•As CCT adjourns till February 27
By Christiana Ekpa and Vivian Okejeme Abuja
The Senate President Bukola Saraki, yesterday opened and closed his defence at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in the false assets declaration charge preferred against by the Federal Government, after calling one witness.
Saraki had earlier told the two-member panel of the Tribunal, headed by Danladi Yakubu Umar that he will be calling four witnesses in his defence, but made a U-turn after the evidence of one of the witnesses.
The witness, Dr. Ademola Adebo, a member of the board of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) dissolved by the Federal Government in June 2017, told the Tribunal, while being led in evidence by one of Saraki’s counsel, Paul Usoro (SAN) that he was appointed a CCB member in April 2010 but resumed duties April 30, 2010.
The witness was shown Saraki’s assets declaration forms, where-in the Senate President declared that the two properties on number 17A and B, McDonald, Ikoyi Lagos were acquired through a loan obtained from the Guaranty Trust Bank and in another form, said they were acquired through proceeds of sale of Rice and Suger.
The further amended charge against Saraki, the resume of the witness, the records of the Tribunal of November 6 and 7, 2016 as well as two of Saraki’s assets declaration forms were tendered as exhibits before the Tribunal.
After Usoro announced the closure of the defendant’s case, the Tribunal chairman, adjourned till February 27, 2018 for address.
Recalled that the December 12, 2017, judgment of the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, ordered Saraki to enter his defence to only three out of the 18 count charges slammed against him by the Federal Government.
The appellate court had in a unanimous judgment by a three-man panel of Justices led by Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson, said it was satisfied that Saraki had a case to answer before the CCT.
The court dismissed 15 counts of the original charge on the premise that they were not supported with credible evidence capable of warranting the Senate President to be called upon to enter his defence to them.
Specifically, the appellate court panel directed Saraki to return to the tribunal to defend counts 4, 5 and 6 of the amended charge.
Whereas count 4 and 5 of the charge alleged that the Senate President made false declaration of his assets at the end of his tenure as Executive Governor of Kwara State in 2011 and on assumption of office as a Senator in 2011, when he declared that he acquired properties at No. 17A and No. 17B McDonald, Ikoyi Lagos on September 6, 2006, from the proceeds of sale of rice and sugar.
In count-6, the Federal Government alleged that the defendant made false declaration of his assets at the end of his tenure as Governor of Kwara state, when he failed to declare his outstanding loan liabilities of N315, 054, 355.92 out of the loan of N380, 000, 000 he obtained from Guaranty Trust Bank Plc.
The Justice Akomolafe-Wilson-led panel agreed with the Federal Government that the CCT ought to have called Saraki to defend his claim that he repaid the loan he took from GTB to acquire the two properties through proceeds from his sale of Rice and Sugar.
The appellate court said the clarification was necessitated by the fact that public officers were by law, prohibited from engaging in any form of business venture apart from agriculture.
The court however dismissed counts 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 of the amended charge marked ABT/01/15.
The appellate court dismissed Saraki’s contention that the Federal Government failed to tender in evidence, original copies of the six assets declaration forms he submitted to the CCB.
It held that under sections 104 and 105 of the Evidence Act, certified true copies of any public document was admissible in evidence, adding that Saraki failed to prove that the photocopied documents FG tendered as exhibits 1-6 were not genuine.
“In conclusion, I hereby remit the case back to the Code of Conduct Tribunal for the defendant to enter his defence in respect of count 4, 5, and 6”, Justice Akomolafe-Wilson who read the lead judgment held.