- FG insists Saraki had more assets than he declared
- Senate President: My trial won’t disrupt Senate proceedings
Tobi Soniyi and Alexander Enumah in Abuja
As the trial of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, for false declaration of assets when he was the governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011 resumed monday, the witness for the prosecution revealed that the he submitted his investigative report, which was meant to have been used by the federal government to arraign Saraki, well over a month after the Senate president had already been arraigned at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
But the federal government at the tribunal sitting in Abuja insisted that Saraki failed to declare some of his landed property in the assets declaration form submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).
During cross examination by Saraki’s lead counsel, Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN), a detective from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Michael Wetkas, testifying for the prosecution, told the tribunal that the charges against the Senate president were filed at the tribunal one month before he submitted his statement.
He made the revelation when he was asked by Agabi whether he was aware that that his statement was made over one month after the prosecution had filed its charges against the defendant.
Wetkas who said initially that he was not aware, was later to admit the discrepancy after he was presented with a document showing that the charges against Saraki were filed on September 14, 2015, while his statement was made on October 30, 2015.
Also when asked if he knew that the usual practice was for the statement to be made before charges are filed, the witness while claiming that he did not file the charge, stated that the prosecution asked him to file a summary of his report of his findings and activities during the investigation.
Wetkas also said that he was not the one who investigated a petition by the Kwara Freedom Network neither did he carry out a forensic investigation of the account of Kwara State when Saraki was governor.
The petition from the network was investigated by Team Two of the Economic Unit of EFCC, he explained, adding that what his own team investigated was based on an intelligence report.
The witness also told the tribunal that he did not investigate the pension scheme of Kwara State, neither did he know the entitlements of the defendant.
The witnesses last week told the tribunal that Saraki received monthly salaries from the Kwara State Government after the expiration of his tenure as governor of the state till June 2015.
Earlier in his testimony, Wetkas revealed that the Senate president failed to declare his property located at Nos. 1 and 3 Targus Street, Maitama, Abuja, in the assets declaration he made in 2007 and 2011, even though he had acquired those properties before he became the governor of Kwara State.
The witness also told the tribunal that although the assets declaration form provided a column for factories, ranches, farms and enterprises, Saraki wrote in the column, “I do not have”, whilst investigations revealed that he owned several companies.
According to Wetkas, the Senate president has substantial and controlling shares in Skyview Property Limited, Carlyle Property and Investment Limited, Babs Trading and Manufacturing Limited, Delta Foods Limited, Lintas Limited, Orion-Agro Limited, PPI Limited, Bastone Limited and Quality Packaging Limited, among others.
He also told the tribunal that properties at No.15A and B Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos that were declared by Saraki in his assets declaration form were bought in the name of Tiny Tee Limited from the Presidential Implementation Committee on the Sale of Federal Government Property.
The tribunal admitted 17 more exhibits as proof that Saraki owned the properties in question.
He told the court that the defendant declared 15A and 15B as his property in the assets declaration forms but when EFCC wrote to the presidential committee to verify the property, they responded that from their records, the property was No 15, Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi Lagos, and another one was Flat 1-4 Macdonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Wetkas stated that Tiny Tee paid 75% cost of the property, amounting to N123.75 million from the account of Skyview Properties with Intercontinental Bank Plc, now Access Bank Plc.
He however said the presidential committee could not provide a copy of the draft for the payment and Access Bank too could not get a copy of the draft, but they referred the team to the Skyview Properties Ltd account with them, where the draft was cleared and also furnished his team with the certificate of the account as well as opening packages for the account.
The certificate of identification, account opening packages, and draft for the payment were tendered and accepted as evidence in the court. He told the court that the payment for property purchased in the name of Tiny Tee by Saraki was partly made from Access Bank and GTB.
Among other the documents tendered through the witness were: a GTB Plc bank draft of the sum N256.3 million, N12.8 million and another N24 million as part payment for the property at No.17 Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos by the defendant.
“There is another draft of N180.6 million dated April 3, 2007. We have another draft for N36.1 million dated January 10, 2007, both as part payment of the No.17 Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos,” Wetkas told the tribunal.
He said even though the policy of the presidential committee did not allow anybody to buy more than one property, the Senate president bought three of the properties from the committee, saying that the properties at Nos. 17 and 17A Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi were acquired in Saraki’s personal name, while No.15, Mcdonald Road was bought under the name of Tiny Tee.
He said investigations further revealed that a list of properties owned by Saraki included Rukson Gardens in Ikoyi, Lagos, which is divided into nine sub-units, with each of them generating N7 million per annum amounting to a total income of N126 million per annum, which he also failed to declare.
Before the testimony and cross examination of the witness, the chairman of the tribunal, Mr. Danladi Umar, warned that he would no longer entertain excuses from counsel deemed to unnecessarily delay proceedings, even as he declared that the trial would henceforth be held on a daily basis in line with the spirit of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
Umar stated this after a request by a representative of the defence team, Gabriel Ezegine said that the case be stood down for one hour to enable the lead counsel join the tribunal.
He said that Jacobs had asked him to apologise to the court on his behalf, seeking it permission for a one-hour delay, explaining that Agabi was absent because of another case he was handling at the Court of Appeal, which was served on him yesterday.
The chairman who acceded to the request following appeal from Agabi, said that he would no longer entertain any frivolous and unnecessary excuse from any counsel, stressing the trial would continue day-to-day without any distraction.
Umar, however, turned down the application by Agabi asking the tribunal to provide him with the day-to-day record of proceedings of the tribunal to enable the defence team to thoroughly cross examine witnesses.
Umar said that the court could not oblige the defence counsel the record of proceedings daily, as this would be too cumbersome on the court registry. He however promised to do so fortnightly.
Though the tribunal was scheduled to resume sitting in the morning today, following Agabi’s appeal, Umar adjourned proceedings to noon for continuation of cross examination of the witness.
Meanwhile, after yesterday’s proceedings, Saraki said in a statement by his media aide, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, that his ongoing trial at the tribunal would not disrupt the activities of the Senate.
Saraki made this statement after Umar announced that the proceedings in the trial would now hold daily.
At the preliminary stage of the trial, senators had always accompanied the Senate president to the tribunal each time the case came up for hearing.
But Saraki said now that the trial proper has commenced and the Senate was in session, he would not want the trial to affect legislative business.
“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,” he said.
The Senate president affirmed that the legislative body, being an institution, would not be affected by the absence of any of the principals.