The trial of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal over alleged false declaration of assets has been adjourned till Tuesday.
The Tribunal adjourned the case after it set a day-to-day hearing that will hold from 10:00am to 6:00pm daily.
The Senate President arrived the Tribunal in the company of a few lawmakers.
Hearing started at 12PM after the prosecution asked for a one-hour stand-down owing to the prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Jacobs being absent because he was before the Court of Appeal.
On resumption at 12PM, the prosecution witness, Michael Wekpas, was back on the witness stand and he tendered the asset declaration form of the Senate President for the year 2011 as exhibit and again. The defence counsel reserved its objection to a later date.
He said Saraki bought three landed assets from the Presidential Implementation Committee on Sale of Federal Government Properties, which he did not declare in the forms submitted to the CCB.
He stated that the defendant acquired the three landed assets from the presidential committee against the policy that no one should acquire more than one.
He said, “We invited the members of the Presidential Implementation Committee on Sale of Federal Government Properties. From our findings, one person is only allowed to acquire one property under the scheme. But the first defendant got three properties using his personal name and the name of his company.
“No15 Mcdonald Street, Ikoyi, was got in the name of the defendant’s company, Tiny Tee Limited and 17, 17A and 17B were got in his personal name.
“Plots at Cadastrial Zone A06, Maitama, Abuja, otherwise known as 1 and 3 Targus Street, Maitama, Abuja. From Exhibit 21, they were acquired in 1993.
“From Exhibit 1(details of landed property in Nigeria), I did not see the property.
“The defendant did not declare the Plot, on assumption of office in 2003. Neither did I see No 1 and 3 Targus Street, Maitama, Abuja, in the asset declaration form.
“Exhibit 3 is the asset declaration form in 2007. In 2007, the defendant declared 1 Targus Street, Maitama, Abuja. Number 3 was not declared.
“In the asset declaration form of 2011, No. 1 Targus, Musa Yar’ Adua was declared. He did not declare No 3 Targus Street, Maitama.
Wetkas also revealed how Saraki obtained N375m loan from the Guaranty Trust Bank on February 11, 2010, which he allegedly used to purchase a property in London.
The Senate President was said to have failed to declare the London property.
He said, “Sometimes in February 11, 2010, a loan of N375m was availed to the defendant by GTB.
“Exhibit 7 is the offer letter for the loan for him to borrow N375m. The offer letter was dated February 10, 2010, but was disbursed to the account on February 11, 2010 for the purchase of the property in London. I did not see anywhere it was declared in the asset declaration form dated June 3, 2011.”
Wetkas also listed some landed assets, which his investigative team discovered to be owned by Saraki but were allegedly not declared by him.
Another stand-down was also observed for 15 minutes. In total 42 documents have been tendered in the case.
Earlier, prior to the initial one-hour stand-down, the Chairman of the Tribunal, ordered a day-to-day hearing on the charges pending against the Senate President.
“Let me state it here for both the prosecution and the defence that the trial of the defendant shall proceed on a day-to-day basis till the conclusion of this matter and it will begin from 10:00am to 6:00pm,” Justice Danladi Umar held.
In a bid to save his position as the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, yesterday, begged the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, sitting in Abuja, to reconsider its decision to conduct day-to-day hearing on the 13-count criminal charge the Federal Government entered against him.
Saraki, through his consortium of lawyers, led by former Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, prayed the tribunal to at least allow him to conduct legislative duties three days in a week.
The Justice Danladi Umar-led tribunal had at the resumed sitting on the case, yesterday, said it would henceforth try the defendant on daily basis.
Justice Umar said the decision of the tribunal was based on provisions of Sections 376 and 315 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015.
“Let me state it here for both the prosecution and the defence that the trial of the defendant shall proceed on a day-to-day basis till the conclusion of this matter and it will begin from 10am to 6pm,” Justice Umar held.
The panel, however, said it would on each day of the trial, allow a break period at 1pm and 4pm.
Remarkably, the day-to-day trial order came on the heels of an intensified bid by the Senate to amend the Code of Conduct Bureau/Tribunal Act, a move that has continued to elicit negative reactions from different quarters.
Saraki begs tribunal to reconsider stance Meanwhile, perturbed by what the application of the order could portend for his office, Saraki, subsequently urged the tribunal to reconsider its stance.
“My lord, we pray that you consider the position of the defendant as the Senate President. The Senate sits on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
We beg you to allow the defendant and his colleagues, who accompany him to this court, to, at least, conduct their legislative duties,” Agabi begged.
His submission infuriated the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, who contended that the fact that Saraki was on trial was not a ground for his colleagues to abandon their legislative duties.
He said: “My lord, this is very bad and should be condemned. We are not trying the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it is the defendant. It is a shame and national embarrassment for such excuse to be given.
“It is the defendant that is on trial before this court, his colleagues absolutely have no business to be here.” His position was also re-echoed by the CCT panel which said it could not shelve its decision to allow Saraki sit as Senate President. “The Senate should sit. The only thing here is the personality of the defendant who happened to be the Senate President.
The Senate should continue to sit,” Justice Umar held.
Saraki, who appeared tensed all through the verbal exchange, was accompanied to the tribunal, yesterday, by about 16 senators. My trial won’t disturb Senate proceedings — Saraki However, Saraki said, yesterday, that Justice Umar’s ruling would not disturb Senate proceedings.
According to Saraki, the Senate remains an institution where the absence of a principal officer or a presiding one will not affect plenaries.
In a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, the Senate President said: “I am the one on trial not the Senate. Even though I have been overwhelmed by the solidarity displayed by my colleagues, it is important that the work of the Senate is not unduly affected by this process.”
During the last hearing on Wednesday, April 6, 2016, prosecutors had tendered over 20 documents to prove their charges of false declaration of assets against the Senate President.
The first prosecution witness, Mr Micheal Wekpas told the Tribunal how loans and fund in the accounts of the defendant were allegedly used to buy property in the United Kingdom, Abuja and Lagos State.
He also told the Tribunal that long after the Senate President ended his tenure as Governor of Kwara State, the state continued to pay his salaries until October 31, 2015.