Alleged Graft: Saraki reacts to interim forfeiture of Ilorin homes

Bukola Saraki, former governor of Kwara
Bukola Saraki

A former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, says the temporary forfeiture order on his homes in Ilorin, Kwara State capital, is a witch-hunt and an attempt by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to intimidate him.

A judge, Rilwan Aikawa, of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court had ordered the forfeiture of two houses belonging to Mr Saraki in Ilorin through an ex parte motion filed by the EFCC.

The EFCC also accused Mr Saraki of acquiring the property located at 1, Abdulkadir Street, GRA, Ilorin, Kwara State, through proceeds of unlawful activity.

Reaction

But in a statement on Monday, Yusuph Olaniyonu, his special adviser on media and publicity, debunked the commission’s claim according to a report by the Cable.

“The EFCC’s claim that the Ilorin property was built by any proceeds of fraud is outrightly false,” Mr Saraki said. “One can only see that EFCC is playing politics and spreading falsehood in its cheap attempt to witch-hunt and intimidate a perceived enemy.”

”The fact is that the Ilorin property was built partly by the Kwara State Government pursuant to the Third Schedule of the Governor and Deputy Governor (Payment of Pension) Law 2010 while Dr. Saraki personally funded the remaining cost of the building,” the statement read.

The two-term governor said the court had “restrained the respondents (EFCC) by itself, subordinates, agents, servants, or privies howsoever, from seizing, impounding, taking over, confiscating or otherwise forfeiting the applicant’s (Saraki) right to and peacefully enjoy any of his assets and properties.”

He added that: “There are letters from the Office of the Head of Service of Kwara State notifying the former Governor (Saraki) of the State Government’s compliance with the State Pension for Governor’s law and the one indicating his intention to bear the cost of the additional expenditure that will arise from building the property to his desired taste dated 25th January 2012 and 8th February 2012 respectively.

“The construction of the building did not commence until the last few weeks of Dr. Saraki’s tenure as Governor and the bulk of his contribution to the funding were made with cheques. Where cash was involved, this was mainly in 2012 and 2013, more than a year after he had left office as Governor.

“It should also be noted that the land on which the house is built is not a government allocated land.”

‘Forum shopping’

He also said the EFCC “could not even hide its penchant for abusing the nation’s judicial institution as it engaged in forum shopping when it filed a suit in Lagos on a property situated in Ilorin”.

“We will like to restate our earlier position that Dr Saraki will contest this matter in the court at least to further attest to his belief in the rule of law, the sanctity of the courts and their enduring readiness to do justice in all matters and to all persons.

“Let it be known that the usual claim by the EFCC that its actions were directed against corrupt elements does not apply to Dr. Saraki because he is a man who at every point in his public service has sought to institute transparency and accountability in governance.”

Saraki’s probe

The EFCC had in May marked the houses traced to Mr Saraki for alleged “conspiracy, abuse of office, misappropriation of public funds, theft, and money-laundering.”

The commission secured an interim forfeiture of two of his houses in Ikoyi Lagos State, in October through a judge, Mohammed Liman, of the Lagos Division Federal High Court.

In his reaction, he accused the EFCC of misleading the court because, ”the Lagos Court was not aware of some facts that the Supreme Court in July 2018, had ruled that the source of funds for the purchase of the property was not illicit as claimed by the EFCC.”

Mr Saraki probe with the EFCC started when the agency wrote a letter to the Kwara State Government demanding a breakdown of his income, as well as his entitlements as governor of the state.

The agency said it is investigating him for an alleged case of conspiracy, abuse of office, misappropriation of public funds, theft, and money-laundering.

Before being elected to the Senate in 2011, Mr Saraki was a Peoples Democratic Party governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.

Mr Saraki, who was a former prominent leader of the ruling APC before returning to the PDP, had described the move to probe him as politically-motivated and a witch-hunt.

Mr Saraki has consistently said the anti-graft agency “was only investigating matters that were already settled”


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