Saturday, September 19, 2015 2:06 pm
Abubakar Bukola Saraki, the President of the Nigerian Senate had for many years now sustained a tradition of observing the Muslim Eid-el-Kabir festival with all pomp and pageantry during which he also dished out gifts to the pauperised people of Ilorin, the capital of Kwara State where he was a governor for eight years.
But as this year’s celebration of the festival usually marked with the slaughtering of animals approaches, for Saraki, the prospect of the usual grand celebration seems to be receding by the minute. Going by the ruling of Mr Danladi Umar , chairman of Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT on Friday, rather than the Eid-el-Kabir celebrations, the former Governor’s mind is more likely to be preoccupied with the possibilities of his being the first chairman of the Nigerian National Assembly to be tainted with the infamy of being docked on criminal charges.
Justice Umar had ordered the Police to arrest Saraki and bring him to court on Monday, three days to the Muslim festival to defend himself against a 13-count criminal charge bordering on false declaration of assets preferred against him by the Federal Government. The Federal Government had, on 11 September, filed a 13-count charge of false declaration of assets against Saraki while his arraignment was fixed for Friday.
Government had alleged in the 13 count charge that the Senate President failed to declare or made anticipatory declaration of his assets in the assets declaration form he submitted to Code of Conduct Bureau when he served as Kwara State Governor between 2003 and 2009. The Senate President was accused of failure to declare his property on Plot 2A, Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos; No 1, Tagus Street, Maitama, Abuja (Plot 2482, Cadastral Zone A06, Abuja) and failure to declare property No 3, Tagus Street, Maitama, Abuja (Plot 2481, Cadastral Properties Limited).
He was also accused of claiming to own property on No 42, Gerard Road, Ikoyi and earning N110, 000,000 per annum at a time the property was under construction; failure to declare N375m GTB loan converted to 1.5m Pound Sterling which used to purchase property in London; operating a foreign bank account; transfer of $3.4m from GTB to foreign bank account during his tenure as governor and failure to declare leasehold interest in No. 42, Remi Fani-Kayode Street, Ikeja.
In the same vein, the Senate President was alleged to have made anticipatory asset declaration of a house in Ikoyi in his asset declaration form he submitted to the CCB in 2003. As contained in the charges, Saraki claimed that he owned and acquired No 15A and 15B McDonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, through his company, Carlisle Properties Limited in 2000, when the said property was actually sold by the Implementation Committee of the Federal Government landed properties in 2006 to his companies, Tiny Tee Limited and Vitti Oil Limited for the aggregate sum of N396,150,000, 00.
Thus, the Senate President was accused of gross violation of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended and breaching Section 2 of the CCB and Tribunal Act, an offence punishable under section 23(2) of the Act and paragraph 9 of the said Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
Some of his alleged offences which are said to be punishable under Section 15(1) and (2) of the CCB and Tribunal Act, Cap C15, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, were allegedly committed between October 2006 and May 2007.
Ahead of the sitting of the Tribunal on Thursday, Saraki had sought the shield of the Federal High Court, Abuja to stop his arraignment. Mahmud Magaji, the lawyer to the Senator had approached the court presided over by Justice Ahmed Mohammed asking for an ex-parte order restraining the CCT, the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB and the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF from proceeding with his planned arraignment.
In the substantive suit, the Senate President prayed the court to declare that the ministry has not complied with the provision of the 3rd Schedule of Section 24(1) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act to act before proffering a charge against him. He argued that based on the provision of Section 24 of the CCB and Tribunal Act, it is the AGF or any officer directed by him (AGF) that must initiate charges against him (Saraki).
Saraki contends that “in the absence of any substantive AGF in the time being, this court has the jurisdiction to direct parties to maintain status quo, pending the hearing of the motion on notice.” He also argued that since there is no substantive AGF, the charge against him by the official of the AGF before the CCT is void as the provisions of Section 24 (1) of the CCB and tribunal.