â€¢Â Three years that would have been devoted to tackling issues affecting Nigerians wasted on malicious trialÂ
â€¢Â Prosecution failed to call material witnesses to support its case, says Sâ€™CourtÂ
â€¢ Atiku, Dogara, Ekweremadu hail judgement
By Deji Elumoye, James EmejoÂ andÂ Alex EnumahÂ in Abuja,Â Hammed ShittuÂ in IlorinÂ Â Â
Just few hours after the Supreme Court discharged and acquitted him of alleged false asset declaration charges, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in an emotion statement he personally signed, said his trial had political undertone, but expressed joy that at the end of a 1018 days tortuous journey, he was vindicated.
The apex court in a judgment delivered by Justice CentusÂ Chima Nweze, yesterday set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal and affirmed the decision of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), which had earlier upheld the no case submission of Saraki’s counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi SAN.
Saraki, in the statement, hailed the Supreme Court Judgement and expressed confidence in the judicial process and the ability of the Judiciary to do justice to all manners of men and in all circumstances.
He said: â€œAt the end of a tortuous journey of 1018 Days, counting from September 22, 2015, when the case began at the Tribunal, I am happy that I have been vindicated. The Supreme Court has affirmed that there is no evidence of false declaration of assets. The court also observed that certain agents took over the responsibility of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) in this trial, and one can infer that this was done towards a pre-determined end.
â€œThis outcome has gladdened my heart and further strengthened my belief in this country and as well as my faith in the Almighty Allah, who is the righter of all wrongs. God has vindicated me today before the judgement of man, and I am most thankful and humbled at His grace and infinite mercies.
â€œThrough it all, I refused to be shaken, knowing, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, that the arch of the moral universe may be long, but it bends towards justice. I knew the day would come when justice would prevail and I would be exonerated.Â
â€œI have always believed in the infallibility of our Judiciary, secure in the knowledge that our courts â€“ the last refuge of the oppressed would never condemn the innocent. This outcome is also a vindication of my belief in the rule of law.Â
â€œAs I said in my first appearance at the CCT, this is a politically motivated case. The case was trumped up in the first instance because of my emergence as the President of the Senate, against the wishes of certain forces. Ordinarily, I doubt anyone would be interested in the asset declaration form I filled over 15 years ago.â€
He further added: â€œWhat we have seen is the opposite. Instead of working together in the interest of the nation and to seek to do better for our people, we are fighting one another and using legal instruments to mount baseless accusations against one another. Instead of exhibiting the need for unity and working day and night for that purpose, we are stoking the fire of division and rancour. I maintain that, above all else, my CCT trial has been a flagrant vilification of my person, and shows that some people are after their personal interests rather than the national interest.Â
â€œAs a result of the war of attrition, various arms of government have wasted resources needlessly. It has been three wasted years across board in this country. Three years that would have been devoted to tackling issues affecting Nigerians, including: economic recovery, insecurity, youth unemployment and strengthening national institutions, were wasted on malicious prosecution. People were ready to trade-off three years that would have been devoted to fostering cooperation, unity and economic progress for their selfish ends. It is my hope that those who are behind my persecution will see the handwriting on the wall and leave me to do the work for which I was elected, so I can continue to give my all to this great country of ours.
â€œAs many have rightly observed, it is plain to see with vindictiveness, to target perceived political opponents. I believe in the need to fight corruption, but I will never be party to the selective application of the law or the rhetoric of an insincere anti-corruption fight.â€
The Senate President further asserted: â€œI believe in fighting corruption and I have made my own humble contributions to the fight against corruption in this country. As a presidential aide, I initiated the process that led to the enactment of the Fiscal Responsibility Act. I was the first governor to establish the Price Intelligence Unit which later metamorphosed into the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) at the federal level. In the history of this country, the highest fraud, the most brazen corruption has been the Fuel Subsidy scam. No one wanted to talk about it or confront entrenched powers. As a Senator on the platform of the ruling party at that time, I sponsored a motion on the floor of the Senate calling for investigation that led to the unprecedented exposure of the massive corruption in the fuel subsidy regime. That was my only point of departure with the former President. My antecedents speak for themselves.Â
â€œI am most grateful for the support of my distinguished colleagues and the Honourable Members of the 8th National Assembly, for their unflinching support and regular attendance at the various proceedings. They were unfairly criticised for accompanying me on court appearances, but it is now clear that they did so because they believed that injustice to one, is injustice to all. They have been the true embodiment of esprit de corps. I thank them for banding together in the face of an unconscionable attack on the institution of the legislature.Â
â€œI thank my legal team for their determined and principled stance, and for their knowledge and diligence, which saw this case to its just conclusion. My gratitude to all my friends, political associates, supporters and the good people of Kwara State â€“ all of whom have been solidly behind me.Â
â€œI thank my family for enduring this trial with their usual grace and fortitude. My immense gratitude also goes to the international community for their interest in this case. The Nigerian press kept watch and I appreciate their vigilance in ensuring that all the facts were held up to scrutiny.Â
â€œTo my supporters, yes, there is a reason to rejoice, but our celebration must be tempered with the sobering lessons of the attempted injustice from day one of this trial.Â Â We all have to canvas for fairness in the fight against corruption. We should see this verdict as an inspiration to champion the rule of law, promote democracy and its institutions as well as tolerance of divergent views.â€
Prosecution Failed to Call Material Witnesses to Support Its Case against Saraki
Delivering judgment on Saraki’s appeal yesterday against the decision of the Court of Appeal, the apex court held that the prosecution failed to call material witnesses to prove its case against the Senate President.
