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DR. OLUBUKOLA ABUBAKAR SARAKI v. FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA

(2016) LPELR-40013(SC)

In The Supreme Court of Nigeria

On Friday, the 5th day of February, 2016

SC.852/2015


Before Their Lordships

MAHMUD MOHAMMED Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

WALTER SAMUEL NKANU ONNOGHEN Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

IBRAHIM TANKO MUHAMMAD Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

NWALI SYLVESTER NGWUTA Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

KUDIRAT MOTONMORI OLATOKUNBO KEKERE-EKUN Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

CHIMA CENTUS NWEZE Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

AMIRU SANUSI Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria


Between

DR. OLUBUKOLA ABUBAKAR SARAKI - Appellant(s)

AND

FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA - Respondent(s)


Other Citations

; ;


Summary

INTRODUCTION This is an appeal that borders on the jurisdiction and competence of the Code of Conduct Tribunal. FACTS This is an appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Holden at Abuja in appeal No. CA/A/551/2015 delivered on the 30th day of October, 2015 in which the court dismissed the appeal of appellant against the ruling of the Code of Conduct Tribunal in charge No CCT/ABJ/01/2015 delivered on the 18th day of September, 2015 in which the tribunal held that the criminal charge preferred against appellant was competent despite the absence of a sitting Attorney-General of the Federation and issued a bench warrant against appellant for his failure to appear before the tribunal and answer/plead to the charges preferred against him. The Appellant was a two-term Governor of Kwara State, between May, 2003 and May, 2011. While in the said office the appellant filed, as required by law, four asset declaration forms and submitted same to the Code of Conduct Bureau. These forms were duly investigated by the Bureau and other relevant agencies of government as a result of which it was allegedly found that the appellant allegedly corruptly acquired many properties while in office as Governor of Kwara State but failed to declare some of them in the said forms earlier filled and submitted to the relevant authorities. It was also allegedly discovered that the appellant made an anticipatory declaration of assets upon his assumption of office as Governor of Kwara State which he acquired later. It was also alleged that the appellant sent money abroad for the purchase of properties in London and that he maintained an account outside Nigeria while serving as the said Kwara State Governor. It was the discovery of these alleged violations of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers that the Code of Conduct Bureau initiated a criminal proceeding against the appellant before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Holden at Abuja. Upon serving of the summons on him, the appellant filed a motion dated 17th September, 2015 before the Code of Conduct Tribunal challenging the competence of charge No.CCT/ABJ/01/2015 and a suit each before the Federal High Court Holden at Abuja and Lagos in which he also challenged the validity of the criminal proceedings initiated against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal. In the course of the proceedings in the tribunal on the 18th day of September. 2015 appellant contended that since there was no sitting Attorney-General of the Federation before of at the time charge No CCT/ABJ/01/2015 was filed before the tribunal the said charge was incompetent and that the appellant would not appear before the said tribunal etc. The tribunal overruled the objection of the appellant and issued a bench warrant against appellant and adjourned the case to 19th September 2015 to enable appellant appear and take his plea but the appellant did not so appear, resulting in the tribunal renewing its order or bench warrant and adjourned the matter to 22nd September 2015. On 22nd September, 2015 the appellant voluntarily appeared before the tribunal in person as a result of which the charges preferred against him were read to him and he pleaded not guilty thereto as a result of which the warrant of arrest/bench warrant issued against him was revoked, and the appellant granted bail on self recognizance and the matter adjourned to the 21st, 22nd and 23rd of October, 2015 for hearing. However, on the 2nd day of October, 2015, the appellant filed an appeal against the ruling of the tribunal of 18th September, 2015 before the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal which resulted in a further appeal before the Supreme Court. ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION The issues for the determination formulated in the appellants brief as follows:- ''1. Whether the majority decision of the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division was right in the interpretation of the Constitution when it held that the Code of Conduct Tribunal was properly constituted in law when it sat on 18/09/2015 with just the Chairman and one (1) other member in contravention of the provisions of paragraph 15(1) of the 5th schedule of the 1999 constitution as to exercise the powers and jurisdiction vested by the 1999 Constitution and if the answer is in the negative, whether the charge and the entire proceedings inclusive of the Ruling in issue is not null and avoid and of no consequence? (ISSUE NO 1) (Grounds 1 and 2). 2. Whether the majority decision was right when it held that the Code of Conduct Tribunal is a Court of Limited Criminal jurisdiction competent and empowered to issue a Bench Warrant against the appellant in the event of his absence from the proceedings of the Tribunal? (ISSUE No 2)(Ground 3). 3. Having regard la the cleat wording of section 24(2) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, Cap C15 2004 whether the 13 count charge preferred against the Appellant by someone other than the Attorney-General of the Federation is competent? (ISSUE No 3) (Ground 4). 4. Whether the majority decision of the Court of Appeal was correct in law when it held that notwithstanding the lack of proper service an the Appellant of the Criminal Summons to appear before the Code of Conduct Tribunal on the 18th of September 2015 such a vice was a mere irregularity cured by the appearance of the appellant at the proceedings regardless of the existence of Appellant's conditional appearance on protest? (ISSUE No. 4) (Ground 5). 5. Whether the majority decision of the court below was right when it justified the refusal of the Code of Conduct Tribunal to obey the Federal High Court to appear before it and show cause why it should not order a stay of further proceedings on the ground that the order in issue was not one specifically asking the lower Tribunal to stay its proceedings? (ISSUE No. 5) (Ground 6) 6. Whether the majority decision of the Court of Appeal was correct when it held that the Code of Conduct Tribunal was a criminal court empowered to apply the Administration of Criminal Justice Act? (ISSUE No 6) (Ground 7). HELD On the whole, the Court held tha it found no merit in the appeal and the appeal was accordingly dismissed. The judgment of the Court of Appeal delivered on the 30th day of October, 2015 dismissing the appeal of the appellant against the ruling of Code of Conduct Tribunal of 18th September, 2015 was thereby affirmed.


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