Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki’s desperate bid to evade prosecution for false assets declarations and corruption has been met with a robust response. Saraki, a former governor of Kwara State, continues to push the claim that his prosecution is politically motivated, despite a welter of evidence. He similarly concocted other stories and engaged in legal manoeuvres to ensure the trial does not proceed.
On March 7, Saraki had filed a motion to restart the jurisdictional battle, asking once again that the Code of Conduct Tribunal decline jurisdiction validly affirmed by the Supreme Court in February. This has resulted in another shift in the date of the commencement of his trial till March 24th.
On March 18, when the trial was billed to open, Kanu Agabi, Saraki’s counsel, had ambushed the prosecution by requesting the tribunal to give room for the hearing of Saraki’s motion, arguing that it was in accordance with the law.
Agabi had also argued that that the Attorney-General of Federation and Minister of Justice lacks the powers to file charges before the Code of Conduct Tribunal and claimed that the failure of the Code of Conduct Bureau to confront him with discrepancies in his assets declaration forms makes the charges against the Senate President invalid
But a counter-affidavit, filed on 15 March by Peter Danladi, an operative of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), punched holes in the Senate President’s claims and laid bare what he is struggling to conceal from the public.
Danladi’s counter-affidavit, exclusively obtained by SaharaReporters, identified depositions contained in paragraphs 5 to 34 of Saraki’s motion as false and made with the intention to mislead the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
In the counter-affidavit, Danladi said Saraki, who was elected twice as governor of Kwara State filed four assets declaration forms. The law requires certain public officers to do so on the assumption of office and at the end of their tenure.
The first assets declaration by Saraki (Form CCB1), with ID 001440, was filed on September 16, 2003, following his assumption of office as Kwara State governor. The second (Form CCB1), with ID 000041, was filed on July 11, 2007, at the end of his first term as governor. The third, Form (CCB 1), with ID 000040, was also filed on July 11, 2007, on assumption of office for his second term as governor.
The fourth (ID000218), which marked the end of his second term as governor, was filed on 3 June 2011.
Danaldi added that he was informed by one Yahaya Bello, an operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on 14 March 2016, that the EFCC was in possession of a slew of petitions alleging the existence of dinosaur-sized skeletons in Saraki’s closet. As governor, Saraki has engaged in a variety of corrupt practices, including money laundering and theft.
Danladi said EFCC operative told him, these revelations provoked investigations into the petitions by the Commission. The investigations yielded valuable information showing that Saraki on numerous occasions abused his office as well perpetrated corruption with impunity.
Specifically, Saraki, the EFCC discovered, obtained loans running into billions from commercial banks, particularly Guaranty Trust Bank, and used proceeds of such to acquire eye-popping landed properties in Lagos, Abuja and London while serving as governor of Kwara State.
Rather than use his legitimate income to repay the said loans, the EFCC discovered, Saraki took billions of naira in public funds and lodged same in several tranches and cash into his Guaranty Trust Bank account in GRA Ilorin, Kwara State. Saraki’s account officer, the EFCC said, told the commission that the he was given cash many times by Saraki in the Kwara State Government House for lodgement into the current Senate President’s account. Occasionally, disclosed the account officer, Saraki sent his aides from the Government House with cash to hand over for lodgement into his account.
On completion of its investigations, the EFCC submitted its report to its legal department and the Federal Ministry of Justice. With the gravity of what was perpetrated, particularly regarding properties acquired and the various huge amounts transferred into Saraki’s many overseas accounts while he was governor, the Federal Ministry of Justice was persuaded that the matter can be better investigated by the Code of Conduct Burea and prosecuted by the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) then sent the findings and evidence sourced through EFCC’s investigation of the misdemeanours as a complaint to the CCB, directing the bureau and EFCC to collaborate for effective investigation.
Danladi explained in his affidavit that collaboration is the norm among all the anti-graft agencies.
“That I know for a fact that there is a long-standing collaboration between the EFCC, ICPC and the Code of Conduct Bureau and that as 2006, the Presidential Committee headed by EFCC and comprising of other anti-corruption bodies in Nigeria, including the Code of Conduct Bureau, was set up with the responsibility to investigate cases of corruption involving public officials,” Danladi said in his affidavit
The CCB operative added that the various assets declaration forms submitted by Saraki were forwarded to the CCB, which has the responsibility of ascertaining the veracity of declarations made.
In the process of doing this, Danladi said, the CCB found a variety of financial misdeeds perpetrated by Saraki. For instance, the landed property listed by Saraki as No. 42 Gerrard Road, Ikoyi in Lagos, was visited by one Ikechi Iwuagwu, a Deputy Director with the CCB, who found it was still an empty land. The implication was that contrary to Saraki’s claim that he was earning a yearly income of N110m in rent on the property, there were no tenants as the property was a vacant piece of land.
