the matter stressing that, “This brazing manipulation of judicial process by interested parties must be condemned by all Nigerians if we must safeguard our judicial system. We are calling on the National Assembly to investigate the racketeering of justice delivery at the CCT. We shall submit a copy of our petition to the Presidency and the Senate by next week.”