FG Applies to Amend Charges Against Saraki at CCT

The Federal Government, once again on Wednesday, applied to amend the charges against the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who is standing trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), in Abuja, for false assets declaration.
The prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, announced his decision to amend the charges at Wednesday’s sitting of the Tribunal.
After informing the Tribunal, Chairman of the Tribunal, Danladi Umar, said he had not been briefed about the decision to amend the charges.
The defence counsel, however, said they had been served with a motion for the amendment of charge by the prosecution.
Subsequently the matter was stood down for an hour for hearing on the application to amend the charges.
Recall, Saraki was docked before the CCT on September 22, 2015, on a 13-count charge and latter re-arraigned on April 28, 2016, on an amended 16-count corruption charge.
Saraki is facing trial on a 16-count charge, which the prosecutor alleged that he made when he was Kwara State Governor between 2003 and 2011, as well as collected governorship salary four years after his tenure had elapsed
He was also accused of anticipatory declaration of assets and operation if foreign accounts while in office
At Wednesday proceedings, the prosecution counsel, Justice Umar stood-down the proceeding to record Saraki’s fresh plea.
The development came shortly after the third prosecution witness, Pw-3, Mr. Samuel Madujemu narrated how the Federal Government uncovered discrepancies in assets the defendant declared to the Code of Conduct Bureau.
The witness, the Chief Admin Officer at the CCB, was the head of investigation Division under the Department of Intelligence, Investigation and Monitoring.
He was part of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to probe Saraki’s assets.
Madujemu told the Tribunal that Saraki made his first assets declaration on September 16, 2003, upon his assumption of office. He told the tribunal that a joint investigative team involving the CCB, Federal Ministry of Justice and the EFCC, discovered that Saraki falsely declared his assets.
He said: ”After we discovered that there were some discrepancies, we commenced further investigations into the matter. One of the discrepancies we discovered had to do with false declaration and none declaration of some assets and some liabilities”.
The witness said he was not aware that the CCB initially verified Saraki’s assets before EFCC tendered preliminary report that ignited the joint investigation.
He told the tribunal that Saraki under-declared some assets he acquired in 2006. For instance, he told the tribunal that Saraki declared two properties he bought in Lagos and left out two others.
Reading from one of the assets declaration forms marked as exhibit-3, the witness said: “My lord what I see here is No17a and 17b Mc Donald Street Ikoyi which the defendant acquired with a bank loan in 2006. “No 15a and 15b Mc Donald Ikoyi which he also acquired in 2006 was not included in the assets he declared”. Saraki allegedly acquired the properties with N265m.
The witness was at the verge of revealing more alleged discrepancies in assets the Senate President declared, when head of the defence team, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, drew attention of the tribunal to the amended charge against his client.
“My lord I think we should at this juncture bring to your notice the fact that we were served with an amended charge this morning.
“You cannot proceed further in th matter until the defendant pleads to that amended charge.
“My lord the defendant is psychologically affected by this amended charge and is desirous to enter his plea.
“At this stage the defendant must plead to it before we proceed further on this matter. If it is not serious then the prosecution should withdraw it”, Agabi submitted.
Responding, the prosecution counsel, Jacobs, said he did not raise the issue so as not to disrupt proceeding of the day.
“My lord amendment can be done anytime even after their own defence, before judgment is delivered.
“Moreover we are not bringing anything new. The new charge is just the old wine in a new bottle”, Jacobs argued.
Though the Tribunal panel observed that they were yet to receive a copy of the amended charge, Justice Umar said he was willing to stand-down the matter for one hour.
“Chief Agabi remember that Rotimi is your son”, the Tribunal Chairman, Justice Umar jokingly remarked.
“No my lord, Rotimi is now a bad son”, Agabi responded.
It is expected that Saraki will now face an amended 18-count charge.

Author: News Editor

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