Saraki docked, pleads not guilty


Senate President Bukola Saraki during his arraignment by the Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja… yesterday. PHOTO: LADIDI LUCY ELUKPO

Faults mode of trial, gets bail
• Senators reaffirm confidence in him

FOR hours yesterday, President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, was docked at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Abuja over alleged falsification of assets declaration in 2003 when he was governor of Kwara State.

About 15 senators, led by Saraki’s Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, were at the tribunal in solidarity support for the number three citizen.
Saraki, however, took the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to task on the mode employed to prosecute him as he denied all the charges against him.

The President of the Senate, who used his arraignment to open up, told the tribunal that he was being brought for trial today (yesterday) because of his new status as Senate President.

At another point, Saraki said he was shocked with the issues being raised against him because he was seeing them for the first time in his life.

Shortly after the first of the 13-count charge was read to him, the accused informed the tribunal that the CCB putting him on trial even violated its own law with its alleged deliberate refusal to first invite him (Saraki) for clarifications on the discrepancies in his assets declaration forms as provided for under Section 6 of the CCB Act 2004.

He asked the tribunal headed by Justice Danladi Yakubu Umar to act in the best interest of justice and not in favour of external forces that were allegedly out to fight him on vendetta.
“I am one of the strongest believers in the rule of law. I am a law-abiding citizen and my faith in the judiciary remains unshaken, but when trial is being instigated outside the purview of normal procedure, then the tribunal must watch it and must be on the side of justice,” Saraki further said.
He denied the charges in their entirety when his plea was taken and was allowed home on bail without any condition.
Prosecution counsel led by Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), thereafter briefed the tribunal on how the accused person, while in office as the executive governor of Kwara State, filled four different assets declaration forms, with the first one in 2003, the second in 2007, third also in 2007 while the fourth was filled in 2011 when he left office as governor.
Jacobs, among others, alleged that the Senate President made anticipatory assets declaration, while in some cases he failed to declare others acquired while he was governor.
He also alleged that Saraki operated two foreign accounts in the United Kingdom. Also, while in office as governor, he made some huge deposit in foreign currencies into the accounts with the aid of the Guarantee Trust Bank (GTB).
The alleged offences were said to be contrary to section 15 of the CCB and CCT Act 2004.

The prosecuting counsel also announced his intention to tender the four assets declaration forms as exhibits and that he will also call five witnesses to give evidence against Saraki.
After the presentation of facts of the case by the prosecution to the tribunal, its chairman declared that the Bench warrant of arrest earlier issued against the Senate President for Police to arrest him has been vacated and that the accused should go home.

Justice Umar also announced that the tribunal will hear all the motions already filed by the accused to challenge the jurisdiction of the tribunal before going into the main issue.
“It is not the intention of this tribunal to shut out the accused person in the numerous applications he has filed. It is in the interest of justice that we will hear all the motions in one way or the other before going into the main case,” Justice Umar said.

After a brief consultation by lawyers on the issue, the case was adjourned till October 21, 22 and 23 for trial.
Earlier, the defence team, led by Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), had insisted that Saraki will not be docked by the tribunal until all his motions challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal are disposed off.

Daudu premised his argument on the fact that until the issue of jurisdiction is first determined, the plea of any accused cannot be taken.
The prosecuting counsel, Jacob, however countered the arguments, claiming that the first thing for a court or tribunal is to take the plea of any accused standing trial before listening to him on any point.
Justice Umar upheld the submission of the prosecution and ordered Saraki to enter the dock which he complied with.
Others in the defence team are Yusufu Olaolu Ali (SAN), Saka Abimbola Isan (SAN), Chukwuma Ekomaro (SAN), K.K Eleja (SAN) and Adebayo Adelodun (SAN).

Saraki’s appearance at the tribunal yesterday, came after he had failed in his attempts to use the Court of Appeal and the Federal High Court to stop his prosecution by the CCB, which he reportedly claimed did not give him the opportunity to clarify issues before the matter was taken to the tribunal.

