With the Code of Conduct Tribunal trial of the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, set to begin on March 10, some senior lawyers in the country are divided over whether or not the Senate President should resign.
The Senate President is charged with 13 counts of false asset declaration and risks 14-year imprisonment if convicted.
Some senators called for Saraki’s resignation, following the February 5 ruling of the Supreme Court that dismissed his appeal.
But a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who served as a lawyer to Saraki, Yusuf Ali, in an interview with The PUNCH, described the calls as politically motivated.
Ali said, “I was part of the team that handled the matter. We were hoping that we would succeed, but the Supreme Court thought otherwise and that is the final court in Nigeria. As somebody trained to believe in the rule law and observe it, that is the end of the story on that matter.
“That is a political call. The man is old enough to know what is right to do. I think it is a politically motivated call and we all knew this from the beginning.
“Even before he was arraigned, there were some calls already by some people that he should step down. I don’t see any significance in that call. There is nothing significant as far as I know.”
Asked what next line of legal action Saraki would take, Ali said, “That is something I would rather keep very close to my heart because we have a team and when we have our meeting and then get a briefing from our client, we will let you know.”
Similarly, another SAN, Emeka Ngige, supported the Supreme Court judgment, but faulted the calls for Saraki to step down.
Ngige also described the calls as politically-motivated, adding that the Senate President should not be condemned before the verdict of the tribunal.
“The issue of (Saraki) stepping down is a political issue among them (senators). There are governors that won election while in prison as accused persons and they were inaugurated. As far as I know, he remains innocent until he is proved guilty,” the senior advocate said.
But the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), said he agreed with the senators calling on Saraki to step down.
According to the senior lawyer, Saraki should step down until the CCT declares him innocent of the charges preferred against him.
“I agree entirely with them. In a developed, civilised country, when a leader at his level — the number three man in government — is charged to court for alleged corruption, such a leader should resign. The charge has to do with asset declaration.
“In a civilised country, the person would resign so as not to tarnish the public position that he is holding. Then if he is vindicated in the end, he will come back. But of course, this is totally un-Nigerian. So, I don’t expect that he will do that,” Sagay said.