•Urges Nigeria To Emulate Tinubu’s Exemplary Conduct,Respect For Rule Of Law •Aregbesola Says,‘Trial Is A Political Persecution’
THE courtroom and premises of the Code of Conduct Tribunal sitting in Abuja was filled to capacity last Wednesday, as the tribunal warned all counsel appearing before it, particularly counsel to the prosecution to avoid using delay tactics like substitution of charges to prolong the hearing of the charges brought against the national leader of the Action Congress ofNigeria (ACN), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The Justice Umar Danladi-led three-man panel also commended Tinubu and described him as somebody who has respect for the judiciary and the rule of law for appearing before the court without insisting on proper service of the writ of summons, despite the fact that he was not served with the writ, advising all Nigerians to emulate his exemplary conduct.The warning and commendation came from the three-man panel on the heels of the application moved by the prosecuting counsel, Mr Alex Izinyon (SAN), seeking to withdraw the earlier charges filed against Tinubu and substitute it with new three-count charges, alleging that Tinubu operated foreign accounts,while in office as the governor of Lagos State.
As at 7a.m. on the fateful day, ACN supporters from all over the country, especially in the ACN controlled states had thronged the court area, located at Obafemi Awolowo Way, Jabi Area of the Federal Capital Territory with placards and posters with inscriptions “Leave Tinubu Alone” among others in solidarity with their leader.
When the tribunal sat, Izinyon after withdrawing the earlier 11-count charge, applied that the new three count charge be read to Tinubu, so that he could enter his plea, but the application was opposed by the lead counsel to Tinubu, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), who led seven other Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) in a 31-member team of lawyers because of what he referred to as fundamental objections to the charges contained in it.
The silk told the court that Tinubu was not personally served with the writ of summon as required by law, but he only heard of his trial in the media, saying that he only appeared before the court out of his respect for the judiciary and the rule of law. Olanipekun therefore called the attention of the court to the fact that the oldcharge, which was filed on March 11, had been substituted and was served on him at the court on the day of hearing before the court resumed.
He further argued that Tinubu had not even read the substituted charge, not to talk of responding to it in his defence, arguing that it would run against the rule of natural justice if the accused person was made to enter his plea to a charge that he had not even read. Izinyon, in his reply, accepted that the bailiff did not serve Tinubu personally with the writ of summon, because of what he described as “largerthan-life-posture”, calling the attention of the panel to the huge crowd of supporters that filled the court room to capacity to solidarise with Tinubu.
He insisted that the charges were brought under the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) whichhe argued had been superseded by the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) which was applicablebefore the three-man tribunal.
Replying, Olanipekun contended that part of the objections raised by Tinubu had to do with the jurisdiction of the tribunal to entertain the charges brought against his client,arguing that should the tribunal proceed to read the charge and continue with the trial when the issue ofits jurisdiction was yet to be determined, the entire process could end up a nullity.
Olanipekun concluded that if the court should go along with the argument of Izinyon, it would be tantamount to amiscarriage of justice, which, he noted, was not even applicable in a state of anomie like Libya, where nobody seemed to be in charge of the affairs.
However, Justice Danladi refused the application of the prosecuting counsel that the charge be read to Tinubu and adjourned the matter till October 26, 2011 for further hearing with a view to allowing the defendant to respond to the new charges.
Meanwhile, many ACN supporters were prevented from moving close to the tribunal sitting venue by the battle-ready and heavily-armed anti-riot policemen, who claimed to be acting on the order from above that nobody shouldbe allowed to solidarise with Tinubu, even though, some ACN members still had their ways and the courtroom was filled to capacity.
Many political office holders, including commissioners, special advisers, House of Assembly members and National Assembly members, especially from Osun State, who eventually found their ways, were forced to trek about two kilometres stretch and at the end of the day, they could not witness the proceedings.
Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State; his Oyo State counterpart, Senator Abiola; his Ogun State counter part, Senator Ibikunle Amosun; Senators and House of Representatives’ members were in court to solidarise with Tinubu.
Aregbesola, who addressed the press after the tribunal sitting, said that no matter the tactics of whoever was behind the attempt to harass the ACN leader, he could not be pull down.
He said that the trial of Tinubu was political persecution, saying that several similar attempts had been made to intimidate him, all to no avail.
“The trial of Tinubu is political persecution. It does not matter who is behind it. All we believe is that the party at the centre believes that with this, they can pull him down. I want to assure you and the whole world that they are deceiving themselves, Asiwaju can never be pulled down”.
Aregbesola noted that the trial was another attempt to kill the opposition voices, which, according to him, could never work.