Nigerian Senators Accuse FG of witch-hunt, Vow To Back Saraki In CCT

Nigerian Senators Accuse FG of witch-hunt, Vow To Back Saraki In CCT
Nigerian Senators Accuse FG of witch-hunt, Vow To Back Saraki In CCT

Nigerian Senators Accuse FG of witch-hunt, Vow To Back Saraki In CCT

Some members of the Senate are spoiling for a fresh battle with the Presidency over the decision by the Federal Government to appeal against the judgment of the Code of Conduct Tribunal which acquitted President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, of a false and anticipatory declaration of assets when he was governor of Kwara State.

The senators, who spoke to PUNCHNG in different interviews, said the matter of the appeal would be raised when the National Assembly resumes from break.

The lawmakers are to resume on July 4, 2017.

While describing Saraki’s trial as a political witch-hunt, the lawmakers said the appeal against the CCT judgment had clearly shown that the executive was out against the legislature.

This is just as Saraki on Friday said he remained unperturbed by the appeal.

“This appeal against the CCT ruling is nothing but another attempt to grandstand and embark on another media trial without any substance. This is why the Senate President is sure it will be another exercise in futility,” a statement on Friday by the Special Adviser to Senate President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, said.

The CCT had on June 15, 2017, discharged and acquitted Saraki of all 18 charges preferred against him.

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, through a private prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), and a lawyer in the AGF office, had on Tuesday filed 11 grounds notice of appeal against the acquittal, describing the CCT’s judgment as unreasonable.

Speaking to newsmen the Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Abiodun Olujimi, described the appeal of the CCT ruling by the AGF as another move to waste the country’s time and resources.

She stated that the issue would be raised at the Senate when the lawmakers resumed from break.

Olujimi, who is a member of the minority Peoples Democratic Party caucus and representing Ekiti South Senatorial District, maintained that the legislature would take a step on the matter after resumption.

She said, “I think the APC is a party that has failed to put its house in order. I don’t understand it (the appeal) at all because the CCT absolved him; what are they going to get from the Court of Appeal?

“The CCT looked thoroughly at all the issues before making the pronouncement. Why are they wasting taxpayers’ money on such? And I think they will also regret it.

“I am sure that when we resume, we will send a strong signal to show that if there is no understanding between the arms of government, the government cannot make progress.

“I don’t know why they want to drag down Nigerians and box them with frivolous suits, which will never take anybody anywhere. We will do that as soon as we resume.”

Also, Senator Danjuma La’ah (PDP, Kaduna-South), said the Senate would express its grievances with the executive on the trial when the legislators returned from break.

He asked why the Federal Government would go ahead to appeal against Saraki’s acquittal at the CCT when the Federal Government failed to file an appeal against the acquittal of a former governor of Lagos State and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, by the same tribunal.

La’ah said, “The appeal by the Federal Government is a witch-hunt; the government only wants to bring down our Senate President. They are fighting with every tooth and nail to make sure they stop him from contesting. He has not declared that he wants to contest (for the Presidency), so why are they bothering themselves? To tell you the fact, this issue is between the Acting President (Yemi Osinbajo) and Tinubu.

“We have our way of interacting and showing our concerns to the executive, and that will happen when we resume. We will not relent. We stood by him (Saraki) to the end, but they are not happy.

“Tinubu was given the opportunity (by not appealing against his acquittal by the CCT) even though his case was worse than that of the Senate President. I see no reason why the Senate President should not be given the same opportunity.”

A member of the APC from the South West, who spoke on condition of anonymity, however, blamed the prosecution for losing the case against Saraki at the CCT.

“I don’t think the prosecutors were well-equipped. They had a bad case and they messed up their case. You cannot blame the judges; the prosecution gave the defence the room to manoeuvre because they (the prosecution) did not come with empirical evidence,” the official said.

Meanwhile, Saraki, in the statement, said he was confident that the verdict by the appellate court would not be different from that of the tribunal as the facts of the case remained the same and the grounds on which the decision of the CCT was based remained unassailable.

The Senate President also alleged that there were forces in the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration and collaborators outside the government who were bent on “pulling him down.”

The statement read in part, “Anybody who has been following the proceedings and the evidence given by the prosecution witnesses during examination-in-chief and cross-examination should know that if presented before any court of justice and law, the same outcome as in the CCT would be arrived at.

“Those who are running commentary on the ruling by the tribunal and criticising it are those who are not even familiar with the case and the details coming out of the trial. That is why Dr. Saraki continues to wonder how desperate some people in government and their collaborators outside have become to pull him down at all cost and by all means up to the point that they do not care if they destroy the institution of the judiciary in the process.

“That is why they sponsored stories of an allegation of bribery in an online publication against the tribunal judges. The Senate President seizes this opportunity to call on security agencies to immediately commence an investigation into this bribery allegation. It is his views that those who made the allegation should be invited to substantiate their claims.

“This same desperation made a man like Prof. Itse Sagay, the Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Anti-Corruption, to appear on tape, admitting in a foreign country that he interfered with the process in the tribunal when in an unethical manner he was instructing the judge on how to conduct the trial.

“Corruption is not just about giving or diverting money; when an official interferes with the judicial process with a view to achieving personal objectives, it is corruption.

“The Senate President notes that another sign of desperation by those who want to get him convicted at all cost was the failed antics of the prosecution counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), who, in collusion with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, sought to manipulate evidence at the tribunal.

“On realising the fundamental flaw in its case as it did not invite the defendant to make any statement at any point in the investigation, the prosecution brought in an agent of the EFCC to tender old statements Saraki made in a totally different and unrelated matter that had nothing to do with false assets declaration.”

Saraki stressed that the prosecution forgot that the letter inviting him to make the tendered statements explicitly mentioned the matter being investigated and there were documents to prove this.

He said, “The prosecution tried to circumvent the judicial process by ensuring that the witness did not enter into the witness box so as not to be on oath. However, the tribunal, as it is obvious in its ruling, saw through the dirty trick. It, therefore, disregarded that piece of evidence and described it as irrelevant and of no value to the case.’’

The Senate President added, “If not desperation by the prosecution, why is the EFCC so involved in a case of false assets declaration which is an exclusive preserve of the Code of Conduct Bureau? All the evidence presented during the trial was from the EFCC.

“The commission rendered the CCB a second fiddle player. That is why the only CCB witness presented by the prosecution gave what the tribunal referred to as ‘hearsay evidence.’ The CCB chief prosecutor testified that he got his instruction to investigate the case orally.”

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