Nigerian Senate head facing graft charges hires 66-lawyer defence team

2016-03-11 22:22
Nigerian Senate President Bukola Saraki sits in the courtroom during a hearing of corruption charges against him at the Code of Conduct tribunal in Abuja. (AFP)

Nigerian Senate President Bukola Saraki sits in the courtroom during a hearing of corruption charges against him at the Code of Conduct tribunal in Abuja. (AFP)

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Abuja - Nigeria's third-most powerful politician appeared in court on Friday to face false declaration of assets charges, with 66 lawyers on his defence team.

Senate President Bukola Saraki's lead counsel, Kanu Agabi, took about 10 minutes to read the long list of advocates and for them to acknowledge their presence at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

Saraki is facing 13 counts of false declaration of assets relating to his time as governor of the north central state of Kwara.

There was no immediate explanation about why so many lawyers were needed but it is not the first time in Nigeria a defendant has hired such a profusion of briefs.

Last month, Rickey Tarfa, a prominent lawyer facing charges of obstruction of justice and attempting to pervert the course of justice, appeared in court in Lagos with a 90-strong defence team.

The judge in that case said such a huge number amounted to "harassment and intimidation of the court".

Saraki's case has been seen as a test of President Muhammadu Buhari's anti-corruption campaign, given his position in the hierarchy after the head of state and his deputy Yemi Osinbajo.

Buhari is trying to stamp out endemic corruption and impunity. Several high-profile politicians and public figures have been arrested, charged and are now standing trial.

Saraki, who denies buying real estate he did not declare with stolen public money, has challenged the competency of the tribunal to try him all the way to the Supreme Court.

The apex body last month ordered the trial to go ahead.

But the case was adjourned again until March 18, as Agabi said a fresh application had been lodged over the jurisdiction of the tribunal, which handles cases of bureaucrats accused of graft.

Prosecutor Rotimi Jacobs described the new defence motion as "a deliberate attempt to scuttle today's trial so that this matter will not go on."

Read more on:    bukola saraki  |  nigeria  |  corruption

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