“There is condition precedent before this court (Code of Conduct Tribunal) that the accused person (Bola Tinubu) ought to have been invited by the Code of Conduct Bureau before this charge was filed…it however failed to adduce evidence of invitation it extended to the accused person prior to charge. Consequently, it will be proper for me at this stage to cease further exercise of jurisdiction since the condition precedent was not met before the charge was filled.” –Justice Danladi Umar
(Chairman, CCT in Tinubu’s Case, Nov. 30th, 2011).
“The Tribunal has since realised that the decision it made on the case between FRN vs. Tinubu was in error and has clearly departed from it.”
–Justice Danladi Umar
(Chairman, CCT when discharging Saraki’s objections, 24th March, 2016).
“…Under Section 3(d) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, CCB ought to have confronted him (Saraki) with the alleged infractions in his Asset Declaration forms before charges were instituted against him.”
–Kanu Agabi (SAN), Saraki’s Defence Counsel).
There is no doubt that on-going trial of Senate President Saraki has opened up Nigeria criminal justice system cum jurisprudence, to ridicule and all manner of judicial contradictions by the same temple of justice, who are supposed to be custodian of the law. The above self-contradictory rulings of Justice Danladi Umar when discharging Saraki’s objections vis-à-vis his ruling on Tinubu’s case in 2011, especially when juxtaposed with the argument of Defence Counsel, left much to be desired.
Justice Danladi Umar made Nigerians to understand that CCT under his Chairmanship “has since realised that the decision it made on the case between FRN vs. Tinubu was in error and has clearly departed from it”. The thought provoking and mind-illuminating questions this writer would like to pose to discerning legal luminaries and informed Nigerians are as follows: what if Tinubu was sentenced to years of imprisonment in “error” by Justice Umar-led CCT, would he had accepted publicly that the infamous judgement was passed in “error”? Would Tinubu have kept quite after realising that he was sentenced in “error”?
When did he “realised” and “departed” from the so-called erroneous ruling? Would Nigerians have known that the CCT erred in discharging Tinubu if not for Saraki’s trial? Was Justice Umar’s erroneous ruling not a major setback on the anti-corruption crusade? Did he tender unreserved apology to Nigeria’s Tax Payers for wasting their hard-earned resources? Are we sure that Justice Umar-led CCT will not “realise” tomorrow, when presiding over another politically-instigated trial that his prospective verdict on Saraki’s case “was” done in error?
Justice Danladi Umar based his ruling on the fact CCB did not invite Tinubu to clear his name before filing charges. Did CCB invite Saraki to clear discrepancies discovered in Assets Declaration form before proceeding with filing of charges? Why different strokes for different folks? The same Panel of CCT Judges, laws but different rulings? Is Tinubu more Nigerian than Saraki? Is Justice Umar operating with different laws for individuals? Does Justice Umar still reserve moral impetus and legal objectivity to proceed with this all-important trial, having indicted himself via inconsistent rulings?
Was Tinubu set free by Danladi Umar because Northern Oligarchy wanted to use him to upstage GEJ, in favor of President Buhari? Why is Justice Umar alluding to error? Is error not the same as miscarriage of justice? Who bears consequences of Justice Umar’s erroneous rulings? Why must we allow a Judge to be experimenting with high profile cases? Can’t this Danladi Umar step down as Chairman of CCT? Must he continue with Saraki’s trial, after gross display of incompetence and sense of biasedness?
Why would judicial pronouncements, in sensitive trial that has already attracted international attention been made base on a Judge’s whims and caprices, of which will be later disguised as “error”? Answers to above articulated questions, will go a long way in assuaging restive thoughts, racing through the mind of legal minds cum analysts, interested in the outcome of this trial for posterity and sustenance of anti-corruption fight, solely anchored on rule of law cum well-versed judicial precedents.
In furtherance of judicial voyage of contradictions, Justice Danladi Umar’s led CCT said that both the law that established it and the 1999 Constitution, as amended, conferred it with requisite jurisdiction to hear and determine the case against the defendant. Relying on the decided case-law in FRN vs. Atiku Abubakar, 2007, 8-NWLR, the Tribunal said, it was vested with the powers to handle allegations bordering on breach of Code of Conduct by public officers.
The mindboggling incongruities in CCT rulings on jurisdiction, as unknowingly cited by Justice Danladi Umar in FRN vs. Atiku Abubakar, can be highlighted further, when juxtaposed with the judgment of the CCT panel in Tinubu’s case vis-à-vis discharging of Saraki’s objections. In letting Bola Tinubu off the hook, Justice Umar-led CCT ruled: “There is condition precedent before this court that the accused ought to have been invited by the Code of Conduct Bureau before this charge was filed…Consequently, it will be proper for me at this stage to cease further exercise of jurisdiction since the condition precedent was not met before the charge was filled”.
In the foregoing context, Justice Umar established that there was judicial “precedent before the court”, which enabled him “to cease further exercise of jurisdiction” because the condition precedent was not met. Which precedent was Justice Umar referring to in FRN vs. Tinubu’s case? Was FRN vs. Atiku Abubakar, 2007, not there in 2011 as judicial precedent, when Tinubu was set free by this CCT headed by Justice Umar?
Why did CCT under the supervision of Justice Umar use judicial precedent of 2007 to discharge Saraki’s objections but refused to apply same to Tinubu’s case in 2011? If Justice Umar ceased further jurisdiction in Tinubu’s case as a result of the prosecuting counsel’s inability to meet conditional precedent before the court, why is he enforcing CCT jurisdiction on a related case, where prosecuting made similar infractions against conditional precedent before the same court ruled by him?
There is clear conflict of judgments and interest by Justice Umar-led CCT already, when compared with judicial precedent, in this on-going trial of Senate President Saraki, which is affirming assumptions of people of my school of thought that this trial, is more of political persecution cum vendetta, than anti-corruption fight. As much as we need to get rid of corruption in our polity, we cannot submerge and trample upon fundamental rights of individuals to fair hearing, via inconsistent judicial rascality, as exhibited by flip-flopping of current Code of Conduct Tribunal rulings.
Nwobodo Chidiebere wrote in from Abuja.