Update: Appeal Court Upturns Saraki’s Acquittal at CCT, To Face Trial in 3-count Charge

The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Tuesday ordered the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) to try the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on 3-count out of 18 he had earlier been acquitted of by the Tribunal.
The court asked Saraki to open his defence on 3 of the false asset declaration charges brought against him by the Federal government.
The court however upheld the ruling of the CCT on the remaining 15-count on the grounds that the prosecution was unable to prove the charges against the Senate President.
The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) had in a suit, marked ABT/01/15 and dated September 11, 2015, accused the former two-term Governor of Kwara State, between May 2003 and May 2011, of ‎breaching section 2 of the ‎CCB and Tribunal Act, an offence punishable under section 23(2) of the Act and paragraph 9 of the said Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
Aside allegation that he falsely declared his assets, as well as, made anticipatory declaration of assets, Saraki, was also alleged to have operated foreign bank accounts while in office as a public officer.
He was alleged to have acquired assets beyond his legitimate earnings.
The Federal Government, among other offences, alleged that Saraki claimed that he owned and acquired No 15A and 15B Mc Donald, Ikoyi, Lagos, through his company, Carlisle Properties Limited in 2000, when the said property was actually sold by the Implementation Committee of the Federal Government landed properties in 2006 to his companies, Tiny Tee Limited and Vitti Oil Limited for the aggregate sum of N396,150,000.
He was alleged to have made false declaration on or about June 3, 2011, by refusing to declare plot ‎2A Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, which he acquired between 2007 and 2008 through his company from the Central Bank of Nigeria for a total sum of N325,000,000.
Saraki was said to have refused to declare No1 Tagnus street, Maitama, Abuja, which he claimed to have acquired in November 1996 from one David Baba Akawu.
Some of his alleged offence while in office as Governor, which are said to be punishable under section 15(1) and (2) of the CCB and Tribunal Act, Cap C15, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, were allegedly committed between October 2006 and May 2007.
His actions were classified as a gross violation of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended.
Saraki had on September 22, 2015, pleaded not guilty to the charge which he said was grossly incompetent and ought to be quashed.
The matter that suffered many hiccups, finally came to a close when the Tribunal headed by Danladi Umar in his ruling on the no case submission delivered on June 14, 2017, however, upheld Saraki’s claim that the charges were based on hearsay and discharged and acquitted him from the 18 count-charge.
Umar dismissed all the 18-count allegations against Saraki on grounds that the Federal Government was unable to prove the allegations.
The Federal Government had appealed the judgment.
On Tuesday, a thee man panel of the Appeal Court led by Justice Tinuade Akomolafe in a judgment, held that the prosecution established a prima facie against the respondent in counts 4, 5 and 6.
Counts 4, 5 and 6 bother on the purchase of house 17 A and B at McDonald Street, Ikoyi Lagos by the Senate President.
In view of this, the appellate court therefore remitted the case to the CCT for the Senate President to open his defence in the said charges.
Justice Akomolafe-Wilson in the 70-page unanimous judgment held that there was no evidence to substantiate 15 out of the 18 counts charges against saraki.
According to Court of Appeal, the prosecution established that there were discrepancies in the claims on the asset declaration forms as to how the two houses in Ikoyi were acquired.
Consequently, the panel held that the Saraki needs to provide explanations to the discrepancies established by the prosecution that the properties he claimed were bought from sales of rice and sugar in his asset declaration form were actually bought from loans acquired from a commercial bank.
The panel stated that it dismissed the 15 counts against Saraki having concluded that the evidence adduced at the Tribunal by the prosecution, were based on hearsay evidence that have no probate value.
The court further held that the information supplied in the report used to prepare the charges did not link Saraki with the charges as required by law.
According to the court, the 48 documents tendered by the Federal Government and admitted by the Tribunal were not from the appropriate sources that were supposed to tender them before they could be admitted in line with provisions of the law.
Having established prima facie case against Saraki in respect of counts 4,5 and 6 which bothered on the properties at McDonald Street, Ikoyi–Lagos, the court said that the Tribunal should conduct trial so as to arrive at a just conclusion on the 3 charges instead of dismissing them at a no case submission stage.
“And it is hereby ordered that counts 4,5 and 6 be remitted to the Code of Conduct Tribunal”, the court held.
Justice Akomolafe-Wilson said, the prosecution erroneously came to the conclusion that the burden of proof on the 15 charges rest on the respondent, whereas it is an established fact that the party that alleges must be the one to prove beyond reasonable doubt.
The court faulted the Federal Government on the claim that Saraki collected salaries and emoluments from Kwara State Government after he had left office as the Executive Governor of the state, adding that it was a big surprise that no single witness was invited from Kwara State to prove the allegation.
Similarly, the court faulted the prosecution for falling to call relevant witnesses to support its allegation that Saraki operated foreign account while he was in office as Governor of Kwara State.
“In conclusion, we find no merit in 15 out of 18 count charges brought against the defendant by the complainant and we hereby uphold the decision of the Tribunal delivered in June this year.
“On the remaining three, it is hereby ordered that counts 4,5 and 6 be remitted to the Tribunal for retrial to enable the defendant offer explanations where necessary”, the court held.

Author: News Editor

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