By Dipo Olowookere
A five-man panel of the Supreme Court led by Justice Dattijo Muhammad has unanimously upheld an appeal filed by the Senate President, Mr Bukola Saraki, over his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) bordering on alleged false declaration of his assets.
At the ruling on Friday, the apex court dismissed the remnant three counts, declaring the evidence led by the prosecution as hearsay.
In his lead judgment today, Justice Centus Nweze upheld Mr Saraki’s appeal and quashed the appeal filed by federal government.
Justice Nweze agreed with the CCT that the evidence led by the prosecution at the tribunal was entirely hearsay.
He 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.
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”.
Faulting 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”.
Recall that in June 2017, the Justice Danladi Umar-led CCT had terminated the trial upon an application by the Senate President, by dismissing the entire 18 counts preferred against him.
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.
However, 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 Mr Saraki to return to the CCT to defend the three charges.
While Mr 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.
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