…Senate President, Gov Ahmed hail verdict, laud judiciary
The Supreme Court on Friday held that the Federal Government prosecutor did not establish prima facie case on any of the 18-count charge filed against the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, before the Code Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Abuja on the alleged false assets declaration.
The apex court also set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal in Abuja which on December 12, 2017 ruled that Saraki had a case to answer on three out of the 18-count charge he was facing before the CCT.
In its judgment delivered on Friday by Justice Centus Chima Nweze, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) which had earlier upheld the no case submission of Saraki’s lawyer, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN).
Dissatisfied with the tribunal decision on no case submission, Saraki had appealed against it and asked the Court of Appeal to set the tribunal decision aside. But in its ruling, the Court of Appeal acquitted Saraki on 15 out of the 18 count charge.
Not quite satisfied with the decision, Saraki appealed against the Court of Appeal decision. On it part, the Federal Government also filed a cross appeal, urging the apex court to restore the 15 count charge that was struck out by the Court of Appeal.
Delivering the lead judgment on the appeals on Friday, Justice Centus Chima Nweze held that it was clear from the evidences of the four prosecution witnesses that a prima facie case was not established against the defendant.
“All the evidences of the witnesses were hear say evidences which are not admissible in court”, Justice Nweze, held.
He said that the Court of Appeal accepted these findings of the tribunal and acquitted the defendant on 15 count but summersaulted when it relied on same inadmissible hear say evidences and held that a prima facie case was established on three of the counts.
Justice Nweze said the Court of Appeal made caricature in its judgment when it found as a fact that the entire evidence adduced by the prosecution was hearsay and manifestly unreliable and still went ahead to agree that prima facie case was established against Saraki in 3 out of the 18 count charges.
He further held that there was no basis for the Court of Appeal to have asked Saraki to defend himself on the 3 count charges having found the entire evidence of the prosecution as a product of hearsay, adding that ” the action of the Court of Appeal amounted to forensic Summersault and capable of making ill of jurisprudence.”
The apex court also held that, “This court will not lend its jurisdiction to such a charade and caricature of justice. It carries grave error in holding that a prima facie case has been established against the appellant”.
“The prosecution is duty bound by law to call all key witnesses to be able to establish prima facie case against anybody”.
Meanwhile, following his acquittal of charges of false assets declaration by the Supreme Court on Friday, Saraki has reiterated his confidence in the judicial process and the ability of the Judiciary to do justice to all manner of men and in all circumstances.
In a statement personally signed by him after the judgement of the Supreme Court which upheld the earlier decision of the CCT, discharging and acquitting him of all 18 count charges instituted against him, Saraki expressed gratitude to all Nigerians who have supported him since the case commenced three years ago.
The statement reads in part: “At the end of a tortuous journey of 1018 Days, counting from September 22, 2015, when the case began at the Tribunal, I am happy that I have been vindicated.
The Supreme Court has affirmed that there is no evidence of false declaration of assets. The court also observed that certain agents took over the responsibility of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) in this trial, and one can infer that this was done towards a pre-determined end.
“This outcome has gladdened my heart and further strengthened my belief in this country and as well as my faith in the Almighty Allah, who is the righter of all wrongs. God has vindicated me today before the judgement of man, and I am most thankful and humbled at His grace and infinite mercies.
“Through it all, I refused to be shaken, knowing, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, that the arch of the moral universe may be long, but it bends towards justice. I knew the day would come when justice would prevail and I would be exonerated.
“I have always believed in the infallibility of our Judiciary, secure in the knowledge that our courts – the last refuge of the oppressed – would never condemn the innocent. This outcome is also a vindication of my belief in the rule of law.
“As I said in my first appearance at the CCT, this is a politically motivated case. The case was trumped up in the first instance because of my emergence as the President of the Senate, against the wishes of certain forces. Ordinarily, I doubt anyone would be interested in the asset declaration form I filled over 15 years ago.
“What we have seen is the opposite. Instead of working together in the interest of the nation and to seek to do better for our people, we are fighting one another and using legal instruments to mount baseless accusations against one another.
Instead of exhibiting the need for unity and working day and night for that purpose, we are stoking the fire of division and rancour.
I maintain that, above all else, my CCT trial has been a flagrant vilification of my person, and shows that some people are after their personal interests rather than the national interest.
