CCT bars senators from Saraki’s trial
• ‘Witness made statement after charges were filed’
• Senate president says prosecution won’t affect legislative business
Mr. Danladi Umar, the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) had hard words for senators yesterday. He declared that the Senate was not on trial before the CCT, therefore the lawmakers had no reason being in court daily. Umar consequently asked them to stay back at the Senate and conduct their constitutional duties.
Umar who spoke against the backdrop of the request by the counsel to the Senate President, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN) for an adjournment to enable to senators sit, noted that it was the personality of the accused, who happened to be the Senate president who was on trial and not the entire Senate.
Earlier, objecting to Agabi’s request, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) said it was shameful and disgraceful to the nation that the senators were in court as according to him, they were not parties and as such, not needed to be in court.
“The Senate is not on trial. The senators should sit down and do their work. They don’t need to be here. It is shameful and disgrace to the nation”.
But Senate President Bukola Saraki said that his trial would not disturb the activities of the Senate. Saraki said that the trial proper had commenced and the Senate was in session and that he would not want the prosecution to affect legislative business.
“I am the one on trial not the Senate. Even though I have been overwhelmed by the solidarity displayed by my colleagues, it is important that the work of the Senate is not unduly affected by this process, “ he said.
In a statement by the Special Adviser (Media and Publicity) to the Senate President, Yusuph Olaniyonu, Saraki was said to have affirmed that the legislative body being an institution, would not be affected by the absence of any of the principals.
At the resumed hearing, the CCT had till 12 noon to enable Jacobs return from the Appeal Court. Gabriel Esegine, who held brief for the prosecution team told the tribunal that Jacobs had requested him to ask for one hour stand-down to enable him to round off his activities at the Court of Appeal.
But Umar demanded to know the reason the application was not made earlier and Esegine explained that the hearing notice came only on Friday.
Umar, who was not impressed with the request initially said the tribunal would not wait for anybody. Citing Sections 376 and 315 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, he said that the trial of the defendant shall proceed on a daily basis until the completion of the trial. According to him, it shall hold between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
“The court is here to provide justice to everybody. I am going to say this for the information of the prosecution and the witness that hearing in this matter will be day by day beginning from 10: am to 6:00 p.m. each day. When it is 1:00 p.m., there would be 15 minutes break and by 4:00 p.m., there would be another recess of 15 minutes.”
At this point, Agabi intervened . He told the court that he was joining the prosecution counsel in making the appeal for one hour stand- down. “I understand their application even though they never understood mine”, Agabi said.
Consequently, the chairman stood down the case for one hour but warned that the court would not give a minute beyond the requested one hour.
“I hereby adjourn this matter till 12 noon”, he said.
When the trial resumed by 12 noon, the prosecution witness, Mr. Michael Wetkas told the tribunal that the property at No. 15 Mcdonald, Ikoyi, Lagos, was bought from the Presidential Implementation Committee for the Sales of Government Houses in the name of one of Saraki’s companies, Tiny Tee Limited.
He added, however, that in the Assets Declaration Form filled in by the defendant, he had rather declared the property at No. 15a and 15b, McDonald, Ikoyi, as his own.
“When we wrote to the Presidential Committee to verify the property, they responded that from their records, the property is No. 15, McDonald, Ikoyi, Lagos and another one, Block 15, Plot 1 to 4, MacDonald, Ikoyi, Lagos were the properties they had in respect to Mcdonald, Ikoyi”.
On how Tiny Tee paid for the property, the witness said that 75 per cent payment of that property, which amounted to N123,750,000, was paid through the account of Skyview Property Limited domiciled in Access Bank, then Intercontinental Bank. “The company was one of the companies declared by the defendant”, he said.“Payment of the property was partly from Guarantee Trust Bank account of Carlisle Property and Investment Limited”.
Concerning the property at No. 17, Mcdonald, Ikoyi, the prosecution tendered drafts totaling N256,300,000, which he told the tribunal were payments for a property at No. 17, McDonald, Ikoyi, Lagos.
According to him, there was a draft for N12,815,000 as payment of the property.There was another draft for the total of N24,090,000 broken down into two.
The sum of N20 million was from Zenith Bank account of Carlisle Property and Investment Limited while N4,090,000 was from Carlisle Property and Investment Limited account with GTB. Both were part- payments of the said property at No. 17, Mcdonald, Ikoyi, Lagos.
