HURIWA Seeks Independence For CCT/CCB From Presidency
Backs Supreme Court Ruling On Saraki
Foremost pro-democracy and civil society organization – Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has applauded the Supreme Court of Nigeria for the landmark judgment quashing the politically tainted prosecution over so-called partial assets’ declaration of Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki at the code of conduct tribunal by the president Buhari’s administration.
Also, HURIWA in the statement endorsed jointly by the National coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, asked the National Assembly to strengthen the autonomy of both the Code of Conduct Bureau [CCB] and Code of Conduct Tribunal [CCT] to remove them from the suffocating control of the executive arm of government.
HURIWA recalled that the apex court through a five-member panel led by Justice Dattijo Muhammad unanimously upheld Saraki’s appeal, by dismissing the remnant three counts, declaring the evidence led by the prosecution as hearsay.
HURIWA recalled that the Danladi Umar-led CCT had, in June last year, terminated the trial upon an application by Saraki, by dismissing the entire 18 counts preferred against the Senate President.
HURIWA recalled that the CCT’s decision was based on the grounds that the prosecution, with its four witnesses and 49 exhibits tendered, only led hearsay evidence which could not be the basis to link Saraki to the 18 counts preferred against him.
HURIWA recalled however, that the Court of Appeal in Abuja ruling on December 12, 2017, in an appeal filed by the Federal Government against the decision of the CCT, restored three out of the dismissed 18 counts and ordered Saraki to return to the CCT to defend the three charges.
HURIWA quoting the legal papers stated that while Saraki had appealed to the Supreme Court against the part of the Court of Appeal’s decision restoring three of the 18 counts, the Federal Government had cross-appealed against the part of the decision affirming the tribunal’s dismissal of the rest of the 15 counts.
HURIWA recalled that in its lead judgment on Friday, Justice Centus Nweze upheld Saraki’s appeal and dismissed the Federal Government’s appeal.
Justice Nweze agreed with the CCT that the evidence led by the prosecution at the tribunal was entirely hearsay.
HURIWA recalled that the Lead judgment held that the Court of Appeal was wrong to have restored three out the 18 counts earlier dismissed by the CCT when it agreed that the evidence led by the prosecution was hearsay but went ahead to isolate three of the counts as having been proved.
HURIWA recalled that Justice Nweze quoted a part of the Court of Appeal’s judgment where it held that “the prosecution failed to call those who have direct knowledge of the facts sought to be proved, to testify”.
HURIWA recalled that he faulted the Court of Appeal’s turn around to restore three of the counts based on the evidence it had declared as hearsay, Justice Nweze said was “equivalent to judicial equivalent of a forensic somersault”.
HURIWA also described as grotesque and weird the fact that Code of Conduct Bureau and the Code of Conduct Tribunal is under the supervision of the Secretary to the government of the federation rather than operate as an autonomous entity devoid of political controls.
The Rights group has therefore called for a reform of the law setting up the bodies to make them autonomous.
The Rights group said the decision by the Supreme Court of Nigeria to dismiss the charges against the Senate President means that there are still elegant and fearless justices in the nation’s temple of Justice who are determined to follow constitutional steps in the interpretation of matters in which the President has political interest against perceived political adversary.
HURIWA said it was exciting and commendable that the Supreme court of Nigeria has refused to be cowed by the pre-meditated and politically charged attacks and invasion of the private homes of justices by the Department of state services which is directly under the beck and call of Mr President who has chosen to manipulate the security agency to operate as overzealous attack dog of the President.
“From day one, we as a human rights body has always criticized the systematic clamp down unleashed on the leadership of the National Assembly following the independent way and manner that those holding offices in the National Assembly emerged without playing second fiddle to the executive branch of government.
“We had clearly condemned the overbearing executive lawlessness and recklessness exhibited by key persons in the executive arm of government who are bent on institutioning a dictatorship by crippling the autonomy of both the judiciary and legislature through carefully contrived subterfuge and choreographed/ kangaroo prosecution of key people especially in the National Assembly and the Senate specifically”.
“The verdict by the nation’s apex judicial forum has once more restored the belief and hope of the oppressed and marginalized Nigerians that the court is still the last hope of common man even as we are optimistic that the few bad eggs especially in the Appeal and Federal High Courts who are predisposed to be used as agents of destabilization of democracy and constitutional rule will be named, shamed and shown the way out of the judiciary so the corporate image of the Nigerian judiciary as an independent arm of government would be restored.”