CCT trial: Saraki closes case after calling witness

THE trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki resumed at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) yesterday with his lawyers calling a witness.

He equally closed his case after the witness, Dr. Ademola Adebo, concluded his evidence.

The witness, an ex-commissioner with the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), told the court that he was familiar with assets’ declaration process.

He said at a time, he was engaged by CCB to simplify the CCB Assets Declaration Form and also created a portal so that public officers will not have to visit CCB to declare asset.

The witness identified some asset declaration forms filed by Saraki at the commencement and conclusion of his tenure as Kwara State Governor in 2007 and 2011, when he became a senator.

The witness, led in evidence by Paul Usoro (SAN), read from the forms where Saraki declared that he acquired Nos: 17A and 17B Macdonald, Ikoyi through sale of rice and sugar commodities.

In another form, the witness read where Saraki also said he bought the same houses through bank loan from GTB.

At the conclusion of his evidence-in-chief, the prosecution, led by Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), was about to begin cross-examining the witness when the tribunal’s chairman, Danladi Umar, announced a brief suspension of proceedings. He said the trial will resume in 30 minutes.

When proceedings resumed later, Adebo, under cross-examination, said he was a lecturer in the Ondo State University before his appointment as a member of the CCB in 2010.

He said he had lectured in two universities in the United States (U.S.) as Assistant Professor of Political Science before returning to Nigeria.

When asked to confirm if he was still a member of the CCB, the witness said the issue, relating to the dissolution of the board to which he belonged, was a subject of litigation in court.

When given copies of the asset declaration forms completed by Saraki and was asked to identify his signature or name, the witness said he did not sign any of Saraki’s forms.

The witness said he could not recall any other ex-governor that was charged before the tribunal beside a former Lagos State governor.

When asked if the CCB was only interested in prosecuting cases involving the poor public officers, Adebo said the CCB was not expected to always prosecute public servants but to also protect them.

He blamed the CCB’s inability to function effectively on the lack of structure, a development, he said, informed why there was effort, while he was a member, to restructure it for efficiency.

When Jacobs indicated that he was through with the witness, Usoro’s attempted to ask the witness further questions.

The CCT Chairman rejected the attempt, upon an objection by Jacobs on the grounds that the questions do not relate to issue that emanated during cross-examination.

At that point, the CCT Chairman asked parties to agree on the next date. But, while Usoro, Jacobs and the tribunal’s Registrar were trying to agree on a date, Saraki, who sat in the dock, signalled to the leader of his legal team, Kanu Agabi (SAN), who promptly approached him.

Saraki conferred briefly with Kanu, shortly after which the lawyer informed the tribunal that the defence has made up its mind to close its case.

The announcement came as a surprise to all, because the defence had, at the commencement of proceedings, indicated its intention to call four witnesses. Agabi was, however, silent on why the defence changed its mind.

The CCT Chairman later adjourned to February 27 for the adoption of parties’ final written address.