He had earlier filed applications at the two courts to question his prosecution, but on Monday, he decided to honour the invitation of the CCT following the refusal of the courts to shield him from prosecution.

Well, with the ruling of the Appeal Court, I think based on legal advice, we have exercised our right, and being a law-abiding citizen, the directive of the CCB is saying that one should be there tomorrow. I will be there. I have nothing to hide,” Saraki had told reporters on Monday while announcing his intention to submit himself for appearance at the tribunal.

The Senator’s travail with the tribunal started on Friday September 18 when the chairman, Danladi Umar, issued a warrant of arrest on him for not appearing before the tribunal to answer the allegations by the bureau.
Following the order of arrest, Saraki had claimed he was protected by a notice of the Federal High Court, Abuja Division, which summoned the CCB, CCT and their chairmen to appear before it to show cause why they should not be restrained from arraigning him over the 13-count charge.

Saraki’s efforts at the court had been to stop his arraignment, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit he filed before the court.

He had prayed the court to declare that the Ministry of Justice has not complied with the provision of the 3rd schedule of Section 2(1) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and the Tribunal’s Act to act before proffering a charge against him.

In the motion exparte argued by Mahmud Magaji (SAN), Saraki said that based on the provision of Section 2 of the CCB and the Tribunal’s Act, his prosecution before the tribunal shall be initiated by the Attorney General of the Federation or any officer directed by him. “In the absence of any subsisting AGF in the time being, this court has the jurisdiction to direct parties to maintain status quo pending the hearing of the motion on notice”, Saraki had argued.

Despite this, the chairman of the CCT reportedly re-issued an arrest warrant on the Senate President to appear before the tribunal.
Also, the Senate President approached the Court of Appeal, contesting the order of arrest on him. But both courts refused to shield him against prosecution. This development informed his resolve to appear before the tribunal yesterday.

He had prayed the appellate court not only to set aside the warrant of arrest against him, but suspend the proceedings of the tribunal pending the hearing and determination of the substantive appeal he lodged against the Justice Umar-led panel.

After returning from the tribunal to where they had followed Saraki, the Senators, led by Ekweremadu, described the Senate President’s trial as “politically motivated, mischievous and vindictive.‎”

A statement signed by Senator Ibrahim Abdullahi Danbaba (APC, Sokoto South) on behalf of Senators who went to the CCT ‎with Saraki reads: “After a majority of us, Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, witnessed the appearance of our President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal this morning, we are happy that he appeared at the tribunal after availing himself of the opportunity to defend his fundamental human rights.

We also want to state here, on behalf of our colleagues, that the Senate remains solidly behind Saraki and we express our unalloyed support for his leadership. We reiterate the fact that he is our choice for the post of Senate President and no politically motivated, mischievous and vindictive trial will change our opinion of him.

By his appearance at the tribunal, he has demonstrated his firm belief in the rule of law and his respect for our judicial process. We join Dr. Saraki in affirming our commitment to the rule of law, constitutionalism and democracy. We only hope the other arms of government will ensure that due processes and procedures are followed in this trial and on all other issues.”

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  • Kehinde

    SARAKI, this is the cross you have to carry for insisting to be Senate President. Even your fellow corrupt politicians are the ones attempting the crucifixion. All of you should REPENT.

  • Curti Uwuigbe

    Justice, take your course!

  • sali

    Why must some believe that everything, every post must be given to those who will be saying yes sir to them. This one cannot say yes sir because he is adequately qualified to hold the post he is occupying. He is not a certificate forger. His is not a Toronto certificate.

  • Ojiyovwi

    There is no smoke without a fire for the source. These young thieves have only one aspiration it seems. One successful freedy aquisition and misappropriation then leads to another and so on. It is sick and all for what? Shameful!!!! It is crying disgrace that we cannot have persons of honesty and social integrity like Fashola and Oshiomole in all our institutions.

