The federal government has filed an amended 15-count charge against the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who is standing trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for false assets declaration. With this development, Saraki who is currently facing a 13-count charge, may take plea on the amended charges next week. Some of the amended charges dated April 18, 2016 are: “failure to declare (upon assumption of office as governor of Kwara State in 2003) your leasehold interest in No, 42, Remi Fani Kayode street, Ikoyi, Lagos which you acquired through your company Skyview Properties Limited from First Finance Trust Limited on 12th December, 1996. “Whilst being a Senator between June 2011 and October 2013, you receive monthly salaries or emoluments as Governor of Kwara State and at the same time from the FG as a Senator.”
There was mild drama and shouts at the commencement of the trial on Thursday, with a threat by chairman of the tribunal, Danladi Umar, to commit one of the defense lawyers to prison for contempt. The lawyer had tried to move a motion seeking to disqualify Umar from the trial. The drama began after Adebayo Adelodun (SAN) announced that Kanu Agabi (SAN) and Paul Usoro (SAN) who are the leading defence counsel would join the team later. Adelodun (SAN), who led a team of 45 lawyers, conceded to a member of the team, Ajibode Oluyede, to move an application that was filed on Wednesday.
Ajibode Oluyede drew the attention of the tribunal to his application and added that it seeks to disqualify the chairman Danladi Umar from presiding over the Saraki trial. Prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacob (SAN) sprang to his feet. “The business of the day is cross examination of the first prosecution witness. My lords, yesterday this counsel attempted to serve me with this application but I declined because he has not appeared before this tribunal on this matter and he filed the motion on his own right. “A look at section 349 of the Administration of criminal Justice Act (ACJA) is instructive who can filed motions.
So I asked the lead counsel Kanu Agabi (SAN) if he was aware of the motion. Kanu told me he was not aware. Some minutes later, I saw Oluyede serving Kanu with same motion. “My lord, at the time he filed this motion he was not a counsel in the matter,” Jacobs added. At this juncture, the tribunal chairman called the registrar and handed him a letter of clearance of bribery allegations against him (Umar) from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. This following exchanges then ensued. Chairman Danladi Umar : How could you, Adebayo Adelodun (SAN) allowed this kind of a thing to happen here when you knew the business of the day is cross examination.
That motion is refused. It is thrown away. Adebayo Adelodun (SAN): My lord, the bench should be patient with counsel. It is shameful and unfortunate this is happening. I am not aware that the lead defence counsel was not aware of this motion. In any case, the counsel Oluyede was part of the defence team as at yesterday. Motion may be stupid, it is duty of the tribunal to hear it and rule on it. Then Oluyede stood up to address the tribunal. Chairman: I am refusing this motion. Sit down, I say sit down, sit down. I say sit down. I will commit you for contempt. Oluyede : For doing my duty as a counsel? Chairman: Where are the policemen ? Come take him away.
About seven standby policemen rushed towards Oluyede. But for Rotimi Jacobs’ intervention the policemen would have dragged Oluyede out. Jacobs said “my lord I am very sorry. In this kind of public forum we need to be patient. The way to measure our maturity is patience. I urged My Lord to give us time to hand this motion.” When Kanu Agabi (SAN) came in hours after the drama, he profusely apologised. “This morning I was not here and I learnt that an issue arose. Late yesterday I was served with this motion. “The point is this, I was not a member of this team from the beginning. I was hired like other lawyers in the team. I appeal to you my lord to be patient, we may make mistakes as we go along. I urge you not judge people by their weakness.” Chairman: Oluyede was not a member of your team when he filed this motion.
The motion has a mischievous purpose. I wanted to commit him for contempt and he would have been cooling his feet there in cell. Agabi (SAN) : Don’t do that, forgive him. Oluyede do not make him to be angry again. Meanwhile, at the trial yesterday the defence lawyer, Paul Usoro [SAN] continued with the cross-examination of the first prosecution witness, Michael Wetkas who gave details of various transfer of funds by the Senate President to his foreign account during his tenure as governor. According to the witness, who read from the exhibits before the tribunal, Saraki made the transfers from his GTB account to his American Express Bank, New York account.
The defendant transfers fund from his local bank account to his foreign account are as follows: “March 3, 2011, $30,656.74; February 2, 2011, $32, 687; October, 18, 2010, $48,900; September, 2, 2010, $18,000; August 3, 2010, $100,000; May 18, 2010, $134,000; Jan 21, 2010, $64,000; July 29, 2010, $80,984; August 26, 2011, $65,000; Jan, 27, 2012, $145,000; “16 July, $138,000; Sep24, 2008, $45,308;Jan 11 2012, $130,400;Dec, 18, 2012, $4,123;Jan $17, $560, 19, August, 2011,$43,651; August 16, 2011, 91, 738; August 26,2011,$10,000; August 28,2011 $65000; September, 9 2011, $1120.140; November,2011, $147,000; December, 14, 2011, $86,872, Jan, 12012, $15,000, Jan 27, 2012, $145.000; January 1, 2012, $700,000;February 2, 2012, $94,754.63; February 20, 2012, $77.000; March 29, 2012, $70.648; May 11, 2012, $70.000; May 5, 2012, $55.000, June 12, 2012, $89.411; December 18, 2012, $400,153; October 11, 2012, $130, 400; September 24, 2012, $45, 308.”
The witness however told the tribunal that on the face of the telex on which these transfers were made, the card account number of Saraki was not indicated. Wetkas further admitted that members of team that investigated the Senate president did not interrogate him on the American Express Card transactions. He also told the tribunal that Saraki was not invited by the combined investigation team made up of the EFCC and Code of Conduct Bureau over his assets declarations. He said the card account number of the telexes involving Saraki’s foreign transfers was not in the document tendered before the tribunal.
“To my understanding, the card account number is not here. “The strength of my team during investigation was more on the statement of account which shows clear narration of the transfers to American Express Bank, New York. But defence lawyer, Usoro said the telex is the document that effects the transfer based on the consumers instruction and that questions arose from count 12 of the charges levelled against Saraki by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. Answering question from Usoro, Wetkas said it was not to his knowledge that members of his team interrogated Saraki on the telex by the American transfer.
He said, “The American Express Bank card was not disclosed in the asset declaration form to the beareau. “The investigating team was divided into various teams and the one that was in charge of Saraki’s assets made the revelation during its work. He was interrogated by the team. “I know they asked him questions relating to his properties, about the declaration of assets before the Tribunal, the companies he has interest in, locally and internationally, also about society general bank and he made statements to all of those things i mentioned before my other team members. “Saraki also made statements about some of the petitions tendered and other issues i may not remember. The matter has been adjourned to Wednesday next week the 27 April for further cross examination of the first defence witness.