• Senate president to take fresh plea February 27
Alex Enumah in Abuja
The federal government has filed fresh charges against the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on alleged falsification of declaration of asset between 2003 and 2015.
The fresh charge, which is the third in the series, was filed yesterday and signed by A.K. Alilu, an Assistant Chief State counsel in the office of the Attorney General of the Federation.
The 18-count amended charge was brought to the attention of the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Umar Danladi Yakubu, by the lead counsel to the Senate President, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), midway into the proceedings on the old charge.
Agabi objected to the continuation of proceedings and why there should be an amended charge against his client.
He disclosed that the lead prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), had just furnished him with a copy of the amended charge.
He claimed the action of the prosecution was in bad faith by calling witnesses to continue the trial, when a fresh charge had been filed at the tribunal.
The former Minister of Justice therefore demanded the suspension of the trial on the grounds that the fresh amended charge takes precedence over the old charge.
In the alternative, Agabi demanded the withdrawal of the further amended charge by the prosecution if it wants the trial to continue.
The prosecution counsel confirmed filing further amended charge but explained that he allowed the trial on the old charge to continue since the tribunal had already fixed yesterday for continuation of the trial.
At this stage, Agabi applied for an adjournment to enable his client and the legal team time to study the new charge and prepare the defence along the new charge.
He argued that the adjournment had become necessary so as not to allow the prosecution to ambush them.
But Jacobs objecting to the adjournment, said the fresh amendment was in line with evidence already tendered and is not expected to affect proceedings.
In his ruling, the tribunal chairman agreed with Agabi that the defence needed time to study the fresh charge and adjourned the matter till February 23 for the Senate President to take fresh plea.
Before the adjournment, a new prosecution witness, Samuel Madojemu, had confirmed to the tribunal that the Certified True Copies of the Asset Declaration forms of Saraki tendered by the prosecution where the same with the original.
The witness said that the Code of Conduct Bureau CCB did not investigate the declared asset of Saraki in the Asset Declaration forms from 2003 to 2015, until the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) came into the matter.
The witness, who is the third to be called by the prosecution, is Head of Investigation of the CCB.
While been led in evidence by the prosecution witness, Madojemu disclosed that the investigation of Saraki’s declaration form was triggered by a Presidential Investigative Report of 2006, which he said was scanty, as it was limited to the beginning of Saraki’s first term as Governor of Kwara State.
He said it was based on this initial report that the EFCC went ahead to conduct a full investigation against Saraki.
“We discovered some discrepancies and thereafter we commenced further investigations on the matter,” he said, adding that one of the discoveries had to do with false declaration and non declaration of some assets and liabilities.
The federal government had in the first charge preferred a 13-count charge against Saraki on September 22, 2015 which borders on false and anticipatory asset declaration, as well as operation of foreign accounts, which he allegedly committed while serving as Governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.
The charges were later amended to 16 on April 28, 2016 with the addition of three other charges, which alleged that he failed to declare his interest in a foreign credit card account to which he allegedly transferred huge sums of money while serving as governor.