The anticipated appearance of Senate President Bukola Saraki before the Code of Conduct Tribunal to face 13-count charges brought against him by the Federal Government for false declaration of assets was an anti-climax after all. His expected appearance was primarily the main reason for the media frenzy over the case. Saraki, who was supposed to appear before the court today, Friday September 18, 2015, refused to show up on the grounds of technicality.
According to his lawyer, Mahmud Magaji(SAN), the Senate President refused to appear before the Code of Conduct Tribunal because there is no substantive Attorney General of the Federation who is supposed to properly filed charges against him as contained in the law setting up the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
Earlier, Senator Saraki had gone to a Federal High Court in Abuja to seek an injunction, restraining the Code of Conduct Tribunal and the Federal Government from trying him. The case is pending as the two parties were asked to appear before the Federal High Court to determine whether the injunction should be granted.
These legal pyrotechnics of technicality have always stood in the way of Nigeria’s anti-corruption efforts. These technicalities have shielded high profile offenders from justice. The cards are stacked against the ordinary Nigerians who are convicted faster and given longer prison terms and harsher punishments than our big men and women.
I am however worried that the undue delay in the formation of President Buhari’s cabinet is now being used as a justification why Saraki could not appear before the Court of Conduct Tribunal on the grounds that no substantive Attorney General of the Federation has been appointed. Saraki’s counsel, Mahmud Magaji, argued that only the AG can properly file charges against his client in accordance with the law establishing the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
Wittingly or unwittingly, President Buhari has played into the hands of critics that expressed concern at the “undue delay” in the constitution of his cabinet. A lawyer’s job is to exploit the loopholes in the law in favour of his client, and to that extent, lawyers should not be entirely blamed for these pitfalls caused by technicalities. The science genius, Albert Einstein, says knowledge without imagination is useless! Those responsible for wording our laws so loosely as to help rogues to frustrate or delay justice are also partly to blame. Our laws are so rogue-friendly that they need a thorough overhaul if we intend to achieve faster and more effective prosecution of corruption cases against the high and mighty. Above all, corrupt Judges should be weeded out from the judiciary because they seem not guided by their conscience and sense of social responsibility. We need judicial activist Judges in the war against corruption. When you defang the law, impunity rules society!