*Judge says he won’t tolerate frivolous applications Senators loyal to Bukola Saraki have come under fire for summoning the Chairman of CCT, Justice Danladi Umar, who is presiding at the embattled Senate President’s trial for alleged falsification of assets.
The Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petition had summoned Justice Umar to appear before it in person in respect of an allegation of corruption levelled against him.
The invitation, on a day the judge ruled that Saraki’s trial should run daily, brings a new twist to the saga. Anyway, the CCT chairman has immediately wrote the Senate panel that he will not be available because he has a serious matter he is handling.
Reacting, some senior lawyers insisted that the senators were wrong to have invited His Lordship.
Professor of law Fidelis Oditah (SAN, QC), rights activist Femi Falana (SAN), Norrison Quaker (SAN) and law teacher Wahab Shittu, in separate interviews, said the invitation of the CCT chair, apart from raising suspicion, was illegal and uncalled for.
In Oditah’s view, the Senate does not have the powers to invite Justice Umar over allegations of corruption, thereby preventing him from performing his duties.
“They don’t have such powers. Are they a court of law themselves?” he asked.
The Senate’s oversight functions include monitoring of how monies appropriated to agencies are spent, not to invite anyone over a corruption allegation like an anti-graft agency.
He said Justice Umar’s invitation when the Senate President is undergoing trial before him is suspect. He added that Justice Umar cannot abandon his assignment to answer the Senate’s call.
Femi Falana Reacts
In his statement titled: “The illegal summons on Code of Conduct Tribunal Chairman”, Falana accused the leadership of the Senate of “attempting to frustrate the ongoing trial of the Senate President”.Describing the action as a “contemptuous reaction”, Falana said: “It is pertinent to point out that the Ethics Committee of the Senate lacks the power to summon the Tribunal Chairman to testify in respect of a criminal investigation.
“More so that the allegation being examined by the Ethics Committee of the Senate is the subject matter of a pending criminal case at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting in Abuja.”
He added: “The Ethics Committee of the Senate is advised to withdraw its illegal summons which has been issued and served on the Code of Conduct Tribunal Chairman.
“Instead of exposing the Nigerian people to further undeserved embarrassment over the Saraki case, the Senate is enjoined to enhance the fight against corruption by passing the Whistle Blowers Bill, the Proceeds of Crime Bill and the Witness Protection Bill, which were passed by the 7th National Assembly but were not signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan.”