The court observed that all those who have knowledge of facts were not called to testify in the matter. Besides the court also held that those who tendered documentary evidence against Saraki during the trial were not makers of the document and hence their evidence on the documents were hearsay and lacked probative value.
The supreme court said the Court of Appeal made caricature in its judgment when it found as a fact that the entire evidence adduced by the prosecution was hearsay and manifestly unreliable and still went ahead to agree that a prima facie case was established against Saraki in three out of the 18 count charges.
Justice Nweze held that there was no basis for the Court of Appeal to have asked Saraki to defend himself on the three count charges, having found the entire evidence of the prosecution as a product of hearsay, adding that the action of the Court of Appeal amounted to forensic Summersault and capable of making ill of jurisprudence.
“This court will not lend its jurisdiction to such a charade and caricature of justice. It carries grave error in holding that a prima facie case has been established against the appellant”, the court held.
Â It added: “The prosecution is duty bound by law to call all key witnesses to be able to establish a prima facie case against anybody.”
In all, the five-panel of the apex court, in the unanimous judgment agreed that the failure of the federal government to call vital witnesses in the trial of Saraki was fatal and rendered the trial nugatory.
It’s Victory for Legislature and Democracy, Says Ekweremadu
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, has described the Supreme Court judgement that discharged and acquitted Saraki of all false assets declaration charges as a victory for the legislature and democracy.
Ekweremadu in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja, also congratulated the Governor of Enugu State, Hon. Ifeanyi Uwuanyi, on his victory in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) 2015 governorship primary legal tussle between him and Senator Ayogu Eze decided by the Supreme Court yesterday.
The Senator, who described Governor Ugwuanyi as a â€œGod-sent agent of peace and development in Enugu Stateâ€, said the Supreme Court had affirmed not only the verdict of Enugu State PDP faithful in the 2015 gubernatorial primary, but also the overwhelming acceptance of the governor among the people of the State.
Also, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara said that the judgment of the Supreme Court in favour of Saraki â€œhas once again reinforced our confidence and belief in the nationâ€™s judiciary as the last hope of the common man.â€
He added: â€œAs democrats, this has again reaffirmed the independence of the judiciary as protected by our constitution under the doctrine of separation of powers and principles of checks and balances. No doubt, the Supreme Courtâ€™s judgement will help in no small way in strengthening the independence of the legislature as the first organ of government under our constitutional democracy and presidential system of government.”
Jubilation in Ilorin
It was jubilation galore in Ilorin, Kwara State yesterday, following Sarakiâ€™s victory at the SupremeÂ Â Â Court.
Residents, who marched through various routes in Ilorin, dancing and singing, saluted the Supreme Court ruling.
Atiku Hails Judgement
Also yesterday, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar hailed Sarakiâ€™s victory, saying â€œthe position of the judiciary further affirms the fact that indeed, the judiciary is the last hope not only for the common man, but for all men, and the real bastion of equity and good governance in any societyâ€.
In a press statement by his Media Office in Abuja, the Waziri Adamawa stated that it was clear to all men of goodwill and discerning Nigerians that the charges for which the Senate President was serially arraigned before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), would not stand rigorous judicial examination but was more of politics. He commended the Supreme Court jurists for the unanimity of their judgment.