Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, in Abuja was during the proceedings early yesterday thrown into crisis‎ over a fresh application filed by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, asking the chairman of the tribunal, Danladi Umar, to disqualify himself.
However, the tribunal chairman furiously ordered security officials to arrest and throw out Raphael Oluyede, one of the lawyers of the Senate president, for talking back at him yesterday.
Oluyede, who appeared for the first time in Saraki’s defence team before the CCT yesterday, asked Umar to disqualify himself from further handling the trial on the basis that he was allegedly under criminal investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Speaking on the application, the CCT judge, after threatening top throw the counsel out of the courtroom, said: “This motion filed by a mere busybody legal practitioner is not accepted by this tribunal,” just as he frowned at the defence team for allowing the motion.
“Members of the inner bar, you are to guide him. How can you allow such a rubbish thing from him?
“This motion is of no consequence. As far as this tribunal is concerned, it’s thrown away.”
The application, which was filed on Wednesday at the CCT, read in part: “An order disqualifying/recusing the Honourable Justice Danladi Umar (chairman of this tribunal) from sitting on the panel of this tribunal for hearing and determination of the charges filed in these proceedings for the reason that his continued presence on the said panel of this tribunal offends the provisions of section 36 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which prescribes that ‘In the determination of his civil rights and obligations, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority, a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality.’
“A likelihood of bias by the tribunal against the appellant… undermines and withdraws from the tribunal, the jurisdiction which it is normally endowed….
But the tribunal chairman, who passed an EFCC letter clearing him of culpability in the alleged N10million bribery allegation referred to in the fresh application to the prosecuting counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs, overruled Oluyede and ordered him to sit down, and order the defence counsel refused to obey.
The development immediately threw the courtroom into loud murmurs, and palpable tension.
However, the presence of security men stopped the situation from degenerating any further.
Pleading for patience from the tribunal chairman, Jacobs reiterated that the EFCC had since cleared him (Umar) of the allegations in March 2015 while the charges against Saraki were only filed before the CCT in September 2015.
“My lord be patient, we will handle the application as we effectively did at the Federal High Court. We will expose the frivolity of the application even to the person who filed it,” he said.
While calmness was being restored, the defence counsel, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) walked into the court room and took lead of the team for Agabi.
Without referring to the drama that took place before his arrival, Usoro simply informed the tribunal that the defence was ready to continue the cross-examination of the first prosecution witness, but that was briefly interrupted by the arrival of Agabi into the courtroom.
As at the time of filing in this report, Chief Agabi was still cross- examining the prosecution witness.