    For us Nigerians in diaspora, it is a situation and reputation that is a constant source of embarassment. No one in their right mind trust a Nigerian thanks to the likes of Ibori and now Saraki. I am afraid the greesy pole has lugs for the thief with connections. Those who are defending this thief should be in the dock next.

  • Ojiyovwi

    I am encouraged by this development. We are watching and reading as I am thoroughly fed up with rogues climbing up the greasy pole of life in a hurry with lugs provided by their co-conspirators in places. If we read that this chap is successfully prosecuted and found guilty, he should made an example of to warn others motivated by greed and personal gain at the expense of our impoverished citizens. He must be held up in public disgrace just like Ibori has become synonimous with greed, lying, corruption and stealing. Encouraging to see also that we are demonstrating that in the new leadership, No One Is Above the Law, president or resident.

  • leonardsonyekwere

    This is not the change Nigerians voted for and it does not demonstrate a different way of doing things. The APC led executive branch and the political party leadership are trampling the legislative branch because the legislators did not do things according to the direction of the party leadership. It is not democracy at play because the principle of separation of power is central to the effective running of a democratic government and when those concerned refuse to abide by this constitutional provision, what you have is authoritarianism, tyranny and anarchy. Why are Nigerians footing the bills of a
    legislative branch that the executive branch does not want to work with? Why are Nigerians wasting their money in a time of scarce economic reality to foot the bills of an executive branch, that has stubbornly refused to work with the legislative branch in order to alleviate the suffering of the populace? For how long more are Nigerians going to wait for the economic direction of this administration. Sariki may be corrupt, but Bola Tinubu is also a corrupt person. Many of the leaders of APC are corrupt and therefore should not be witch-hunting a fellow who was elected by a majority of his peers to head the Senate.
    I mean, must governance be halted until Sariki is removed for Bola Tinubu’s preferred candidate to emerge the leader of the Senate? This is bad for democracy, it is bad for the economy, it is bad for the rule of law, it is bad for the change the people desire and it is bad for the security of the Country. APC, please let reason and peace prevail by allowing the
    legislative branch to decide who heads them and if Sariki mes-up as the Senate President, allow the Senators to remove and replace him on their own in accordance with the rule guiding that chamber.
    Enough is enough!

  • New Nigerian

    Some things we learnt from the criminal proceedings are:

    1 – That Saraki is a rice farmer/merchant, and a very wealthy one at that to the point where he made a profit of about half-a-billion naira in 2003 that he bought a landed property with in 2006.

    2 – That Saraki is clairvoyant. To the PDP apologist, a witch. Hence the term witch hunting i svery appropriate. Why because he declared a property in 2003 that he was sure he bought already, even as the actual purchase was in 2006 from the federal government (N100m less than how much he declared in 2003) using his proceeds from rice farming.

    3 – That Saraki’s witchcraft – taking liberty with PDP charge and his charge of witch hunting – has no time for declaring other properties he clearly owns in Ikoyi and Abuja.

    4 – That the endless and fruitless pursuit of white collar criminals due to using interlocutory injunction to frustrate the main charges was sunset by former president Jonathan – as a parting gift to his PDPlutocratic traducers, in March 2015 reported in premium times of March 22, 2015″”On jurisdiction, the prosecution counsel argued that according to section 2 of the Administration of Justice Act, 2015, the matter could be heard alongside any preliminary objection regarding the tribunal’s jurisdiction.
    The new law was signed by former President Goodluck Jonathan in March 2015, as part of a major reform of Nigeria’s criminal justice system.”

    In conclusion, since we are not running a country of witches and wizards, we normal people based on our law would definitely seek to convert him to one of us. We support CCB in saving Saraki from the world of witches for his own sake, that of his family and all of us – for he is such a jolly good fellow! …and other witches, currently living in alternative paradise would be hunter