Danladi Umar, chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), on Tuesday, gave a ruling in favour of Senate President Bukola Saraki for the first time.
As the case was called, Rotimi Jacobs, counsel to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB); the prosecution, complained that the cross examination of Michael Wetkas, a principal witness, had taken much time because the defence team kept changing the lawyers examining the witness.
“The counsel that started cross examination should finish it. The witness cannot be cross-examined by three lawyers. My learned brother should conclude cross-examining the witness,” he argued while requesting the tribunal to make the order.
“You can have several lawyers, but only one of them will address the court. That’s why we have lead counsel. The lead counsel who has started the cross examination is bound to conclude the case.
“It is not an opportunity for six lawyers to cross examine one witness. Why I am raising this, is that we have already spent days on cross-examination. My lord should regulate the proceedings.”
When the trial started, Kanu Agabi (SAN), Saraki’s lead counsel, had the cross examination of the witness, after which Paul Usoro (SAN) took over.
But on Tuesday, Paul Erokoro (SAN), one Saraki’s lawyer, rose to cross examine the witness to which Jacobs objected.
“There is no law which supports my learned friend’s request. Different counsel can cross examine a witness. If one counsel is tired another one can take over,” Erokoro argued.
“The prosecution has also requested that will close our cross-examination today. That is absurd. We are going to take our time and do things properly. We will not be stampeded.
“We are ready to start cross-examination.”
In his ruling, Umar held that Saraki had the right to engage as many lawyers as he wanted, and to choose which one of them would speak for him in court.
“The defence has the right to conduct their defence the way it suits them. What we are here to do is to give fair hearing. Paul Erokoro can now conduct the cross examination,” he held.
This is the first ruling the tribunal would give in favour of Saraki.