Trial forces Bukola Saraki from performing duties as Senate President in Nigeria

Bukola Saraki

Bukola Saraki

Abuja, April 18, 2016 (AFP) – A tribunal ruled Monday that the fraud trial of embattled Nigerian Senate president Bukola Saraki will continue on a daily basis — meaning he will be unable to preside over Senate sessions until the proceedings are over.

Saraki’s lawyers had asked for an adjournment in the high-profile trial to allow senators accompanying him to attend Senate sittings, but the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) rejected the request.

Dozens of senators and other politicians have been accompanying Saraki to his trial at the CCT in Abuja in a show of solidarity, but Judge Danladi Umar said politicians needed to go back to work while he was on trial.

“Since it is the personality of the Senate President Bukola Saraki that is standing trial before the tribunal, there is no reason why the national assembly will not carry on with their duties of legislating,” the judge said.

Prosecution lawyer Rotimi Jacobs hailed the decision, saying: “It is sad when the entire Senate adjourns because of a trial of one of them, in a nation where corruption has crippled everything.”

Speaking to journalists outside the tribunal, he added: “Is that the kind of lesson they want to bequeath to the next generation?”

Saraki, a 53-year-old former banker, has been accused of false declaration of assets while he was governor of western Kwara state between 2003 and 2011.

He denies the charges.

Under Nigerian law, senior politicians including state governors are required to declare their assets when they enter office.

At the tribunal on Monday, prosecution witness Michael Wetkas told the tribunal that Saraki had owned several exclusive buildings and landed properties in Lagos and Abuja which he illegally failed to declare.

Several high-profile politicians are currently standing trial as part of President Muhammadu Buhari’s drive to tackle endemic corruption in Nigeria, Africa’s largest crude producer and biggest economy.

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