Friday 29 April 2016

Senate President, Bukola Saraki faces fresh charges

Bukola Saraki
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, on Thursday pleaded not guilty to amended 16 counts preferred against him by the Federal Government before the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

The amendment to the original 13 counts added fresh Counts 3, 14 and 16 .

He was accused in Count 3 of abusing his office between October 2006 and May 2007 while he was the Kwara State Governor.

Under Count 3, the prosecution accused Saraki of obtaining a loan from the Guaranty Trust Bank to acquire the properties known as No. 17A and 17B McDonald, Ikoyi, Lagos in the aggregate sum of N497,200,000.

He was said to have bought the properties from the Implementation Committee of the Federal Government Landed Properties.

He allegedly repaid the loan to GTB through various lodgments made into his account on his behalf by his aides when he was Governor of Kwara State and his account officer using funds which he allegedly handed over to them in cash at Kwara State Government House, GRA, Ilorin.

The acts under the Count 3 are said to be “contrary to the government policy against corruption and abuse of office and against the interest of the people of Kwara State.

In Count 14, the prosecution accused Saraki of failing to declare his interest in a foreign credit card account to which he allegedly transferred huge sums of money while being Governor of Kwara State.

He was said to have failed to declare his interest in the American Express Service Card with No: 374588216836009 at the end of his second term as governor.

He allegedly transferred huge sums of money in dollars from his Guaranty Trust Bank domiciliary account No. 441441953210 in Nigeria.

In Count 16, Saraki was accused of continuing to receive salary and emoluments as Governor of Kwara State and from the Federal Government as a senator between June 2011 and October 2013.

Originally, the Federal Government preferred against Saraki,13 counts, including charges of false and anticipatory asset declaration, as well as operation of foreign accounts, which he allegedly committed while being the Governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.

Saraki was re-arraigned before the tribunal on Thursday because of the amendment to the charges which added three fresh counts to the original 13 counts.

There have been two amendments of the original 13 counts which now bring the counts against the Senate President to 16.

The first amendment which brought in additional two counts was made on April 18, 2016 while the latest made on April 27, 2016, added one fresh count.

The charges dated April 18 were withdrawn on Thursday.

The latest amendment was introduced by the prosecution and accepted by the tribunal chairman, Danladi Umar, after overruling the defence led by Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN).

The tribunal ruled on Thursday that contrary to Usoro’s contention, the prosecution, under section 216(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, was not required to file a motion to give the reasons for the amendment before it could be accepted by the tribunal.

The CCT on Thursday adjourned till May 10 for further cross-examination of the first prosecution witness, Mr. Michael Wetkas, after Saraki pleaded not guilty to the 16 counts.

Credit: Ade Adesomoju/Punch

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