By Yemi Oyeyemi, ABUJA.
Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki Tuesday asked the Court of Appeal, Abuja division to dismiss the false asset declaration charges brought against him by the Federal government.
Saraki, in his final argument on the appeal filed by the Federal government against the ruling of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), urged the appellate court to hold that the charges against him were unmeritorious and lacked substance.
In the final argument canvassed by a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Kanu Agabi SAN, the Senate President claimed that contrary to the government deposition, the 18 count charges were based on hearsay and deliberate falsehood against him.
He cited the evidence of a prosecution witness and Head of Investigation and Intelligence Unit, Mr. Samuel Madojemu, who testified that the Code of Conduct Bureau CCB, did not conduct any investigation on any asset matter relating to Saraki because there was no petition against the defendant.
The Senate President also said that the same witness admitted that CCB did not obtain any statement from him (Saraki) and that the charges were filed against him based on the information supplied by an unnamed team of investigators.
“From the totality of evidence adduced at the tribunal, it was absolutely cleared that the charges were based on hearsay that cannot be substantiated.
“I am surprised that the government claimed that the onus of proof lies on the part of the defendant hence, they did not call vital witnesses.
“This is fatal to the case of the prosecution because in a criminal matter as in the instant case, the onus of proof is to be discharged in compliance with relevant laws by the prosecution”, he said.
Agabi, therefore urged the appellate court to uphold the ruling of the Danladi Yakubu Umar led tribunal which had earlier discharged and acquitted Saraki for want of diligent prosecution and to hold that the appeal of the government lacked merit.
However, in his own submission, counsel to the Federal government, Rotimi Jacobs SAN, urged the Appeal Court to set aside the ruling of the CCT on account of miscarriage of justice.
Jacobs, who formulated five issues for determination by the Appeal Court pointed out that the tribunal erred in law by basing its ruling delivered on June 13, 2017, on hearsay.
He submitted that oral evidence made in support of documentary evidence as in the instant case, cannot be said to be hearsay.
“Oral evidence is a hanger that holds the documentary evidence as in the instant case”, he said.
He therefore urged the appellate court to set aside the ruling of the tribunal on the grounds that the tribunal mis-directed itself in using hearsay as the bases for discharging and acquitting Saraki from the criminal charges against him.
Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson after taken arguments from the two parties announced that judgment in the appeal has been reserved and that the date for its delivery shall be communicated to parties in the suit.
The Federal government had in 2015, brought charges of false Asset Declaration against Saraki shortly after he emerged as Senate President, but Saraki was on June 13, 2017 discharged and acquitted by the tribunal in a ruling on a No Case submission on the grounds that the charges were based on evidence from doubtful sources.