The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) sitting in Abuja on Tuesday adjourned the alleged false declaration of assets case involving Senate President Bukola Saraki to October 21.
The Senate President is facing a 13-count charge bordering on alleged false declaration of assets.
Saraki pleaded not guilty to all 13 charges of corruption and false declaration of assets when they were read to him.
He arrived at the tribunal a few minutes past nine and was put in the accused box, where he made his plea.
However, he broke protocol and made a personal statement while in the box.
He said he was at the tribunal as the Senate President to subject himself to the law, emphasising that the 2001 Act of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) mandated it to inform a public officer of a breach of the code of conduct rules first before taking the matter to the CCT.
Saraki said he was neither informed nor notified that he had supposedly breached the rules by the CCB, but only learnt of it later when the matter came before the tribunal.
He also implied that he was on trial for political reasons. His submission earned him a thunderous applause from his supporters in court.
Earlier proceedings were stalled for almost an hour owing to power failure.
Before his plea, Saraki’s counsel, Joseph Daodu (SAN), tried to stop the “marching” of the Senate President into the accused box, raising objection over jurisdiction of the tribunal to proceed.
Daodu argued that the trial of his client was not criminal in nature, adding that it was not in the jurisdiction of the tribunal to try criminal cases.
He further said that the tribunal did not have the power to punish offenders for corruption or issue bench warrants.
Daodu also raised objection to the referral of Saraki as an “accused person”, insisting that he should be called a “defendant,” because his alleged offences were not criminal in complexion.
Prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, countered his argument by stating that the tribunal had the jurisdiction to try criminal offences, and urged it to order Saraki to enter the accused box to make his plea.
But the chairman of the CCT, Danladi Umar, ruled that tribunal had jurisdiction over criminal matters and ordered the Senate President to step into the accused box.
Saraki, afterwards, stepped into the box where he sat down to make his plea.
Dressed in a milk-coloured flowing ‘agbada’, his usual fashion style, Saraki entered the court room with a number of senators led by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and member of opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He was guided to the second row of seats and he sat down poring over his phone. Intermittently, he would jerk his knee and fiddle with his fingers.
After unsuccessful attempts to halt his trial, the latest of which was on Monday, he had said on Monday that he would appear at the tribunal.
“Following the adjournment for the determination of the motion on notice and the substantive suit before the Federal High Court to September 30, and the appeal pending before the Court of Appeal adjourned to September 29, the Senate President has decided, as a law abiding citizen, to appear before the tribunal in the interim,” a statement by his media office had said.
Meanwhile, the Federal Ministry of Justice will present five witnesses to prove the case against Saraki. Jacobs disclosed this while presenting his case before the Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja on Tuesday.
He said he was in possession of “hard” evidence to prove the Senate President’s guilt of false declaration of assets. Jacobs added that he was ready to present his witness before the tribunal on Tuesday.
But Joseph Daodu, Saraki’s lawyer, asked the court for more time to prepare his defence. The tribunal granted his prayer, adjourning to October 21.