CCT acquittal: No respite yet for Saraki

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*Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Sen. Dino Melaye (Kogi, APC), Sen. Danjuma Goje (Gombe, APC) and others after the CCT discharged and acquitted the Senate President of 18-count charge of non-declaration of assets, in Abuja (Photo credit: Ernest Okorie/BJO/NAN)

I harbour no grudge against anyone—Saraki

The senate president, Bukola Saraki is savouring his discharge and acquittal by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) but he does not seem to enjoy the peace that should ordinarily come with such victory.

While he and his camp are popping champagne to celebrate the victory, a cross-section of Nigerians has reacted in diverse ways to the acquittal.

The chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption (PACAC) Prof. Itse Sagay, in his reaction described as “incredible” the senate president’s acquittal and called on the federal government to appeal against the ruling.

“I was shocked myself by the ruling. The amount of evidence amassed against him (Mr. Saraki) was considerable; so, I am surprised it was said no prima facie had been made against him. It’s shocking that’s all I can say.”

Sagay disagreed with the CCT chairman, Mr. Danladi Umar who, in his ruling stated: “From the simple analysis of the evidence of the prosecution, we find it difficult to accept the seriousness of the witnesses. All the evidences were so discredited, unreliable that no reasonable court will attach probate value to them.

“Since the essential ingredients of all the charges were not proved as required by law, this tribunal has no option to discharge and acquit the defendant in view of the manifestly unreliable evidence of the prosecution witnesses.

Sagay disagreed saying the prosecution had done a good job.

“If you look at this case, the prosecution was very organised. Evidence was brought out very clearly. In fact, I would say mountains of evidence. So, nobody can blame poor prosecution in this case. So, what is the problem? A Nigerian factor? We don’t know.”

Also reacting, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) described the acquittal tribunal’s verdict as “product of political expediency” adding there “massive judicial corruption.”

It further described it as “very disturbing and a sign of compromise by the federal government.”

“We view the judgment as a political one achieved by the so-called anti-corruption-focused APC-led federal government for the purpose of settling its intra-party wrangling and discontent. The ruling is a big indictment on the government’s anti-corruption drive, given that Saraki’s case had been of the most prominent and most vigorously pursued one out of the several corruption cases being prosecuted by the Federal Government,” said CACOL.

“At this rate, it appears no publicly exposed persons will ever get convicted regardless of the incriminating charges against them as long they hire high profile lawyers, who will in turn help in navigating through the turf of judicial trials using the lacunae in the justice system to evade justice.

“The presence of black sheep in the judiciary will continue to render useless all plans and energy vested into flushing the nation of corruption. Justice can never prevail when the lawyers, who are to defend justice and judges, who are to pronounce justice are wearing garments of corruption,” said CACOL.

Also, the presidency described the acquittal as “outrageous and travesty of justice.”

The special assistant to the president on prosecution, Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla, wondered why the CCT dismissed the weight of “overwhelming evidence” against Saraki.

“There was overwhelming evidence, cogent evidence, incontrovertible evidence, which cannot be dismissed by a no-case submission. The trial judge ought to have called on the defendant to enter his defence against the evidence adduced by the prosecution.

“The prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), is one the best in the country and he conducted that case professionally, conscientiously and diligently. So we are amazed, we are surprised.”

However, Saraki has found favour in his deputy, Senator Ike Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who described the discharge and acquittal as “victory for democracy.”

He said Saraki’s trial was hatched in the coven of evil politics and was, therefore, bound to fall like a pack of cards.

Ekweremadu who spoke through his special adviser on media, Uche Anichukwu said: “This is another sweet victory for the 8th Senate in particular, separation of powers, rule of law, and the nation’s democracy.

“The trial, just like the arraignment of the presiding officers of the senate on trumped up charges of forgery of Senate Standing Rules, was political vendetta and manipulations taken too far.

“It was never built on any iota of truth, but on the quicksand of falsehood and was, therefore, condemned to sink under the weight of law and justice.”

