The trial of Senator Olubukola Saraki, Nigeria’s Senate President, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) will continue on Friday, March 11, 2016, since the Supreme Court ordered the senate president to go and face trial at the tribunal.
The trial itself has generated a lot of controversies among Nigerians outside the court room, while counsels to both sides have exchanged legal fireworks and sometimes employed tactics novel to the legal profession in order to further their cause.
Of all the cases instituted against individuals and organisations by the current administration, that of the senate president has generated the greatest interest among the citizenry to the extent that, most times, the trial was beamed live by major television stations. This is not unconnected with the fact that a majority of Nigerians believe that the trial is politically motivated as it was instituted shortly after Senator Bukola Saraki emerged the Senate President against the wishes and permutations of the leadership and chieftains of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Because of this, all manner of strategies and extra-judicial tactics have been deployed to sway the process against the senate president. In their usual manner, the traducers of Saraki, are already doing what they know how to do best: engage some willing and obviously compromised media outfits, both social and conventional, to intimidate, harass, denigrate and maliciously smear individuals and institutions handling the case just to get at the man.
The question should be asked why is it that a particular online medium based in New York would always publish fictitious and frivolous stories about the Saraki case only days to resumed hearings, making all kinds of wild and unsubstantiated allegations against actors in the case. Worst hit is the judiciary and the legal profession, where the media outfits concerned deliberately churn out falsehood to arm twist and distract the lawyers and judges involved in this case from carrying out their duties dispassionately, firmly and fairly.
Or, how can one describe a recent allegation by the same media outfit that all the judiciary correspondents in Abuja, where Saraki’s trial is taking place, have been bribed by the senate president’s camp to report the trial in a particular way.
Of all allegations, this is the most puerile and facile, a result of extreme journalistic senility arising from the cancerous malaise of “Ghana-must-go” media practice. What is there to bribe judiciary correspondents for? How can the reportage of what transpired at the trial affect the outcome of the trial since the correspondents would only be reporting events as they happened and not that they would be writing editorials or opinions on the trial? It is too simplistic and ludicrously low for any responsible institution to think that the reports of some journalists covering a court case would be anywhere strong enough as to influence the judges. To think that somebody of the senate president’s status or any other person for that matter would condescend so low as to attempt to bribe judiciary correspondents in order to influence the decisions of a court is quite jejune.
The same media outfit has given very far reaching meaning to the routine change of Saraki’s legal team. The outfit alleged that Saraki’s appointment of Kanu Agabi (SAN), Nigeria’s former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General to replace Joseph Daudu (SAN), the former president of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), as head of his legal team was because Agabi had mentored the chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Danlami Umar in his younger days as a lawyer, and was also the one through whom Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) met Mallam Nuhu Ribadu when he was chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The meaning given to such routine change in this instance serves the purpose of the authors of the story and their paymasters. All over the world, clients change their legal teams and they owe no one any explanation as to why. This is in addition to the fact that there is nothing illegal in this practice. There have been copious instances where the Attorney-General of the federation had had cause to take over cases from police prosecutors or any other prosecutor for that matter. A lot of Nigerians have also had cause to change lawyers which could be for professional, the need for a less expensive legal team or any other reason for that matter.
Nigerians are fast getting used to these tactics of intimidating lawyers and judges using a section of local and foreign based media concerns just to serve certain vested interests, this time, the interests of those who by all means want to see Saraki removed as Senate president using the CCT, all in a desperate bid to plant their own stooges and puppets whom they dictate to and control just to serve their own selfish and parochial interests to the detriment of national interest.
It is time, and this presents the best opportunity for the lawyers and judges in the Saraki trial to prove their mettle, that they are highly trained professionals who are not fazed by the campaign of calumny sponsored in the press by some anti-democratic forces who would do anything to destroy the nation’s bastion of democracy – the judiciary – by dragging it in the mud. The tribunal must determine cases based on copious and cogent evidence before them only and not allow themselves to be swayed by the opinions or media machinations of anti-judicial forces. They have a job to do. They must do it professionally, dispassionately, judicially and judiciously.
The lawyers and judges in this particular case must draw strength from the recent judgements of justices of the Supreme Court who, despite intense and immense media pressure and crusades of detraction and terror, stood their grounds and did the right thing by doing justice in the Abia, Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Taraba States election petitions. Today, with those judgements, the Supreme Court Justices have helped in deepening our democracy further, enriching our judicial system and ultimately etched their names in gold.
The Saraki case presents all participants, be they judges, prosecutors, counsels etc the opportunity for them to also etch their names in gold by doing the right thing. Opportunity to do such may never come again: Ignore external forces, be firm and fair to all, and deliver justice fearlessly.
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