There was also another draft for N180,675,000 dated April 3, 2007 from Saraki’s personal account with GTB, also part-payment for the property at 17, Mcdonald, Ikoyi.
Another draft for N36,135,000 dated January 10, 2007 and cleared in the name of Carlisle Limited account with GTB, was also part- payment for the property at No.17 Mcdonald
A draft for N12,045,000, dated January 10, 2007 was also drawn from the account of Carlisle Property Limited with GTB being part -payment for No. 17, Mcdonald, Ikoyi.
So far, about 43 exhibits have been tendered including cheques, bank statements, bank drafts and letters of identification. There were also bank opening mandates.
Answering questions from the prosecution, the witness said the policy of the Presidential Implementation Committee for the Sales of Government Houses was that one could not acquire more than one property from the scheme.
However, findings of the investigative team revealed that the defendant acquired up to three properties from the scheme, using both company and personal names.
“For instance, while properties at No. 17 and 17a MacDonald, Ikoyi, were acquired in his personal names, that of No. 15 Mcdonald, Ikoyi, was acquired in the name of Tiny Tee Limited, a company linked to him.”
The witness also told the court that he did not see Plot 2481 and 2482, Zone AO6, Maitama, otherwise known as Nos. 1 and 3, Togas Street, Maitama, which the defendant said he bought from two different persons, in the 2003 Assets Declaration Form.
The witness disclosed that while Plot 2481 was purchased from one Attahiru Adamu, which was registered in the Land Administration Department of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as Plot No. BO 792, Plot 2482 was bought from one Mr. David Baba Akwau and registered in the department of land administration, FCT as Plot No. MCT 230.
He also revealed that a loan facility of N375 million obtained by Saraki from GTB for the purchase of a house in London was not declared in the Assets Declaration Form, 2011. The loan was granted on February 10, 2010.
Giving evidence on Saraki’s income from some of his assets, the witness said that a list containing properties belonging to him, which was obtained during the execution of a search warrant, revealed that each of the properties at the Ruston Garden, Ikoyi, which is divided into nine sub-units, yields N14 million per annum, making a total of N126 million a year while the property at No. 37 Glover Road yields N5.5 million per annum.
The witness said Saraki , in his assets declaration form admitted having substantial controlling shares in various companies some of which include Skyview Properties Limited , Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited, Babs Trading and Manufacturing Company, Beta Foods Limited, Linkas Limited, Orion-Agro Limited, PPI Limited, Haussman Limited, Bastone Limited and Tiny Tee Limited.
He further revealed that the promoters of Tiny Tee Limited as at October 1993 were Mrs. Ojuolape Ojora, Mrs. Toyin Saraki, Chief Adekunle Ojora and Dr. Bukola Saraki.
The witness told the tribunal that the wife of the defendant, Oluwatoyin Saraki, was invited in the course of investigation but “she however said she does not participate in the activities and disbursement from the accounts.”
Under cross examination, however, Agabi reminded the witness that at the conclusion of his investigation, he made a statement that formed proof of evidence and in that statement there was no mention of the petition from Kwara Freedom Network.
“In fact, there was no reference whatsoever in your statement to any petition”, Agabi said.In his response, the witness admitted that he did not mention the petition but that he mentioned an intelligence report.
Agabi also told him that 80 per cent of his testimony was not reflected in his statement. His response was that the statement was only a summary of the investigation conducted.
But the defence counsel reminded him that the usual practice was for the statement of investigator to be made before the commencement of trial.
The witness , however, answered that “it was the prosecutor who said I should make the statement. He directed I should make a statement on the summary of my investigation”.
Agabi also reminded him that his statement was made over one month after the charge was filed.“I was not aware of when the charge was filed”, the witness responded.According to Agabi, the charge was filed on September 14, 2015 while the statement was made on October 30, 2015.
Agabi also asked the witness if he conducted a forensic audit of the account of the government of Kwara State. But he answered that he was not an accountant and as such, he could not have done so.
On whether he ever received any petition from Kwara State regarding missing fund, he answered in the negative ,that he acted on an intelligence report.He also denied investigating Kwara State Pension Scheme and as such, did not know the pension entitlement of the defendant.
At this time, Agabi told the tribunal that the defence team had a report from Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) that the Kwara Freedom Network was non-existent. The trial continues today at 12 noon.