The deputy senate president congratulated his boss for “standing firm and tall in the face of political tribulation,” expressed appreciation to the senators and Nigerians for standing with the senate “every step of the way despite apparently contrived and reckless efforts to destabilise and bring the senate and its le However, Saraki has found favour in his deputy, Senator Ike Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who described the discharge and acquittal as “victory for democracy.”

He said Saraki’s trial was hatched in the coven of evil politics and was, therefore, bound to fall like a pack of cards.

Ekweremadu who spoke through his special adviser on media, Uche Anichukwu said: “This is another sweet victory for the 8th Senate in particular, separation of powers, rule of law, and the nation’s democracy.

“The trial, just like the arraignment of the presiding officers of the senate on trumped up charges of forgery of Senate Standing Rules, was political vendetta and manipulations taken too far.

“It was never built on any iota of truth, but on the quicksand of falsehood and was, therefore, condemned to sink under the weight of law and justice.”

The deputy senate president congratulated his boss for “standing firm and tall in the face of political tribulation,” expressed appreciation to the senators and Nigerians for standing with the senate “every step of the way despite apparently contrived and reckless efforts to destabilise and bring the senate and its leadership to disrepute.

In his reaction, human rights activist, Mr. Mike Ozekhome mocked commended the CCT for freeing the senate president but chided the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission which was the key witness in the trial.

“The Code of conduct tribunal headed by Mr. Danladi Umar was bold, courageous and right, in spite of visible executive interference and manipulation, to have discharged and acquitted…Saraki, on all the counts of false declaration of assets levelled against him,” said Ozekhome.

Meanwhile, Saraki said after the tribunal acquitted him that he harbours no grudge against anyone.

In a statement which he personally signed, the senate president said from the outset of the trial, he had maintained that he would come clean adding that his vindication calls for a celebration.

Read the full statement below:

Today, June 14, 2017, the Code of Conduct Tribunal sitting in Abuja discharged and acquitted me on a case of false declaration of assets, which started in September 2015.

You would recall that at the beginning of the trial, I maintained that I will clear my name. The conclusion of this trial has vindicated my position. With the outcome of this case, our faith is renewed in our courts and our hope is restored that the judiciary in our country could indeed provide sanctuary for all those who seek justice.

I thank the Almighty Allah, the ultimate Judge and the repository of all powers. He alone has brought about this victory. I am immensely grateful to all my colleagues in the National Assembly for their abiding support. All through my trial, they demonstrated their strong conviction about the choice we all decided to make two years ago. I thank members of my family for their unflinching support. I thank all friends and supporters back home in Kwara State and across the length and breadth of our country for their prayers and their sacrifices. My gratitude also goes to all members of my legal team for their tireless efforts to ensure the cause of justice is served.

After undergoing the crucible of a tortuous trial, my vindication today calls for celebration.

It is my belief however that if there should be any celebration at all, it should be a celebration of the hopes that this judgment gives us as citizens that despite all the challenges that we face as a country, we are well on our way to building a country where the innocent needs not be afraid. I therefore urge all my supporters to refrain from any unbridled triumphalism. The challenges that our country faces today are enormous and do not allow for wanton celebration. Instead, we should all reflect on the significance of this moment and what it meant for our democracy.

On a personal note, I harbour no grudge against anyone, regardless of the role they might have played in the persecution that I had endured in the last two years. I believe that if my trial had in anyway given hope to the common man that no matter the forces arraigned against him, he can still get justice in our courts, then my tribulation had not been in vain.

Once again, I thank my colleagues in the 8th Senate for standing firm. Regardless of the distraction of my trial, we have achieved more as legislators than the previous Senates. Now that this distraction is over, we can even achieve so much more. We must now proceed from here with greater vigour to deliver on the expectations of Nigerians and show that this 8th Senate can indeed play a central role in improving the quality of lives of our people.

Lastly, I thank all the gentlemen of the press for your abiding interest in this case, which I believe had contributed in no small measure in ensuring that truth and reason ultimately prevailed.

Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, CON, President of the Senate

SOURCES: PUNCH, GUARDIAN, VANGUARD, PREMIUM TIMES, SAHARA REPORTERS

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