The criminal charge against Senate president, Bukola Saraki, has escalated from 16 count charge to 18 as Nigerian government applied for an amendment of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, in Abuja on Wednesday, February 8.
Saraki was permitted by CCT to file his plea to the fresh allegations at 1:30 pm. Following his arraignment in court since September 22, 2015, to April 28, 2016, on 13-count charge and 16-count corruption charge, respectively, the Federal Government alleged that the accused (Mr. Saraki) made a false/anticipatory declaration of assets, operated foreign accounts while in office as Kwara State governor between 2003 and 2011, as well as collected governorship salary four years after his tenure had elapsed.
Recall that FG had earlier called on two witnesses that testified against the defendant before the tribunal, who reveal that Saraki has a domicile account with the GTB both in USD and in Pounds Sterling. At the resumed hearing of the case yesterday, Justice Umar stood-down the proceeding to record Saraki’s fresh plea.
The criminal charge came shortly after the third prosecution witness, Pw-3, Mr Samuel Madujemu narrated how FG uncovered discrepancies in assets the defendant declared to the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB.
According to the witness who is the Chief Admin Officer at the CCB, and the head of investigation Division under the Department of Intelligence, Investigation and Monitoring, that joined the EFCC to probe Saraki’s assets, Saraki made his first assets declaration on September 16, 2003, upon his assumption of office.
Madujemu told the tribunal that a joint investigative team involving the CCB, Federal Ministry of Justice and the EFCC, discovered that Saraki falsely declared his assets. He said:
“After we discovered that there were some discrepancies, we commenced further investigations into the matter. One of the discrepancies we discovered had to do with false declaration and none declaration of some assets and some liabilities.”
He disclosed that Saraki under-declared some assets he acquired in 2006 when he told declared two properties he bought in Lagos and left out two others.
Reading from the assets declaration forms marked as exhibit-3, the witness mentioned the addresses of four houses in Lagos acquired by Saraki with a bank loan in 2006 and they include: No17a and 17b Mc Donald Street Ikoyi; No 15a and 15b Mc Donald Ikoyi – Properties he the accused allegedly bought at a total sum of N265m.
In defence of these allegations, Saraki’s attorney, Chief Kanu Agabi, called the court’s attention to the amended criminal charge quote:
“My lord, you cannot proceed further in the matter until the defendant pleads to that amended charge.
“The defendant is psychologically affected by this amended charge and is desirous to enter his plea. At this stage, the defendant must plead to it before we proceed further on this matter. If it is not serious then the prosecution should withdraw it.”
But the comment was contradicted by the prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs who insisted that “the new charge is just the old wine in a new bottle.” Hence Mr. Bukola Saraki will now face an amended 18-count criminal charge.