The prosecution in the ongoing trial of Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, appears to have run into fresh dilemma following the release of a legal opinion from the Ministry of Justice, which faulted the procedure for initiating prosecutions at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
The legal opinion, which was originally released in respect of the case filed against the former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe and which informed the withdrawal of the suit against the former minister at the CCT, had indicated that failure of the prosecution to obtain a statement from the suspects before filing that case was highly detrimental to the success of the suit.
Sources at the ministry confirmed that in line with the legal advice, the government, last week, withdrew the suit bordering on false asset declaration against Orubebe.
Sources confirmed that the decision to withdraw the charges was based on a legal advice from the Federal Ministry of Justice. in which it was strongly canvassed that the case against Orubebe as presently constructed and filed was fundamentally defective.
The Legal Advice issued by the Ministry of Justice, according to sources, was to the effect that since Orubebe was not invited to make a statement before he was dragged to the trial, the process might have negated the provisions of Section 379 (1) (a) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
The section lists prerequisites for embarking on criminal trial, indicating that one of the main items is the “copies of statements of the defendant.”
The Act also mentioned other ingredients of a trial to include the list of witnesses; list of exhibits to be tendered; summary of statements of the witnesses; copies of statement of the defendant, as well as other documents, report, or material that the prosecution intends to rely on for the prosecution.
The new criminal administration law also indicates that the prosecution must produce particulars of bail or bond, particulars of place of custody, particulars of plea bargain arranged and particulars of any previous interlocutory or remand proceedings in respect of the charge.
Legal luminaries at the Ministry of Justice were said to have told the Federal Government that without the statement of the defendant, the case could easily run into a hitch, adding that a similar situation led to the striking out of the suit filed against former governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Tinubu, in 2012.
A source had said: “That case against Saraki is already being encumbered by emerging details. The withdrawal of the suit against Orubebe is a clear pointer to the contents of a legal opinion in the Ministry of Justice, having looked at the contents of the Administration of Justice Act 2015.
Saraki’s counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi, had also last week, argued before the CCT that the Senate President’s case should be handled the same way as that of Tinubu, who was discharged on the basis of the failure of the CCT to invite him for his statement before the trial.
Agabi had told the CCT last week that panel that the case against Saraki was flawed since the Senate President was not invited to clarify issues concerning his asset declaration form before he was charged before the CCT.
He had submitted that the failure of the CCT to act on the asset declaration forms of Saraki for 13 years should constitute a peril to the suit.
He told the court: “If for any reason, the defendant has committed any offence he should be informed. The defendant has not been given any opportunity to defend himself against the charges. The AGF has no jurisdiction to prefer the charges and, therefore, the Tribunal has no jurisdiction to hear it.
“Under our constitution, the moment a man comes under justifiable suspicion, he must be informed promptly of the reasons for the suspicion.”
Source: Nigerian Tribune