An investigation by SaharaReporters has exposed the officials of Nigeria’s Ministry of Justice who collaborated with lawyers representing Senate President Bukola Saraki to obtain a controversial adjournment by filing a motion challenging the jurisdiction of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) to try the senator.
At a session of CCT yesterday, Mr. Saraki’s lead lawyer, Kanu Agabi, obtained a weeklong adjournment by claiming that he had filed a motion on March 4, 2016, contesting the tribunal’s jurisdiction. However, several officials of the Ministry of Justice, as well as a staff member of the CCT, told SaharaReporters that Mr. Agabi’s purported motion was a carefully orchestrated scam to scuttle the Senate President’s trial. “The so-called motion Agabi talked about was never served on the tribunal. And as such the lead prosecutor [to the tribunal] was never made aware of the motion,” a lawyer with the Ministry of Justice declared. He added: “The whole thing was a ruse, and it was calculated to ridicule the judicial process and scuttle the Senate President's trial.”
After a report by SaharaReporters exposed the fact that the tribunal’s secretary was also not aware of Mr. Agabi’s so-called motion, an investigation by the Federal Government found that Mr. Saraki and his lead lawyer colluded with the Solicitor-General of the Federation and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, Taiwo Abidogun, as well as the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mohammed Sa'idu Diri, to hide the motion secretly filed at the Ministry of Justice. The judicial officials colluded with Mr. Saraki and his lawyers to hide the motion from the tribunal and the lead prosecutor, Rotimi Jacobs.
A highly placed security source told SaharaReporters that investigators had obtained records of phone conversations between Mr. Saraki and Mr. Abidogun discussing strategies for scuttling the corruption case against the senator, who for eight years was the governor of Kwara State. Part of the said conversation centered on the need to hide the motion from the tribunal. The investigator disclosed that Mr. Saraki used two phone numbers, 0802 454 4666 and 0810 451 2566, as he engaged in several conversations with Mr. Abidogun, whose phone number is 0803 316 4271.
Our source revealed that Mr. Abidogun claimed that he had informed the chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Justice Danlami Umar, that a motion challenging the CCT’s jurisdiction had been filed and served on his tribunal. Justice Umar was observing the lesser hajj in Saudi Arabia at the time.
Our investigation revealed that, shortly after the deal was struck, Mr. Abidogun called Mr. Jacobs to a meeting and asked the prosecutor to “cooperate,” asserting that the Ministry of Justice had decided to bring an end to Mr. Saraki’s trial.
Our security source claimed that once Mr. Abidogun and Mr. Diri arranged to fraudulently thwart Mr. Saraki’s trial, they assured the senator that the case was as good as “finished.” That assurance explained why Mr. Saraki was upbeat when he arrived at the tribunal yesterday.
Another lawyer at the Ministry of Justice told SaharaReporters that it was obvious that Mr. Saraki’s lawyers had connived with a few top officials of the ministry to thwart the case because Abubakar Malami, SAN the Minister for Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation had minuted on the motion and instructed the DPP to respond to the motion at least 48 hours before he departed to London for a conference. “Justice Umar ought to have thrown ought the motion and commenced with the trial since [Mr. Agabi’s] motion was improperly filed,” said the lawyer. Instead of dismissing the motion, Justice Umar said he would hear the motion next Friday before proceeding with the trial.
When SaharaReporters contacted the Solicitor General, he feigned ignorance about the issues. At first, he claimed that Mr. Agabi’s motion was not served on him but on the Ministry of Justice. He also indicated that the Attorney General was traveling. Asked why, as Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary, he did not know that something was amiss with the case, he answered that he simply did not know. When our correspondent asked if he had ever been in contact with Senator Saraki about the issue, he claimed he had never met or spoken to Mr. Saraki, a claim that is at odds with what investigators told SaharaReporters.
This website had revealed that Mr. Saraki’s recruited his new lead lawyer, Mr. Agabi, because he had hired Justice Umar to work at his law practice in Calabar when the judge was a fledging lawyer. Mr. Agabi, a former Attorney General and Minister of Justice under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, had also recruited Mr. Jacobs to work with him during his tenure in the cabinet.