Saraki faces 13-count charge over asset declaration
•Alleges political witch-hunt
The Federal Government will today arraign the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, before the Code of Conduct Tribunal on a 13-count charge bordering on false declaration of assets in breach of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.
An official of the Tribunal said all was set to begin hearing in the charge brought against Saraki.
Meanwhile, the Senate President has begun moves to frustrate his arraignment by initiating proceedings at the Federal High Court, Abuja Division to challenge the propriety of the charge preferred against him.
A reliable source told The Guardian that Saraki has been locked in a marathon session with prominent Senior Advocates with a view to fashioning out the best approach to the legal challenge.
He said before the close of the day, the Senate President’s legal team would have approached the Federal High Court, Abuja Division with a motion for interim injunction, seeking to restrain government from arresting him or taking any step to arraign him on the charge until the substantive suit is determined.
It was learnt that Saraki’s legal team would be asking for a temporary reprieve vide an exparte motion.
The source said there are fears however that the court may not be disposed to an exparte and, therefore, the lawyers would be armed with a notice of Appeal should the exparte be refused.
On Tuesday, the news broke that The Senate President was charged in charge number ABT/01/15, dated September 11 and filed before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, for offences “ranging from anticipatory declaration of assets to making false declaration of assets in forms he filed before the Code of Conduct Bureau while he was governor of Kwara State.”
He was also accused of failing to declare some assets he acquired while in office as governor.
Among other offences, including allegedly acquiring assets beyond his legitimate earnings, Saraki is also accused of operating foreign accounts while being a public officer – governor and senator.
The offences, the charge said, violated sections of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended.
In the charge signed by Deputy Director in the office of the Attorney General of Federation, Saraki is also alleged to have breached Section 2 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act and punishable under paragraph 9 of the said Fifth Schedule of the Constitution.
Meanwhile, Saraki yesterday described as mere political witch-hunt the reported charges being leveled against him
The Senate President, who was reacting to questions on the 13-count charge said he was unshaken by the numerous allegations against him.
He wondered why the bureau should wake up with the allegation about 13 years after he declared his assets and said he would defend the charges.
On whether he saw the development as a witch-hunt, Saraki said: “There is no doubt about that. It is mischievous, it is not correct and the issues therein are not true. As far as we are concerned, we are not shaken. We will focus on what we have come to the Senate to do. I was elected by the people, I was elected by my colleagues to work for what is good and in the interest of this country and that is what I will do.”
He added: “For the Code of Conduct Bureau to wait for 13 years before working on declaration that was made since 2003 was ridiculous. “I have always done my declaration and we will defend those allegations but we will continue to do our work here.
It is surprising that the alleged charges is now referring his asset declaration made in 2003 while in office as Governor of Kwara State to formulate their charges. They therefore ignored the recent declaration for which they last week issued an acknowledgement.
We believe that the Code of Conduct Bureau following their processes in which after a declaration is submitted to the bureau, ought to have carried out their verification of the assets and ascertain the claims made and not wait till 12 years later to be pointing out an alleged inconsistencies in a document submitted to it in 2003.
“This is the reason we are of the opinion that present effort is a desperate move initiated due to external influence and interference.
“It should also be noted that contrary to the procedure indicated in the law setting up the CCB, the bureau never wrote to Saraki to complain of any inconsistency in his asset declaration forms.”
The statement added: “It should also be noted that Saraki as Governor of Kwara State never operated a foreign account and some of the issues contained in the charge sheet are subjects of earlier decided and on-going court cases. We therefore believe those behind filing of these charges are engaging in forum shopping.
It should be noted that we do not know on whose authority these charges are filed when the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act clearly indicate that any prosecution must be authorised by an Attorney General and we know the nation last had an AG in May 2015.
“This is another clear indication that the CCT is acting under influence from outside its domain and therefore ready to bend the rules to achieve this obnoxious objective
We therefore conclude that this is not an anti corruption-driven case and cannot be part of the moves aimed at fighting corruption. It is simply a pure malicious and politically motivated prosecution aimed at undermining the person and office of the Senate President.”
Saraki said he was prepared to meet those behind the plot in court as according to him, the case was based on outright fabrication and mischief and which cannot stand the test of justice.