By Kayode Adeoti
As the trial of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki continues, there was a mild drama at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Abuja on Wednesday, as Paul Erokoro (SAN) counsel to the Senate President, engaged the prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, in a shouting bout over a self-confessed attempt by the defense counsel to mislead the prosecution witness during cross-examination.
It all started when the defense counsel demanded that the witness, Samuel Madojemu, should specify when he visited the property located at No 15 and 15B MacDonald Street, in Ikoyi, Lagos, which allegedly belong to Saraki.
The lawyer subsequently reframed and twisted the question, apparently in an attempt to confuse the witness, who said he could not remember.
Unsatisfied with that answer, and seeking to elicit a particular response, Erokoro again attempted to twist the same question, but Jacobs objected, affirming that the defense was trying to confuse his witness and praying the court to protect him from harassment and intimidation by the defense.
Erokoro, in his dramatic response, screamed at Jacobs. “I am entitled to confuse and mislead the witness,” he asserted. “That is why I am here and to show the court that the witness is not truthful.”
The defence counsel further accused the witness of having visited the property after he had submitted his evidence-in-chief, saying that it amounted to giving anticipatory evidence.
However, the Chairman of the Tribunal, Danladi Umar, brought the situation under control and appealed to both parties, urging the prosecution to allow the defense to cross-examine the witness.
He noted that the prosecution also had the right to re-examine his witness.
As the trial resumed, the prosecution had earlier accused the tribunal of giving the defendant two representations by allowing the two counsels to ask questions, saying that was unfair to his witness.
Meanwhile at the resumed hearing on Tuesday, the head of Intelligent Unit of Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), Mr Samuel Madojemu had admitted before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) that he investigated the Senate President’s asset in Lagos before his arraignment.
He also submitted that the Bureau began to source for evidence against Saraki after he had been arraigned at the Tribunal on false assets declaration charges.
Under cross examination by Saraki’s counsel, Paul Erokoro (SAN), the witness admitted visiting Lagos for the purpose of investigating Saraki asset after he had given his evidence in chief. He added that he took the pictures of the property with his ipad.
The Federal Government is prosecuting the Senate President over charges, bordering on false and improper declaration of assets allegedly acquired when the Senate President held sway as Governor of Kwara State from 2003-2011. Saraki however pleaded not guilty to the entire charges preferred against him. The two-member panel of the Tribunal headed by Justice Yakubu Danladi Umar adjourned the trial till 5th April for continuation of trial.