Saraki was also found to have lied on the properties at 15A and 15B McDonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, which he listed as his in his 2003 assets declaration. CCB investigators found that the said properties were acquired in 2006, three years after Saraki had claimed to be their owner. The properties were acquired by Saraki in 2006 from the Implementation Committee of the Federal Government on Federal Government Landed Properties through his companies Tiny Tee Limited and Vitti Oil, paying N396, 150,000.
The CCB also discovered a whiff of a graft within graft in the above transaction. Saraki made an anticipatory declaration of the two properties, acquiring them in the name of the two companies because he could not buy two government properties in his own name.
Also, Saraki was discovered to have bought properties listed as 17, 17A and 17B from the Implementation Committee of the Federal Government on Federal Government Landed Properties, paying a total of N497,200,000. This was despite his monthly income, as shown by a scrutiny of his account with Intercontinental Bank (now Access Bank), could not have yielded the amounts he spent on properties. His account (No. 0100857813) showed that he earned N500,000 monthly. Public officials, by law, are barred from engaging in trading.
Saraki, despite earning the said amount monthly and barred by law from trading, also bought Plot 2A Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, from the Central Bank of Nigeria, which is a Federal Government agency, through his company, Carlisle Properties. He paid the sum of N325m between 2007 and 2008 while he was governor.
The said property, however, was not declared in his asset declaration form, dated 3 June 2011, which he submitted to the CCB. Similarly, Saraki failed to list the property at No.3 Targus Street (otherwise known as Cadastral Zone A06), Abuja, in his declaration of assets dated 16 September 2003, shortly after being sworn-in for his first term as governor. Saraki claimed to have to have bought the property in November 1995 from one David Baba Akawu.
In the same vein, his declaration of assets document of June 3, 2011-at the end of his second term as governor-was silent on his ownership of 3 Targus Street (otherwise known as 2481 Cadastral Zone A06), Abuja. This he claimed to have bought off one Alhaji Attahiru Adamu.
Saraki’s first asset declaration document as governor in 2003, Danladi’s affidavit showed, did not include the fact of his leasehold interest in No 42 Remi Fani-Kayode Street, which he acquired in 1996 via his company, Skyview Properties from First Finance Trust Limited on 12 December 1996.
Saraki, through Carlisle Properties, also bought Plot 37A Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, while he was governor.
During the same period, Saraki operated a domiciliary account with Guaranty Trust Bank ( account number 441441953210, from which he made cash transfers totalling $3.4million between 2009 and 2012 to American Express Service Europe Limited with account number 7030580 domiciled with American Express Bank, New York. Various sums were then transferred from this to the card account (No. 374588216836009) that Saraki maintained outside Nigeria.
The Senate President’s misdeeds while he was governor also included obtaining a N375 m loan from Guaranty Trust Bank in February 2010 and converting to 1, 516, 194.3 GBP, which he instructed the bank to transfer to the United Kingdom in favour of Fortis Bank SA/NV that Saraki claimed was the full payment for the mortgage on a property he purchased in London.
Danladi, in his affidavit, said the assets declaration forms submitted by Saraki and information supplied by him were sworn to at the Kwara State High Court, Ilorin and on being discovered to be false, given that they were made under oath, would make Saraki criminally liable.
Saraki had claimed in his motion, filed on 7 March, that the gaps in the assets declaration forms submitted between 2003 and 2011, which forms the basis of the charges against him were mere inconsistencies, irregularities and discrepancies. But Danladi, relying on the investigation by anti-graft agencies, contends that they were made to conceal corruption and theft of public funds.
Saraki had also claimed that he was given a clean bill of health by the CCB, a claim Danladi described as false. He also dismissed Saraki’s claim that his prosecution was politically-motivated, saying charges were not filed in bad faith before the CCT but because investigations came up with strong prima facie case against Saraki.
Danladi also challenged paragraph 30 of Saraki’s motion. “That contrary to paragraph 30 of the Affidavit in Support, the Code of Conduct Bureau, upon receipt of complaints from Attorney-General’s Office and preliminary investigations made by the EFCC, the Bureau investigated the assets declaration forms submitted by the defendant/applicant between 2003 and 2011 and the facts contained in the declarations are quite fresh in the minds of the investigators and the defendant,” said Danladi.
The CCB operative added that he was told by Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), counsel to the EFCC, that Saraki’s motion amounted to an abuse of court process. Jacobs, who urged the CCT to dismiss Saraki’s motion, Danladi said told him that the Senate President had, in a similar motion, argued up to the Supreme Court, contended that the charges were incompetent for being filed at a time the Office of the Attorney-General was vacant. But the Supreme Court ruled that the charges and the jurisdiction of the tribunal were valid.