“As a result of the war of attrition, various arms of government have wasted resources needlessly. It has been three wasted years across board in this country.
Three years that would have been devoted to tackling issues affecting Nigerians, including: economic recovery, insecurity, youth unemployment and strengthening national institutions – were wasted on malicious prosecution.
People were ready to trade-off three years that would have been devoted to fostering cooperation, unity and economic progress for their selfish ends.
It is my hope that those who are behind my persecution will see the handwriting on the wall and leave me to do the work for which I was elected, so I can continue to give my all to this great country of ours.
“As many have rightly observed, it is plain to see that the anti-corruption fight is being prosecuted with vindictiveness, to target perceived political opponents.
I believe in the need to fight corruption, but I will never be party to the selective application of the law or the rhetoric of an insincere anti-corruption fight.
“I thank Nigerians for standing by me through the difficult period of this trial. The support of ordinary Nigerians and their faith in me, as well as their sophistication and discernment in seeing this case for what it was, has been a source of strength to me.
“I am most grateful for the support of my Distinguished Colleagues and the Honourable Members of the 8th National Assembly, for their unflinching support and regular attendance at the various proceedings.
They were unfairly criticised for accompanying me on court appearances, but it is now clear that they did so because they believed that injustice to one, is injustice to all.
They have been the true embodiment of esprit de corps. I thank them for banding together in the face of an unconscionable attack on the institution of the legislature.
“I thank my legal team for their determined and principled stance, and for their knowledge and diligence, which saw this case to its just conclusion. My gratitude to all my friends, political associates, supporters and the good people of Kwara State – all of whom have been solidly behind me.
“I thank my family for enduring this trial with their usual grace and fortitude. My immense gratitude also goes to the international community for their interest in this case. The Nigerian press have kept watch and I appreciate their vigilance in ensuring that all the facts were held up to scrutiny.
“To my supporters, yes, there is a reason to rejoice, but our celebration must be tempered with the sobering lessons of the attempted injustice from Day One of this trial.
We all have to canvas for fairness in the fight against corruption. We should see this verdict as an inspiration to champion the rule of law, promote democracy and its institutions as well as tolerance of divergent views.
Also, Kwara State Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed has hailed the Supreme Court verdict over Saraki’s assets declaration and sundry charges instituted against him before the CCT.
The Governor, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Abdulwahab Oba, described the apex court as the bastion of democracy in the country.
The governor said: “the apex court’s judgment has reinforced the belief that the judiciary remains the hope of the common man”.
“What the Judgment has done is to re-energize the common man’s hope and belief in the judiciary. It is only hope for a better and free Nigeria”, the governor said.
Ahmed explained further that the judgement has vindicated the Senate President as a trustworthy and patriotic Nigerian that would do everything necessary to carry the country to an enviable height.
He recalled that till the trial lasted, Dr. Saraki was unperturbed, unshaken and remained committed to providing purposeful leadership as the Chairman of the National Assembly, praising him for weathering the storm of legal battle for the last three years.
“The judgement is a watershed in political journey of the President of the Senate, Federal Republic of Nigeria and will lay to rest his political persecution”.
The Governor congratulated the Senate President for the victory and urged him to continue to work to strengthen the country’s legal process as well as democratic norms.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has upheld the election of Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
This followed allegation that he was illegally nominated by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to contest the April 11, 2015, governorship election.
The apex court dismissed the suit which was lodged by a chieftain of the PDP in the state, Senator Ayogu Eze as lacking in merit.
In a unanimous verdict, a five-man panel of Justices of the apex court resolved all the issues against the appellant, even as it upheld the judgement of the Court of Appeal in Abuja which earlier affirmed Ugwuanyi’s election victory.
The apex court panel presided by Justice Kayode Ariwola, berated the appellant for raising issues it said was previously decided, saying there was no point re-litigating on issue bordering on the primary election that produced Ugwuanyi.
The court said that by the provision of section 87 (4) and (9), the appellant who did not participate in the said primary election, lacked the locus-standi to query the outcome.
The court said, “There is no substance in this appeal and it is accordingly dismissed.”
The apex court further awarded N1million costs against the appellant, in favour of Ugwuanyi who was cited as the 4th Respondent.