UPDATED: Supreme Court dismisses Saraki’s false asset charge

Bukola Saraki
Senate President, Bukola Saraki [Photo: Nigerian Pilot]

The Supreme Court has dismissed the three remaining charges of false asset declaration brought against the Senate president, Bukola Saraki.

In a judgement on July 6, the court affirmed the June 2017 decision of the Code of Conduct Tribunal which ruled that the prosecution failed to prove the case against Mr saraki.

The senate president was brought on an initial 16-count charge of false asset declaration by the Code of Conduct Tribunal in September 2016 by the Code of Conduct Bureau.

He was accused of making anticipatory declaration of assets as well as withholding information regarding his assets while he was governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011 and when he became a senator in 2011.

The charges were subsequently amended to 18-counts.

Mr Saraki, who had challenged all charges against him at different levels, made a no-case submission at the CCT, after the prosecution closed its case against him.

Following the application of a no-case submission, the tribunal chairman, Danladi Umar, ruled that the evidences tendered by the prosecution were insufficient to substantiate its charges against the defendant.

Mr Umar said the failure of the prosecution to bring a witness who was directly linked to the documents presented in court rendered their evidence incurably defective.

Following that decision, the federal government approached the Court of Appeal with a request that it sets aside the decision of the tribunal.

In a judgement delivered on December 12, the appellate court affirmed all except three of the 18 counts brought against Mr Saraki.

Consequently, the Court of Appeal returned counts four to six of the charges to the tribunal for retrial.

Mr Saraki rejected the verdict and filed an appeal at the Supreme Court seeking to quash the remaining three charges.

In its response to the appeal, the prosecution countersued, asking the apex court to restore the 15 counts quashed by the Court of Appeal in addition to the three counts.

A five-member panel of the Supreme Court, led by Justice Dattijo Mohammed, held that the decision of the appeal court to agree with the tribunal in one breath and order Mr Saraki’s return to the CCT in another, amounted to a “judicial summersault.”

The justices in a decision read by Justice Centus Nweze held that the prosecution was duty-bound to produce a witness with a direct links to the evidence.

They said the failure of the prosecution to produce such a witness rendered its case defective.

Mr Nweze said it was ironical for the appeal court to submit that the prosecution failed to bring those with direct knowledge of the evidences and still proceed to rule that some of the charges were meritorious from the same set of evidences already declared as hearsay.

“This court will not lend its jurisdiction to such a charade and caricature of justice,” the Supreme Court ruled describing the decision of the appeal court as a grave error.

Mr Saraki quickly hailed the ruling Friday afternoon, seeing it as a vindication of his innocence and reinforcement of his long-standing confidence in the judiciary.

“At the end of a tortuous journey of 1018 Days counting from September 22, 2015 when the case began at the Tribunal, I am happy that I have been vindicated,” Mr Saraki said. “This outcome has gladdened my heart and further strengthened my belief in this country and as well as my faith in Almighty Allah, who is the righter of all wrongs. God has vindicated me today before the judgement of man, and I am most thankful and humbled at His grace and infinite mercies.”

“I have always believed in the infallibility of our Judiciary, secure in the knowledge that our courts – the last refuge of the oppressed – would never condemn the innocent. This outcome is also a vindication of my belief in the rule of law,” he added.

The top lawmaker reiterated his allegations that the Nigerian government brought the charges against him with malicious intent.

“As I said in my first appearance at the CCT, this is a politically motivated case. The case was trumped up in the first instance because of my emergence as the President of the Senate against the wishes of certain forces. Ordinarily, I doubt anyone would be interested in the asset declaration form I filled over 15 years ago.

“What we have seen is the opposite. Instead of working together in the interest of the nation and to seek to do better for our people, we are fighting one another and using legal instruments to mount baseless accusations against one another.

“Instead of exhibiting the need for unity and working day and night for that purpose, we are stoking the fire of division and rancour. I maintain that, above all else, my CCT trial has been a flagrant vilification of my person, and shows that some people are after their personal interests rather than the national interest.

“As a result of the war of attrition, various arms of government have wasted resources needlessly. It has been three wasted years across board in this country. Three years that would have been devoted to tackling issues affecting Nigerians, including: economic recovery, insecurity, youth unemployment and strengthening national institutions – were wasted on malicious prosecution.

“People were ready to trade off three years that would have been devoted to fostering cooperation, unity and economic progress for their selfish ends. It is my hope that those who are behind my persecution will see the handwriting on the wall and leave me to do the work for which I was elected, so I can continue to give my all to this great country of ours,” Mr Saraki said in the statement.

The lawmaker emerged as senate president on June 9, 2015, despite strong opposition from the ruling All Progressives Congress, on which platform he was elected from Kwara Central Senatorial Dictrict.


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