Amid the controversy generated by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) order for the arrest of Senate President Bukola Saraki, the police said, yesterday, they were yet to receive a bench warrant to effect it.
“I am yet to see one”, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Solomon Arase, said while responding to an inquiry from reporters.
The CCT, headed by Justice Danladi Umar, had, in a ruling on Friday, ordered the IGP and other security agencies to arrest Saraki and produce him before it tomorrow (Monday) to face a 13-count charge bordering on corruption and false declaration of assets. The order and subsequent bench warrant followed Saraki’s failure to appear before the tribunal for arraignment.
The CCT order was in negation of an Abuja Federal High Court order, on Thursday, stopping the tribunal from commencing the trial of the Senate President.
While stopping the trial, the High Court summoned the Federal Ministry of Justice to appear before it tomorrow (Monday) to show cause why Saraki should be prosecuted.
The court equally summoned the CCT Chairman, Umar; the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Bureau, Mr. Sam Saba; as well as a Deputy Director in the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. M.S. Hassan, who signed the charge sheet upon which Saraki is to be prosecuted at the CCT, to appear before it.
“The police are yet to receive the Code of Conduct Tribunal bench warrant”, ordering the Senate President’s arrest, a statement by the Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), ACP Adebisi Kolawole, also said on Saturday.
Meanwhile, senior lawyers, who spoke to newsmen, on Saturday, faulted the order of Justice Umar, the CCT Chairman, which they described as judicial recklessness.
The Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), including constitutional lawyer and human right activist, Chief Mike Ozehkome, equally dismissed the CCT’s position that it shares coordinate jurisdiction with the Federal High Court.
Ozehkome said: “What Justice Umar did amounted to judicial recklessness and a deliberate invitation to anarchy. It is a clear example of using the institution of the judiciary to abuse the citizens fundamental right.
“It is judicial recklessness in the sense that there was already a subsisting order by Justice A.R. Mohammed of the FHC who had ordered the tribunal Chairman and officers of the Attorney General of the Federation that signed the charge against the Senate President to appear before him on Monday.
“In law, what Justice Umar ought to have done was to tell his lawyers to go to the Federal High Court to set aside the order or appeal against it. For him to have been shown a copy of the order and he said `I have seen it’ and still went ahead to issue a bench warrant against Saraki is most reckless and irresponsible.”
On the power of the CCT, the SAN said: “It is a fallacy for the CCT Chairman to think that he has coordinate jurisdiction with the Federal High Court. Maybe the Chairman is an illiterate on our law and constitutional organogram of the judiciary. If he is aware, he will know that the CCT is not part of the courts recognised by Section 6 of the Constitution which specifically lists all the superior courts and the CCT is not one of them.”
On his part, Mr. Utstaz Yunus Usman, SAN, said: “My take is that if there is an order from another court, the CCT ought not to have issued bench warrant because the Federal High Court, whether rightly or wrongly, if a court gives an order, even if you are of coordinate jurisdiction, the other court ought not to proceed with the matter.
“The CCT Chairman ought to have asked the prosecution to go and vacate the order of the Federal High Court first. It is very obvious from this case that politicians are trying to bring anarchy in this country. If there is an order, it ought to be vacated before the bench warrant. The way they are going, politicians should be careful not to bring anarchy and lawlessness to this nation.”
Similarly, an Abuja based lawyer, Mr. Ugochukwu Ezekiel, said: “Basically, the CCT and the Federal High Court are two separate courts. Though I expected Saraki to obey the summon of the court, the manner the bench warrant was issued even when a Senior Advocate of Nigeria had volunteered to produce him in court on the next adjourned date makes one suspicious of the motive behind the action of the CCT.
“The CCT should not have proceeded with the bench warrant. Lawyers are ministers in the temple of justice. If a SAN made an undertaking from the Bar, the tribunal ought to have held on till Monday”.