The Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, sitting in Abuja, on Tuesday, deferred further hearing on all the cases pending before it till September.
Prominent among the cases include the 16-count criminal charge the federal government slammed against the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki. The tribunal had originally fixed Wednesday, July 13, to deliver ruling on a fresh application seeking to disqualify its Chairman, Justice Danladi Umar, from presiding over Saraki’s trial.
However, the CCT, via a statement by the Head of its Press & Public Relations Department, Mr. Ibraheem Al-hassan, said it has adjourned all sittings scheduled for this week and those to come within July and August, till the end of recess to be embarked by the Tribunal’s Judges soon.
According to the statement, “The decision was taken due to the ongoing Roundtable Discussion involving CCT and other critical stakeholders within and outside the country, to develop the Code of Ethics and Practice Directions for the Code of Conduct Tribunal to ensure fair and speedy trials, sponsored by European Union (EU) and implemented by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, (UNODC)”. Justice Umar however assured litigants currently with cases before the court, that they would be given new dates at the end of the vacation in September.
He said the new dates would be communicated to those whose cases are pending before the tribunal. “The Tribunal regrets the pains caused by the sudden change”, the statement added. The tribunal had on June 22, adjourned to rule on Saraki’s fresh bid to disqualify Justice Umar from presiding over his trial. Saraki, in the application he filed through his consortium of lawyers led by a former Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, asked Justice Umar to hands-off his trial, saying remarks the judge made in the open court on June 7, indicated his bias against the defendant.
He noted that Justice Umar had threatened that the defendant would face the full consequences of charges against him despite whatever delay tactics he chose to employ in the course of the trial. It was contention of the defence that the threat by Umar was a clear indication that the tribunal had made up its mind to convict the defendant at all cost. Saraki anchored his application on section 36 of the 1999 Constitution which relates to the principle of fair hearing. The embattled Senate President insisted that Umar’s remark made it obvious that he was likely to suffer bias and prejudice before the tribunal as presently constituted, saying he no longer has confidence in the impartiality of the CCT chairman.