The trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki over false assets declaration will Monday resume at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), sitting in Abuja,
The date was fixed for the Federal Government to re-open its case against the Senate President, following the December 12, 2017, judgment of the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, which ordered Saraki to enter his defence to only three out of the 18 count charges slammed against him by the Federal Government.
The appellate court had in a unanimous judgment by a three-man panel of Justices led by Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson, said it was satisfied that Saraki had a case to answer before the CCT.
The court dismissed 15 counts of the original charge on the premise that they were not supported with credible evidence capable of warranting the Senate President to be called upon to enter his defence to them.
Specifically, the appellate court panel directed Saraki to return to the tribunal to defend counts 4, 5 and 6 of the amended charge.
Whereas count 4 and 5 of the charge alleged that the Senate President made false declaration of his assets at the end of his tenure as Executive Governor of Kwara State in 2011 and on assumption of office as a Senator in 2011, when he declared that he acquired properties at No. 17A and No. 17B McDonald, Ikoyi Lagos on September 6, 2006, from the proceeds of sale of rice and sugar.
In count-6, FG alleged that the defendant made false declaration of his assets at the end of his tenure as Governor of Kwara State, when he failed to declare his outstanding loan liabilities of N315, 054, 355.92 out of the loan of N380, 000, 000 he obtained from Guaranty Trust Bank Plc.
The Justice Akomolafe-Wilson-led panel agreed with FG that the CCT ought to have called Saraki to defend his claim that he repaid the loan he took from GTB to acquire the two properties through proceeds from his sale of Rice and Sugar.
The appellate court said the clarification was necessitated by the fact that public officers were by the law, prohibited from engaging in any form of business venture apart from agriculture.
The court, however, dismissed counts 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 of the amended charge marked ABT/01/15.
The appellate court dismissed Saraki’s contention that FG failed to tender in evidence, original copies of the six assets declaration forms he submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).
It held that under sections 104 and 105 of the Evidence Act, certified true copies of any public document was admissible in evidence, adding that Saraki failed to prove that the photocopied documents FG tendered as exhibits 1-6 were not genuine.
“In conclusion, I hereby remit the case back to the Code of Conduct Tribunal for the defendant to enter his defence in respect of count 4, 5, and 6”, Justice Akomolafe-Wilson who read the lead verdict held.
Meanwhile, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had, on February 2, 2018, brought a two-count charge against the CCT Chairman, Danladi Yakubu Umar bordering on alleged receipt of N10 million bribe from a former Deputy Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Mr Rasheed Owolabi Taiwo
In the charge signed by Festus Keyamo, as a private prosecuting counsel and one Offem Uket an official of the EFCC, Umar was accused of receiving N1.8 million through his Personal Assistant, Gambo Abdullahi for a favour to be afterwards shown to the petitioner who was standing trial for a criminal offence before the tribunal.
No date has been fixed for the arraignment of the CCT boss at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
A lot of reactions have trailed the EFCC charge against the CCT boss
Some legal practitioners are wondering what informed the sudden change of mind by the EFCC in filing criminal charges against the CCT Chairman in spite of the fact that he (CCT boss) had been cleared previously of any wrongdoing in the alleged petition against him.
In his reaction to the latest EFCC action, an Abuja based lawyer, Yunus Abdulsalam said EFCC would be putting itself on trial in the court of law and in the court of public opinion, adding that the anti-graft agency would have so many questions to answer in the court than the defendant if CCT boss is arraigned in the court.
“As a matter of fact, the law does not permit EFCC to blow hot and cold at the same time, the same law does not permit the anti-corruption agency to approbate and reprobate at the same time.
“As an agency saddle with mandate to investigate, EFCC must in the face of the law be consistent in its reports and in the instant case, EFCC cannot be said to be consistent and my candid opinion is that no attempt should be made to arraign the CCT boss in court by EFCC so as not to ridicule itself.”
Also commenting, the Executive Director Global Network for Justice, Mr. Akinboyewa Jolayemi faulted the purported charges against the CCT boss, claiming that it is a clear afterthought on the side of EFCC and a ploy to subject the CCT boss to a mere humiliation, probably because he refused to do the hatchet man job for the commission or the power that be.
Jolayemi advised EFCC to put its house in order and should not subject Nigeria as a nation to ridicule and mockery before the international community.
Checks revealed that while it is true that the former Deputy Comptroller General of Customs wrote a petition alleging a N10m bribe against the CCT boss in the cause of his trial on false asset declaration, the EFCC had twice investigated the petition and twice issued Umar a clean bill of health.
In the petition, the ex-custom boss had alleged that the CCT boss directly demanded a bribe of N10m from him to do him an alleged favour but that he paid a sum of N1.8m into the account of one Gambo Abdullahi in 2012.
Upon receipt of the petition, the EFCC caused an investigation into the petition and in its report to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) with a Reference No EFCC/EC/SGF/03/56 dated March 5, 2015, personally signed by the then Executive Chairman of the Commission, Mr Ibrahim Lamorde exonerated the CCT boss from the bribery saga.
The EFCC report received by the office of SGF on March 6, 2015, was categorical that “the facts as they are against Justice Umar raised a mere suspicion and will therefore not be sufficient to successfully prosecute for the offence.”
Upon further push from the same petitioner, a fresh investigation was conducted into the same N10m bribery allegation and the same anti-graft agency in its second report absolved Umar of any wrongdoing and that the bribery allegation against him remain a mere suspicion.
The EFCC’s second report with reference EFCC/P/HRU/688/V30/99 dated April 20, 2016, and submitted to the SGF and signed by the Secretary to the Commission, Emmanuel Adegboyega Aremo, read in part: “Kindly recall our correspondence of March 5, 2015 with Reference EFCC/EC/SGF/03/56 with above subject caption. We will like to reiterate the Commission’s position in regard to this matter as earlier communicated to you, states that the allegation levelled against Justice Umar were merely suspicions and consequently insufficient to prosecute the offence.”