Saraki: Appeal Court upholds CCT decision on 15 counts, disagree on 3
The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, on Tuesday, asked Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, to go back to the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) and answer to allegations that border on the purchase of properties located at number 17 A and B, MacDonald Street, Ikoyi, Lagos State.
Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson, who delivered the 70-page unanimous judgment on behalf of the three-member panel of justices of the appeallate court, ordered the tribunal to try Saraki on three out of the 18 counts amended charges bordering on false declaration of assets brought against him by the Federal Government.
The appellate court, in the judgment in the appeal brought before it by the Federal Government against the decision of the tribunal on the no-case submission of the Senate President, knocked out 15 out of the 18-count charge.
The court held that the prosecution failed to adduce evidence to substantiate the 15 counts preferred against Saraki.
The judge, however, held that on count four, five and six which bordered on the purchase of houses at Number 17 A and B McDonalds Street, Ikoyi, Lagos, by Saraki, that the prosecution was able to establish a prima facie case against Saraki.
The appeallate court specifically held that the prosecution was able to establish that there was false declaration in the assets declaration form as for how the houses were acquired.
The court held that Saraki needed to provide explanations to the discrepancies established by the prosecution that the properties he claimed were bought from sales of rice and sugar were bought from a loan facilities from a commercial bank.
Paul Usoro, representing the Senate President, said he would sit with his client on judgment, with a view to appealing the judgment.
It will be recalled that the Senate President had, in his appeal, asked the Court of Appeal to dismiss the false asset declaration charges brought against him by the Federal Government for being unmeritorious and lacking in substance.
In the final argument canvassed by his counsel, Kanu Agabi, the Senate President claimed that contrary to government’s deposition, the 18 counts charges were based on hearsay and deliberate falsehood.
Agabi, therefore, urged the appellate court to uphold the ruling of the Danladi Umar-led tribunal which had earlier discharged and acquitted the defendant for want of diligent prosecution and to hold that the appeal by the Federal Government lacked merit.
However, in his own submission, counsel for the Federal Government, Rotimi Jacobs, urged the Appeal Court to set aside the ruling of the CCT on account of miscarriage of justice.
Jacobs, who formulated five issues for determination by the Appeal Court, pointed out that the tribunal erred in law by basing its ruling delivered on June 14 on hearsay.
The Federal Government had, in 2015, brought charges of false asset declaration against Saraki shortly after he emerged as Senate President, but Saraki was on June 14 discharged and acquitted by the tribunal in a ruling on a no-case submission on the grounds that the charges were based on evidence from doubtful sources.
The Senate President reacting, however, said the verdict of the Appeal Court, in which it agreed with the decision of the Code of Conduct Tribunal that he had no case to answer on 15 of the 18 counts charges filed against him by the Federal Government, had vindictaed him.
In a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, he said “we believe that upholding the no-case submission by Dr Saraki with regards to 15 of the 18 counts charges vindicates the innocence of the Senate President.
“At least, today’s judgment has confirmed the position of the Tribunal that the prosecution’s case was entirely based on hearsay, not on any concrete evidence.
“The verdict of the Court of Appeal, just like that of the Tribunal before it, aligned with our position that the preposterous claims made during trial by the prosecution concerning operation of foreign accounts, making anticipatory declarations, collecting double salaries, owning assets beyond his income and failure to declare assets owned by companies in which the Senate President owns interests, among others, have fallen like a pack of cards and lack any basis.
“On the remaining three counts, which really touch on two issues, referred back to the Tribunal for the Senate President’s defence, it should be noted that the Appellate Court only gave a summary of its decision today, promising to provide the parties with Certified True Copies of the judgment soon. As soon as it makes the details of the judgment available, our lawyers will review the grounds of the decision and take appropriate action.