An interesting dimension has been added to the unfolding political drama surrounding the travails of the embattled Senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki, with a coalition of civil societies and National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) threatening to lead mass protests to embassies in Abuja.
The coalition spearheaded by the Director-General of Heritage Centre, Dr. Katch Ononuju and NANS President, Tijani Usman Shehu, said the witch-hunt of Senator Saraki and his supporters were unnecessary and warned that it should be discontinued.
Speaking on behalf the group on Saturday night, Ononuju said: “Buhari lacks the political will to fight corruption. We are very worried with the turn out of things. The action by the Senate to appoint its own leadership is the reason behind this witch-hunt. Accidents have been arranged for senators who supported Saraki. DSS have been used to trail senators. The current CCB should not exist. The current leadership came into office in 2010 and their tenure ought to have elapsed in April.
“The power that seeks to undermine our democracy and the Senate is gaining the upper hand. We want corruption to be fought, but we do not want a return to the days of Olusegun Obasanjo where arrests where targeted. The president makes appointments and does not refer them to the Senate for confirmation because he does not like the leadership there.
“Our democracy is under threat and that is why we are talking to Nigerians. Since Buhari took over, everything is going down. We are calling on the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to protect the integrity of the courts by ensuring that injunctions are respected. We will march to every embassy to tell them that our democracy is under threats.”
The Federal Government had on September 11 filed a 13 count charge against Saraki before the CCT and the case fixed for Friday for his arraignment.
But in an effort to stop his arraignment, Saraki approached the Federal High Court in Abuja with an ex-parte application seeking to restrain the Federal Government, Code of Conduct Bureau and CCT from arraigning him.
In his ruling on the case, Justice Ahmed Mohammed had summoned the chairman of CCB, Mr. Sam Saba and a Deputy Director in the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Muslim Hassan to appear before it on Monday to show cause why Saraki’s application should not be granted.
When the matter came up on Friday before the tribunal, the accused person was represented by Joseph Daudu (SAN) and Mahmud Magaji (SAN).
The prosecuting counsel (Hassan), argued that the accused was not in court despite the fact that he was served with the summons, adding that they exhibited it in their process.
He however prayed the tribunal to issue a bench warrant on Saraki for disobedience of court orders.
Justice Danladi Umar of the CCT had ordered that a bench warrant be issued on Saraki, for failing to appear and answer charges over alleged false declaration of assets.
The judge specifically ordered the Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase or other security agencies to arrest Saraki and produce him in court on Monday to take plea in the 13 count charges slammed on him by the Federal Government.
However, Saraki’s lead counsel and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), has filed an appeal asking the court to set aside the ruling saying, “it is trite that when an accuse files an application challenging the jurisdiction of a court/tribunal, to adjudicate on the charge brought before it, the accused need not be present in court.”
In the appeal, Daudu said the trial Judge Judge erred in law and “acted without jurisdiction by countenancing and assuming jurisdiction over the criminal trial/prosecution of the accused/appellant at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for a charge, which is being challenged at the FHC, Abuja in suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/775/2015 between Dr. Olubukola Abubakar Saraki vs Ministry of Justice and three others and in disobedience of the order of the FHC, Abuja Division dated September 17, 2015.”
He sought an order setting aside the order of the lower tribunal dated September 18 2015.