Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
A former Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki has reiterated his position that the application to the Federal High Court, Lagos, for interim forfeiture order on his Ilorin home by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is an abuse of the court process and a violation of a subsisting order of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
A Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi yesterday ordered the forfeiture of the Ilorin residence of the former Senate president on an interim basis.
The order by Justice Rilwan Aikawa, followed an ex parte application by the EFCC seeking an order of interim forfeiture of the property located at 1, Abdulkadir Street, GRA, Ilorin, Kwara State, on the grounds that it was acquired with proceeds of unlawful activity.
Ruling on the application, Justice Aikawa ordered the interim forfeiture of the property and directed the applicant to cause the order to be published in a national newspaper, inviting any one with interest in the property to show cause, why the mansion valued at over one billion naira, should not be forfeited to the federal government.
But in a swift reaction, Saraki has decribed the application by the EFCC seeking the forfeiture as an abuse of the court process.
Saraki, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, noted that the Federal High Court in Abuja presided by Justice Taiwo Taiwo had given an order “restraining the respondents (Commission) by themselves, their subordinates, agents, servants, or privies howsoever, from seizing, impounding, taking over, confiscating or otherwise forfeiting the Applicant’s (Saraki) right to own and peacefully enjoy any of his assets and properties”.
“The EFCC’s claim that the Ilorin property was built by any proceed of fraud is outrightly false. The fact is that the Ilorin property was built partly by the Kwara State Government pursuant to the Third Schedule of the Governor and Deputy Governor (Payment of Pension) Law 2010 while Dr. Saraki personally funded the remaining cost of the building. There are existing letters from the Office of the Head of Service of Kwara State notifying the former governor (Saraki) of the state government’s compliance with the State Pension for governor’s law and the one indicating his intention to bear the cost of the additional expenditure that will arise from building the property to his desired taste dated January 25, 2012 and February 8, 2012 respectively.
“The construction of the building did not commence until the last few weeks of Dr. Saraki’s tenure as governor and the bulk of his contribution to the funding were made with cheques. Where cash was involved, this was mainly in 2012 and 2013, more than a year after he had left office as governor. So, where is the claim that the money for the construction of the house fraudulent obtained from Kwara State Government coming from? It should also be noted that the land on which the house is built is not a government-allocated land.
“One can only see that EFCC is playing politics and spreading falsehood in its cheap attempt to witch-hunt and intimidate a perceived enemy. We are also surprised that the EFCC could not even hide its penchant for abusing the nation’s judicial institution as it engaged in forum shopping when it filed a suit in Lagos on a property situate in Ilorin.
“We will like to restate our earlier position that Dr. Saraki will contest this matter in the court at least to further attest to his belief in the rule of law, the sanctity of the courts and their enduring readiness to do justice in all matters and to all persons”, Olaniyonu explained.
“Let it be known that the usual claim by the EFCC that its actions were directed against corrupt elements does not apply to Dr. Saraki because he is a man who at every point in his public service has sought to institute transparency and accountability in governance. Dr. Saraki has always worked to promote transparency in governance in all the places he had held public office. As a Special Assistant to then President Olusegun Obasanjo on budget matters, between 2000 and 2002, he initiated the passage of the Fiscal Responsibility Act and Public Procurement Act. Both laws were aimed at ensuring macro-economic stability and efficiency in government procurement through greater accountability and transparency.