The trial of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, is continuing today, Tuesday, with the cross-examination of the prosecution witness, Michael Wetkas.
Mr. Saraki is facing a 16-count charge of fraud levelled against him by the Code of Conduct Bureau.
The bureau had on September 16, 2015 filed a 13-count charge against Mr. Saraki for alleged false and anticipatory declaration of assets, but increased the number to 15 on April 18 and added one more charge on April 27.
After the charges were filed, the senate president was invited to appear before the tribunal on September 18.
In his reaction, Mr. Saraki approached the Federal High Court on September 17 to block the trial describing the charges as frivolous and politically motivated.
On September 18, Mr. Saraki failed to appear at the CCT, causing the tribunal’s chairman, Danladi Umar, to grant a request by the prosecution that Mr. Saraki be arrested and forced to appear at the trial by the next sitting on September 21.
Mr. Saraki’s lawyer, Joseph Daudu, had prayed the court to adjourn till Mr. Saraki’s application was determined at the Federal High Court, but the tribunal held that the FHC could not stop the trial, at the tribunal.
Further, Mr. Saraki filed an ex-parte motion containing 12 grounds of appeal at the Appeal court, asking it to issue an order demanding the CCT to revoke the bench warrant against him.
He also asked the Appeal Court to compel the tribunal to stay its proceedings pending the determination of its applications at the higher court.
On September 21, Mr. Saraki again failed to appear before the tribunal, and explained that he would only appear after the Court of Appeal ruled on his applications.
Same day – September 21 – the Court of Appeal, presided by Justice Moore Adumein, dismissed Mr. Saraki’s appeal on the grounds that the court does not grant ex-parte motions.
The court therefore asked Mr. Saraki to face his trial till the determination of his application for stay of proceedings.
On September 22, Mr. Saraki pleaded not guilty to his charges and was granted bail on self-recognition. The case was then adjourned till October 21.
On that date, the tribunal again adjourned till November 5 to await the determination of other aspects of Mr. Saraki’s applications at the Court of Appeal.
On October 30, Mr. Adumein dismissed the application for stay of proceedings, for lacking in merit.
But a day before the commencement of his trial at the CCT, Mr. Saraki approached the Supreme Court, with a similar appeal, demanding that the tribunal be prevented from continuing the trial.
On October 5, Mr. Saraki’s lawyers, Ahmed Magaji and Ahmed Raji, withdrew their representation after a failed attempt to compel the CCT to halt ther trial, pending the determination of the fresh suit at the Supreme Court.
The action of the two lawyers forced the tribunal to adjourn till November, 19.
On November 12, however the Supreme Court issued an order, restraining the tribunal from continuing with the trial till the determination of the application before the Supreme Court.
Subsequently, the tribunal adjourned its sittings indefinitely. It however issued a statement after the Supreme Court on February 5 ruled that Mr. Saraki should return to the tribunal to continue his trial.
In its statement, the CCT said it would continue with the trial on March 10, but had to resume sitting March 11, following a request from the defence counsel.
On March 11, Mr. Saraki appeared at the tribunal with 65 lawyers led by Kanu Agabi, who took over from Joseph Daudu.
Mr. Agabi, a former Attorney General, tabled an application before the tribunal chair, Danladi Umar, asking him to rule on Mr. Saraki’s earlier motion, challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal.
After the defence and prosecution counsel deliberated on the fresh application, ruling was reserved for March 18.
On the next adjourned date, Mr. Saraki’s lead counsel again prayed the tribunal to strike out the charges against his client, describing it as invalid.
Mr. Agabi argued that the CCB aired when it failed to allow Mr. Saraki the privilege of affirming or denying his charges, before charging him.
The case was then adjourned till March 24 when the tribunal, again, dismissed Mr. Saraki’s applications for lacking in merit and ordered the prosecution to commence its presentation of witnesses on the next adjourned date.
Subsequently on April 5, prosecution witness, Michael Wetkas, an operative of the EFCC began testifying against Mr. Saraki.
Mr. Wetkas told the tribunal that Mr. Saraki received salaries for four years after he stopped being governor of Kwara State, in 2011.
He stated that Mr. Saraki maintained a foreign account with the American Express Service, where he transferred $73, 233: 28 from his Nigerian account with the Guaranty Trust Bank.
On April 18, Mr. Saraki’s trial was slated to continue on daily bases, while the Bureau amended his charges with an additional two counts.
On April 28, Mr. Saraki pleaded not guilty to the two new counts, as well as an additional count added to the charge on April 27.
Mr. Saraki, whose applications were dismissed on April 15 and 25, respectively by the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal, also approached the Appeal Court with another application on April 28 to contest the decision of the tribunal to dismiss an application by one of his counsels, Raphael Oluyede, that Mr. Umar should disqualify himself.
The tribunal fixed May 10 for the continuation of Mr. Saraki’s trial, after dismissing the application on April, 28.