The trial of Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, over alleged false declaration of assets took a different dimension on Monday, as the chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Mr Danladi Yakubu Umar, said the trial will go on as from 10.00 a.m. till 6.00 p.m. everyday, until judgment in the matter is delivered.
Umar, who gave this directive at the resumed hearing in the case on Monday, said his decision to conduct the trial day to day, was in line with the provisions of section 396(6) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015.
According to the Tribunal chairman, by virtue of 396 (6) ACJA, criminal trial of a defendant after arraignment should proceed day by day and that, he intended to do in the matter.
“We will start by 10.00 a.m. till about 6.00 p.m. everyday till the conclusion of the case,” he said.
Meanwhile, Saraki’s lead counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi, earlier pleaded to the tribunal not to make the proceedings in the matter daily, as it will ground the activities of the Senate.
But the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, objected to that line of submission by the defence counsel, adding that “it is a disgrace to the nation to say that the business of the Senate will suffer if the proceedings in the trial is allowed to go on day by day.
“It is not the Senate that is on trial, the senators can hold their sitting while Saraki attends to his trial,” he told the tribunal.
Also, a detective with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Michael Wetkas, told the tribunal, while being led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, that Saraki failed to declare some landed property he owns in the assets declaration forms submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).
The detective and a prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of the Senate President at Tribunal over false assets declaration told the Danladi Yakubu Umar-led Tribunal that the Senate President failed to declare his property located on No 1 and No 3, Targus Street, Maitama, Abuja, in his assets declaration he made in 2007 and 2011, even though he had acquired those property before he became the governor of Kwara State.
The witness also told the Tribunal that although the assets declaration form provided a column for factories, ranches, farms and other enterprises, Saraki wrote in the column that “I do not have,” while investigation revealed that he has several companies.
According to Wetkas, the Senate President had substantial and controlling shares in Skyview Property Limited, Carlie Property and Investment Limited, Babs Trading and Manufacturing Limited, Delta Foods Limited, Lintas Limited, Orion-Agro Limited, PPI Limited, Bastone Limited, Quality Packaging Limited, among others.
He said that property on No.15 A and B. Mcdonald, Ikoyi, Lagos, that were declared by Saraki in his assets declaration form were bought in the name of Cerlie Property and Investment Limited from the Presidential Implementation Committee on the Sales of Federal Government property.
The Tribunal admitted 17 more documents as exhibits as proof that Saraki owned the property in question.
Among the documents tendered through the witness by the prosecution counsel included GTBank draft of the sum N256.3 million, N12.8 million and another N24 million, as part payment for property on No.17 Mcdonald Street, Ikoyi, Lagos, by the defendant.
“There is another draft of N180.6 million, dated April 3, 2007. We have another draft for N36.1 million, dated January 10, 2007, both as part payment of the No. 17 Mcdonald Street, Ikoyi, Lagos,” Wetkas told the Tribunal.
He said even though the policy of the Presidential Committee on Sales of Federal Government Property did allow anybody to buy more than one property, the Senate President bought three of the property from the committee, saying the property No. 17 and 17A, Mcdonald Street, Ikoyi, were acquired in Saraki’s personal name, while the property on No.15, Mcdonald Street, was bought under the name of Carlie Property and Investment Limited.
He said investigation revealed a list of property Saraki owned, one of which included Rustos Garden with nine property that yielded a total income of N126 million per annum, which he also failed to declare.
Under cross-examination by Saraki’s lead counsel, Kanu Agabi, the witness, Wetkas, told the Tribunal that it was the prosecutor who told him to file a summary report of his findings and activities during investigation.
According to the witness, the charge against the Senate President was filed on September 14, 2015, the witness report, which formed part of proof of evidence that was filed on October 30, 2015.
He said he did not mention any petition from Kwara Freedom Network or did investigate it. The petition from the network, he said was being investigated by team, adding that his own team investigation was based on the intelligence report.
The witness also told the Tribunal that he did not investigate the pension scheme of Kwara State or knew the pension entitlement of the defendant.
The witnesses had, last week, told the Tribunal that Saraki had been receiving monthly salaries from the Kwara State government for four years after the expiration of his tenure as governor of the state.
The Senate President was arraigned by the anti-graft the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a 13-count charge bordering on allegations of false asset declaration and money laundering.
He had earlier pleaded not guilty to the charges slammed against him by the Federal Government.
The prosecution witness, while being led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs at the resumed sitting of the Tribunal on Monday, claimed that the Senate President had been receiving monthly salaries from June 2011(when he left office as the governor of Kwara State) till August 2015, while he was a senator.
Trial continues today. (Tribune)