•Ekweremadu, Kwara residents celebrate as FG studies ruling
By Adetutu Folasade-Koyi and Layi Olanrewaju, Ilorin
After 21 months of legal rigmarole, the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), yesterday, discharged and acquitted Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, of allegations of false assets declaration.
Almost immediately, Pius Akutah, who led the prosecution team, told journalists government would review the ruling “in order to determine the next step.”
The Federal Government, through the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), had in September 2015, slammed a 13-count charge of false assets declaration on Saraki.
Saraki was discharged by the Justice Umar Danladi-led tribunal, yesterday, on grounds that the prosecution failed to prove its case against him.
The tribunal also said the evidence against Saraki was insufficient and washy.
Danladi said the defence was able to discredit all the evidences adduced by the prosecution during cross examination of witnesses.
The tribunal upheld Saraki’s ‘no-case-submission,’ and stressed that the evidence led by the prosecution was discredited under cross-examination and, therefore, unreliable.
The CCT further held that no reasonable tribunal would convict a defendant on the evidence led by the prosecution through its four witnesses.
On February 23, 2017, the CCB re-arraigned Saraki, on an 18-count amended charge over false asset declaration and money laundering.
The prosecution team, led by Mr Rotimi Jacobs, filed the amended charge on February 8, after trial had begun.
In a September 11, 2015 charge number, ABT/01/15, filed before the CCT, Saraki was accused of offences ranging from anticipatory declaration of assets to making false declaration of assets in forms he filed before the CCB while he was governor of Kwara State.
According to the charges, the Senate President was also accused of failing to declare some assets he acquired while in office as governor.
Among other offences, Saraki was also accused of operating foreign accounts while being a public officer – governor and senator.
The offences, the charge said, violated sections of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended.
Saraki was also said to have breached Section 2 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act and punishable under paragraph 9 of the said Fifth Schedule of the Constitution.
The charges were prepared by M.S. Hassan, a deputy director in the office of the Attorney General of the Federation.
The government later increased the charges to 17 on January 11, 2017. In February 2017, one more charge was added, bringing the charges to 18.
The Senate President pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Meanwhile, Saraki’s deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, has described as “victory for democracy,” the discharge and acquittal of the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
He said: “This is another sweet victory for the Eighth Senate in particular, separation of powers, rule of law, and the nation’s democracy.
“The trial, just like the arraignment of the presiding officers of the Senate on trumped up charges of forgery of Senate Standing Rules, was political vendetta and manipulations taken too far…”
In Ilorin, Kwara State and environs, it was wild jubilation when news filtered in that Saraki had been acquitted of all charges against him.
Amidst drumming, singing and dancing at the APC state secretariat, located inside GRA Ilorin, members and executives of the ruling party, members of state executive council, women groups and supporters of the Senate President, adorned in multicoloured customised T-shirts to celebrate the moment.
Speaking with journalists, APC state chairman, Alhaji Isola Balogun Fulani, expressed happiness on the discharge, saying the allegations were politically motivated.
…I hold no grudges against anyone
From Fred Itua, Abuja
Following his acquittal by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has declared he holds no grudges against anyone.
Saraki was discharged and acquitted yesterday by CCT, after almost two years of facing trial.
In a personally signed statement yesterday, Saraki said he knew he would be discharged at the end of the day, since he was wrongly accused of a crime he never committed.
“At the beginning of the trial, I maintained that I will clear my name. The conclusion of this trial has vindicated my position.
“With the outcome of this case, our faith is renewed in our courts and our hope is restored that the judiciary in our country could, indeed, provide sanctuary for all those who seek justice.
“After undergoing the crucible of a tortuous trial, my vindication today calls for celebration. It is my belief, however, that if there should be any celebration at all, it should be celebration of the hopes that this judgment gives us, as citizens, that despite all the challenges that we face as a country, we are well on our way to building a country where the innocent needs not be afraid…”