• As plot to remove Saraki thickens
THE controversial prosecution of the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) over allegations of false declaration of assets may have begun to cause tension in the National Assembly and, by extension, in some parts of the country.
The current situation seems a replay of the pre-June 9political simulations and horse-trading for the election of the presiding officers of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The PDP lawmakers have been watching the political brinksmanship against Senate President Saraki by the APC leadership with utmost preparations for another round of power tussle in the Senate.
It was revealed at the weekend that some PDP Senators perceived the CCB attempt to arraign and arrest the Senate presidentas the height of desperate actions to oust Saraki from office.
Some of the senators who the National Daily interacted with at the weekend said the PDP lawmakers have not given up on the struggle to pay back the APC for ruining the PDP chances in the election of the House of Representatives Speaker in 2007.
They insisted that the Tuesday, June 9 encounter will be replicated when the APC comes back for a new Senate President if they succeed in the current game plan.
The lawmakers said the impeachment of the Senate President or the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP will be a Herculean task, saying that, though, he could be intimidated to resign.
They were, however, speaking on the assumption that the PDP Senators continue to be united in the opposition party’s belief, relying on the power calculus of the PDP having 49 senators in anticipation of additional six senators from the ruling party to turn the table against the APC’s majority members of 59 senators.
Majority of the Senate still reiterated their steadfast support for Saraki, insisting they will always play their usual inter-party game in the Senate leadership. They, however, submitted that besides the power tussle, PDP senators will cooperate with the APC-Government to ensure good governance and give necessary support for President Muhammadu Buhari for the development of the country.
“We expect the APC to resolve the senate leadership crisis amicably as the party did on the Speaker of the House of Representatives. But if they don’t, we will play our usual power game,” one of the senators said.
According to him, the PDP lawmakers are there to provide good governance irrespective of political party membership in the national interest. He added though they will always protect the political interest of their party, the ruling party should learn to separate politics from governance.
The CCB has made allegations of false and improper declaration of assets acquired by the Senate President during his tenure as governor of Kwara state from 2003 to 2011, and subsequently, commenced his prosecution at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Abuja last week.
The bureau was said to have raised a 13-count charge against Saraki in filing a suit at the Code of Conduct Tribunal through the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation.
Saraki had acknowledged the allegations as “frivolous, false, incorrect and untrue.” He had also protested why the Bureau is making allegations over assets he declared 12 years ago while he was Governor of Kwara State with no mention of his recent assets declaration.
He was of the view that the “present effort is a desperate move initiated due to external influence and interference. The Senate President had also complained that the Bureau did not write to him to complain of any inconsistency in his asset declaration forms, which he noted is contrary to its laws.
“It should be noted that we do not know on whose authority these charges are filed when the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act clearly indicate that any prosecution must be authorised by an Attorney General and we know the nation last had an Attorney General in May 2015. This is another clear indication that the CCT is acting under influence from outside its domain and
therefore, ready to bend the rules to achieve this obnoxious objective,’ he said.
According to him, the prosecution is not an anti-corruption-driven case and cannot be part of the moves aimed at fighting corruption. “It is simply a pure malicious and politically motivated prosecution aimed at undermining the person and Office of the Senate President,” Saraki had declared in a statement.
The statement further indicated that anytime “you try to fight corruption or insist that the right thing should be done, the system will always come after you. This is another case of desperation to fight Dr. Saraki because of his recent stance on national issues”.
The absence of Saraki at last Friday sitting of the Tribunal in Abuja culminated in the order on the police to arrest him and present him at the Monday sitting this week.
Perhaps, the legal complexity arising from the absence of an Attorney General of the Federation may have compelled shifting of procedural actions to the Justice Ministry.
It was gathered that a Deputy Director in the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. M.S. Hassan, had applied to the Federal Ministry of Justice for bench warrant for the arrest of the Senate President because of his personal absence at the tribunal to enter his plea to the13- count corruption charge against him, though he was represented by a team of lawyers.
The Federal Ministry of Justice was gathered to have accordingly directed the Code of Conduct Tribunal to issue the arrest warrant on Saraki
It was gathered that Saraki lawyers served the tribunal a copy of the ruling of Justice Ahmed Mohammed of a Federal High Court, Abuja, summoning the Ministry of Justice to appear on Monday to explain why the trial should be allowed to proceed.
The Chairman of the CCT, Justice Danladi Umar, Chairman of the Code of Conduct Bureau, Mr. Sam Saba, as well as Mr. Hassan who signed the charge against Saraki, were said to also be summoned by the Court. The Justice Ministry had argued that “he cannot sit in the comfort of his chamber and object to his trial in absentia.
“Justice Mohammed lacked the powers to summon the CCT and CCB chairmen, accusing Saraki of engaging in “forum shopping” in a desperate bid to scuttle his trial,” said the tribunal chairman.
Some political watchers highlighted a seeming theatrical anti-corruption battle scenario: the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is probing Saraki’s wife; Saraki is probing EFCC Chairman; Code of Conduct Bureau Chairman is probing Saraki; and EFCC is probing Code of Conduct Bureau Chairman.
Added to that is the ducking game: the Code of Conduct Tribunal Chairman shunned EFCC invitation; Saraki snubbed the Tribunal summon; the Code Tribunal issued an arrest warrant against Saraki; and the EFCC silent on Code of Conduct Tribunal Chairman
Moreover, The Northern Ethnic Nationalities Unity Congress (NENUC) was gathered to have demanded at the weekend the resignation of Senate President Saraki. The National President and Convener of NENUC, Bako Benjamin reportedly said Saraki’s continued stay in office is “capable of sending wrong signals to the international community, posing a huge question mark on President Buhari’s commitment to ridding the country of corruption.
“NENUC would not hesitate to mobilise other Nigerians to march on the National Assembly in protest should the Senate President refuse to honourably resign from office within reasonable time,” said the NENUC leader.
This seems to raise more suspicion of involvement of external forces in the Saraki saga.
Some of the 13 counts against Saraki include a false declaration in the assets declaration form for public officers on assumption of office as Governor of Kwara State by making an anticipatory asset declaration in that you claimed to have owned and acquired No. 15A and N0. 15B McDonald Ikoyi, Lagos, through your company Carlisle Properties Limited in the year 2000 when the said property was actual fact sold by the Implementation Committee on Federal Government landed property in the year 2006 to your companies Tiny Tee Limited and Vitti Oil Limited for the aggregate sum of N396, 150, 000
He was also alleged to have operated an American Express credit card account during his tenure as governor, where he wired at least $3.4 million from a Nigerian account. The law bars public office holders from operating foreign accounts
• As plot to remove Saraki thickens