Saraki Vs EFCC: Prosecution Or Persecution?

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Shortly before he vacated office as Senate President, residential houses belonging to Bukola Saraki located in Ikoyi, Lagos were sealed off by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Saraki however insisted that the action of the EFCC was a witch-hunt, claiming that the property in question have been investigated by the commission several times in the past.

Reacting to the development then, Afenifere, Yoruba socio-political organisation described the action of the anti-graft agency as political vendetta, saying the EFCC under its Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu is engaging in persecution instead of prosecution.

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Yinka Odumakin, the organisation’s national publicity secretary said while Afenifere is not against probing anyone who is suspected to be corrupt, engaging in media trial and seizure of properties even before charges are filed is not a proper way to go about investigation.

“ I think it is more of persecution than prosecution because if you are doing corruption investigation, there are ways to go about it. All the media trial that EFCC is doing and going about seizing properties when it has not filed any charges is clear that there is some political vendetta at work”.

“We are not against investigation of anybody for alleged corruption because nobody is above the law. But when you begin to show that you are engaged in persecution rather than prosecution, it doesn’t speak well”.

“I don’t think Saraki is the only politician in Nigeria today. Why is it only Saraki that EFCC is investigating , starting from 2003 when he was state governor and senate president ? It is very unfortunate the way they are going about it” Afenifere said.

Since leaving office as Senate President in June this year, there seems to be no cease in the battle by the EFCC to bring down Saraki, who political analysts have argued incurred the wrath of powers that be by contesting for the number three position in June 2015 against the directive of the party. Others have also argued that he may be paying for the refusal of the eighth Senate to confirm Magu as the substantive Chairman of the EFCC. The Commission has always made it look like the former Kwara State governor is singled out or being targeted for a special treatment. It has adopted sometimes unusual, seemingly irregular and flawed moves in the battle against Saraki.

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In the past, it is the same way his asset declaration forms were singled out for investigation by the Commission in September 2015 and he was dragged before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). In the eagerness to nail him, the commission working with the prosecution amended and increased the charges three times, until the charge sheet moved from 12 counts to 18. In that process, the Commission and the prosecution was so desperate that issues outside the assets of the man were lumped together in the charge sheet that went to trial for a whole three of the four years of the man’s tenure as Senate President. Issues that should ordinarily be on corruption and taken to a regular High Court were taken before CCT, apparently because the government thought they have the CCT chairman under his control. And the prosecution lost at all the levels of the judicial architecture, up to the Supreme Court.

Now, some of the matters that went up to the Supreme Court are now being resuscitated in the issues that the Commission is taking before the Federal High Courts as it applied and got ex-parte, interim forfeiture orders against Saraki’s properties located in Lagos and Ilorin.

The commission claimed that Saraki bought his houses on No. 17A and 17 B Macdonald Street, Ikoyi, Lagos with loans from GT Bank and allegedly paid back the money from funds “reasonably suspected to have been acquired with proceeds of unlawful activity” or taken from Kwara State Government (KWSG). However, this same claims were made in Counts 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the charges that were filed in CCT and went up to Supreme Court. For example, Count 7 reads thus:

“That you, DR. OLUBUKOLA ABUBAKAR SARAKI whilst being the Executive Governor of Kwara State 3rd June 2011 within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Tribunal failed to make a written declaration of your properties and assets, to wit: various cash lodgements made into your Guaranty Trust Bank account at GT Bank, GRA, Ilorin through your aides as the Governor of Kwara State and your account officer and which funds you handed over to them in cash at the Kwara State Government House, GRA, Ilorin for the repayment of a loan you obtained from the said GT bank to acquire No. 17A and No. 17B, McDonald, Ikoyi, Lagos in the aggregate sum of N497,200,000 (Four Hundred and Ninety Seven Million, Two Hundred Thousand) and which various sums were not fairly attributable to your income, gifts or loan approved by the Code of Conduct for Public Officers; and you thereby committed an offence under section 15(1), (2) & (3), Part I, Fifth Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and punishable under Paragraph 18, Part I, Fifth Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended)”

On July 6, 2018, the Supreme Court submitted that no prima facile was established against Saraki and therefore discharged and acquitted him. We should not forget that in this CCT case, the same EFCC handled the investigation. It provided the lead witness for the prosecution, Michael Wetkas.

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Under our laws, Saraki should not be subjected to prosecution for any offence or required to prove his innocence after the apex court of the land, in this case, the Supreme Court of Nigeria, has discharged and acquitted him of the same alleged offence. Otherwise, the former Senate President would have been deemed to be subjected to double jeopardy.

Again, just before leaving office as Senate President, based on reasonable suspicion that EFCC would viciously and ferociously witch-hunt him and breach his fundamental human rights, he filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja before Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo. The court then gave an “order enforcing the Applicant’s fundamental rights to own movable and immovable property by restraining the Respondents by themselves, their subordinates, agents, servants, or privies howsoever from seizing, impounding, taking over, confiscating or otherwise forfeiting the Applicant’s assets and properties wherever they may be located within Nigeria or anywhere else in the world or in any manner whatsoever interfering with the Applicant’s right to own and peacefully enjoy any of his assets and properties”.

Speaking on the development, Barr. Fred Enogie, a lawyer and public affairs analyst who has been following the matter between Saraki and the EFCC said “ The order which was duly served on the Federal Ministry of Justice and the EFCC is still subsisting. Thus, all recent actions of the EFCC against Saraki constitute abuse of court process, breach of an existing court order and disregard for judicial authority and preference for the rule of men against rule of law.

These actions by the agency are being perpetrated against Saraki to witch-hunt, oppress, suppress, humiliate and intimidate the man. These measures are not only biased but unethical and inappropriate”.

“While Saraki’s lawyers have filed a suit at the FHC, Lagos to challenge the interim forfeiture order on the Ikoyi home and the matter is still pending, the EFCC proceeded to file another suit in the same court and before another judge, seeking forfeiture on Saraki’s home in Ilorin. The commission stated that cash from Kwara State Government was used to build the house”.

“ This is bare-faced lie. In actual fact, the House was built partly by Kwara State Government in pursuant to the Third Schedule of the Governor and Deputy Governor (payment and pension) Law of 2010. A similar law exists in Lagos and several other states requiring the government to build a house for former governors as part of their pension. In fact, that is how Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu got his house on Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi”.

“ In Saraki’s case, after the government wrote him about starting the project, he volunteered his personal land which was not government allocation. The land was bought in 2003 from a company that relocated from the town. He also expressed in writing his desire to have a better structure than what was in the five-bedroom duplex designed by the government and his readiness to personally bear the cost of constructing the property to his desired taste”.

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