CCT boss seeks return of ‘Decree 2’ to deal with erring journalists

The Chairman of Code of Conduct Tribunal, Danladi Umar

The Chairman of Code of Conduct Tribunal, Danladi Umar

As the trial of the Senate President Bukola Saraki on alleged false asset declaration charges, continued yesterday at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), the Chairman of the Tribunal, Mr. Danladi Umar, said if he had his way, Decree Two would be re-introduced to deal with erring journalists in the country.

Umar said that his position was informed by the recent publication in some online media to the effect that the tribunal had adjourned the trial of the Senate President indefinitely.

Annoyed by the publication, the CCT Chairman accused journalists of practicing irresponsible journalism that is in bad taste for the country.

Umar stated, “If I have my way, I would bring back the Decree 2 of the olden days to take care of the irresponsible journalists in this country.

Umar fumed, “It is the highest point of irresponsible journalism, but I thank God for them that we are in a democratic era.”

The Guardian recalls that it was Decree Number 4 of 1984, proclaimed under the regime of General Muhammadu Buhari and Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon, titled ‘Protection Against False Accusations Decree,’ that was enacted to sanction false publication. Section 1 of the decree provided that any person who publishes in any form, whether written or otherwise, any message, rumour, report or statement, which is false in any material particular or which brings or is calculated to bring the Federal Military Government or the government of a state…to ridicule or disrepute, shall be guilty of an offence… Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor, then of The Guardian, were the journalists, tried under the decree.

Decree Number 2 gave the then Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, Brigadier Idiagbon, power to detain for up to six months without trial anyone considered a security risk.

Meanwhile there were legal fireworks at the tribunal yesterday between Umar and Chief Kanu Agabi SAN, counsel to the Senate President Saraki over accusation of delay tactics by the defence team.

The tribunal chairman, who was reacting to the allegation of delay tactics levelled by the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), against Saraki’s counsel, stated that the consequences of the trial and the charges will in no way be reduced on the accused person by the tribunal.

Umar was speaking when the defence counsel, Mr. Paul Usoro, was about to begin cross-examination of the prosecution witness, Mr. Micheal Wetkas.

Stressing that he has taken note of the delay tactics being employed by Saraki’s lawyers, Umar warned that the tactics will not in way affect the consequences of the trial of the defendant.

His words: “I am not happy at the delay tactics by the defence counsel and I must say it out that this delay tactics will not reduce the consequences the defendant will meet from this tribunal at the end of the trial.”

The lead defence counsel, Chief Agabi, who expressed shock at Umar’s statement demanded from him what he meant by the consequences of the tribunal.

Agabi told the tribunal that he and his client are worried over “assumed prejudices.”

The former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) went further to caution the tribunal against influence from opposition and enemies, stressing that the defence team was against “assumed prejudices” as such is against justice.

He said: “As the tribunal chairman, we love you, we respect you, but we are afraid of consequences, especially as just stated by this tribunal this morning. Our fears have been reinforced, but we pray against consequences that are against natural justice.”

In his response, the Chairman assured that nobody would be prejudiced.

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