I’m happy I’ve been vindicated, says Saraki as Supreme Court quash assets declaration charges
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on Friday reiterated his confidence in the judicial process and the ability of the Judiciary to do justice to all manner of men and in all circumstances as Supreme Court frees the Senate President and dismissed remnant assets declaration charges
A five-man panel of the apex court led by Justice Dattijo Muhammad unanimously upheld Saraki’s appeal, by dismissing the remnant three counts, declaring the evidence led by the prosecution as hearsay.
The Supreme Court decision set Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki free on assets declaration and sundry charges instituted against him before the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
The Danladi Umar-led CCT had, in June last year, terminated the trial upon an application by Saraki, by dismissing the entire 18 counts preferred against the Senate President.
The CCT’s decision was based on the grounds that the prosecution, with its four witnesses and 49 exhibits tendered, only led hearsay evidence which could not be the basis to link Saraki to the 18 counts preferred against him.
However, the Court of Appeal in Abuja ruling on December 12, 2017, in an appeal filed by the Federal Government against the decision of the CCT, restored three out of the dismissed 18 counts and ordered Saraki to return to the CCT to defend the three charges.
While Saraki had appealed to the Supreme Court against the part of the Court of Appeal’s decision restoring three of the 18 counts, the Federal Government had cross-appealed against the part of the decision affirming the tribunal’s dismissal of the rest of the 15 counts.
However, in its lead judgment on Friday, Justice Centus Nweze upheld Saraki’s appeal and dismissed the Federal Government’s appeal.
Justice Nweze agreed with the CCT that the evidence led by the prosecution at the tribunal was entirely hearsay.
He held that the Court of Appeal was wrong to have restored three out the 18 counts earlier dismissed by the CCT when it agreed that the evidence led by the prosecution was hearsay but went ahead to isolate three of the counts as having been proved.
Justice Nweze quoted a part of the Court of Appeal’s judgment where it held that “the prosecution failed to call those who have direct knowledge of the facts sought to be proved, to testify”.
Faulting the Court of Appeal’s turn around to restore three of the counts based on the evidence it had declared as hearsay, Justice Nweze said was “equivalent to judicial equivalent of a forensic somersault”.
I am happy that I have been vindicated – Saraki
A statement he personally signed after the judgement of the Supreme Court which upheld the earlier decision of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), discharging and acquitting him of all 18 count charge instituted against him, Saraki expressed gratitude to all Nigerians who have supported him since the case commenced three years ago.
Saraki said, “At the end of a tortuous journey of 1018 days, counting from September 22, 2015, when the case began at the Tribunal, I am happy that I have been vindicated.
“The Supreme Court has affirmed that there is no evidence of false declaration of assets. The court also observed that certain agents took over the responsibility of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) in this trial, and one can infer that this was done towards a pre-determined end.
“This outcome has gladdened my heart and further strengthened my belief in this country and as well as my faith in the Almighty Allah, who is the righter of all wrongs. God has vindicated me today before the judgement of man, and I am most thankful and humbled at His grace and infinite mercies.
“Through it all, I refused to be shaken, knowing, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, that the arch of the moral universe may be long, but it bends towards justice. I knew the day would come when justice would prevail and I would be exonerated.
“I have always believed in the infallibility of our Judiciary, secure in the knowledge that our courts – the last refuge of the oppressed – would never condemn the innocent. This outcome is also a vindication of my belief in the rule of law.
“As I said in my first appearance at the CCT, this is a politically motivated case. The case was trumped up in the first instance because of my emergence as the President of the Senate, against the wishes of certain forces. Ordinarily, I doubt anyone would be interested in the asset declaration form I filled over 15 years ago.
“What we have seen is the opposite. Instead of working together in the interest of the nation and to seek to do better for our people, we are fighting one another and using legal instruments to mount baseless accusations against one another. Instead of exhibiting the need for unity and working day and night for that purpose, we are stoking the fire of division and rancour. I maintain that, above all else, my CCT trial has been a flagrant vilification of my person, and shows that some people are after their personal interests rather than the national interest.
“As a result of the war of attrition, various arms of government have wasted resources needlessly. It has been three wasted years across board in this country. Three years that would have been devoted to tackling issues affecting Nigerians, including: economic recovery, insecurity, youth unemployment and strengthening national institutions – were wasted on malicious prosecution. People were ready to trade-off three years that would have been devoted to fostering cooperation, unity and economic progress for their selfish ends. It is my hope that those who are behind my persecution will see the handwriting on the wall and leave me to do the work for which I was elected, so I can continue to give my all to this great country of ours.
“As many have rightly observed, it is plain to see that the anti-corruption fight is being prosecuted with vindictiveness, to target perceived political opponents. I believe in the need to fight corruption, but I will never be party to the selective application of the law or the rhetoric of an insincere anti-corruption fight.
“I believe in fighting corruption and I have made my own humble contributions to the fight against corruption in this country. As a presidential aide, I initiated the process that led to the enactment of the Fiscal Responsibility Act. I was the first governor to establish the Price Intelligence Unit which later metamorphosed into the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) at the federal level. In the history of this country, the highest fraud, the most brazen corruption has been the Fuel Subsidy scam. No one wanted to talk about it or confront entrenched powers. As a Senator on the platform of the ruling party at that time, I sponsored a motion on the floor of the Senate calling for investigation that led to the unprecedented exposure of the massive corruption in the fuel subsidy regime. That was my only point of departure with the former President. My antecedents speak for themselves.