Call for the resignation of Nigeria’s Senate president, Bukola Saraki, is gathering steam after #PanamaPapers exposed his secret offshore assets shortly after his false assets declaration trial began at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
The Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), a coalition of over 400 civic organisations working for the entrenchment of democracy and good governance in Nigeria, has added its voice to the growing calls for the embattled Senate president to step down from office.
The group said the revelations by the #PanamaPapers and the prosecution team are too lurid for Nigerians to ignore, adding that Mr. Saraki had lost all moral grounds to continue to occupy such office in the land.
The TMG said the details contained in the evidence tendered by the prosecution against Mr. Saraki were startling.
It said the only option for the politician is to follow in the footsteps of Icelandic Prime Minister who stepped aside on Wednesday after the #PanamaPapers revealed his offshore business interests.
The call is coming barely a day after other public affairs analysts and citizens expressed their outrage over the same developments and called for the impeachment of Mr. Saraki from office.
In a statement by Ibrahim Zikirullahi, the group’s chairman, TMG said the funds allegedly “pilfered or diverted” by Mr. Saraki could have gone into developmental causes in Kwara State.
“TMG has been keeping a close watch on the trial of Senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
“To say the least, the lurid details that have emerged so far about how monies belonging to the people of Kwara State were either pilfered or diverted to Saraki’s personal accounts, remind all well-meaning citizens about the urgent need to stamp out elite corruption.
“In just two days of trial, the dirty secrets that have emerged are startling.
“Before the very eyes of the people of Kwara and by extension Nigeria, we are seeing how the criminal alliance between Saraki and his current minion in the Kwara State Government House resulted in the continued payment of Saraki’s salary as governor, four clear years after he ceased to occupy office as governor.
“As if what has been coming out of the CCT is just a tip of the iceberg, Saraki’s name again showed up prominently on the infamous global list of tax dodgers and those hiding suspicious assets in offshore havens as revealed in the leaked Panama Papers.
“It stands in stark contrast that while the Prime Minister of Iceland who was mentioned in the Panama leaks has since resigned, Saraki and his fellow primitive accumulators in the Senate are waiting for the Nigerian people to forget and move on.”
“These looted monies are the funds that would have paid the salaries of teachers, doctors and other workers in the state. These are the funds that should have built schools, hospitals, roads and provide education for the children of the ordinary man and woman in Kwara State.
“While it is tragic that Saraki and his co-travelers have shortchanged the people of Kwara, and set them back in their quest for good governance, the bigger tragedy is the criminal silence in the Senate,” Mr. Zikirullahi said.
The group therefore commended the anti-graft agencies responsible for the arraignment of Mr. Saraki.
“TMG commends the resolve shown by the institutions prosecuting the Saraki case. In the face of blackmail, intimidation and other forms of rigmarole aimed at derailing the trial, the relevant agencies have diligently stayed the course.
“Specifically, we commend the CCT chair to refusing to succumb to the raft of inane technicalities employed by the defense to frustrate the cause of justice.
“TMG also commends the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for the meticulous investigations that have unearthed these crimes against the people of Kwara,” the TMG chairman added.
Mr. Saraki’s spokesman, Yusuph Olaniyonu, declined to comment for this story.