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Who is plotting Saraki’s downfall?



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NIGERIANS are watching the unravelling of a fascinating story of political skulduggery in the ongoing saga of Mr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, the President of the Nigerian Senate, and the Code of Conduct Bureau. What we may perceive as a passing fancy is becoming a bruising and humiliating experience for Nigeria’s Number three citizen. The televised picture of Senator Bukola Saraki in the “Accused Box” of a tribunal is a welcome development and a timely reminder that nobody is above the law of the land. We may cautiously say that Nigeria’s democracy is going through a new phase where sacred cows will soon be a relic of bygone era.
However, Saraki’s embattled political destiny may have divided the nation into two camps: those who are savouring the excitement of seeing a seemingly invincible politician being paid back in his own coins, one the one hand, and, on the other hand, outraged and concerned Nigerians, who see a dangerous and systematic desecration and reduction of the rule of law to its crudest manifestation. The unfolding event may be unavoidable hiccups for a healthy and evolving democracy, but to take that point at its face value without an honest and proper appraisal of whether or not someone or a group of people is really hunting and hounding the Senate President would amount to serious injustice and insensibility.
The charges against Saraki, no matter how cautious is our analysis, raise a natural scepticism. The embattled Senate President, we are reliably informed, faces a 13-count charge of false declaration of assets, backdated to between 2003-2011. The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, which filed the 13-count charge before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, accused Senator Bukola Saraki of false and improper assets declaration for the period he was Governor of Kwara State. In charge number ABT/01/15, dated September 11, 2015, and filed before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Mr. Saraki is accused of offences ranging from anticipatory declaration of assets to making false declaration of assets in the forms he filed before the Code of Conduct Bureau while he was Governor of Kwara State.
According to the charges, the Senate President is also accused of failing to declare some assets he acquired while in office as Governor. Among other offences, he allegedly acquired assets beyond his legitimate earnings. Mr. Saraki is also accused of operating foreign accounts while being a public officer Governor and Senator. The offences, the charge sheet further stated, violated sections of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). Mr. Saraki is also said to have breached Section 2 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, an offence punishable under paragraph 18 of the said Fifth Schedule of the Constitution.
The charges were prepared by M.S. Hassan, a Deputy Director in the office of the Attorney General of the Federation. Viewed objectively, the charges are legitimate if the purpose is to dissuade our public figures from false declaration of assets while in public service.
However, our scepticism in the Saraki case is heightened by its timing and the manner of its prosecution which, taken together, have thrown up valid and important questions. Not a few Nigerians are asking to know, first, if Bukola Saraki is the only public servant, of the19, 600 filed cases before the Code of Conduct Bureau, who did not declare his assets properly? Secondly, why this sudden interest in the lapses of assets declaration that took place 13 years ago? Thirdly, didn’t this administration promise to restrict its probes to its immediate predecessor’s administration? Fourthly, is there a hidden vendetta, a planned removal, of the President of the Senate? Fifthly, was Saraki, as Governor during the period covered by 13 charges, not immune to arrest, etc. by section 308 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended)? Sixthly, are his prosecutors retroactively stripping him of the immunity he enjoyed as a Governor when the alleged assets declaration muddle took place? Seventhly is the Code of Conduct Tribunal unaware of the proviso of section 1 of section 308, which clearly states that for the purposes of proceedings against any of the officials covered by this section, “no account shall be taken of his period of office”? Finally, the Constitution stipulates that the CCT shall comprise the Chairman and two others. Can we say that two persons can make up the CCT for the purposes of trying this case? Or can an officer of the Justice (M.S. Hassan) be a substitute for the “Attorney General or any officer appointed by him”?
What baffles not a few Nigerians is the fact the a Federal High Court (FHC), a superior court of records, presided over by Justice Ramat Mohammed, issued an order, that the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), an inferior court, should halt its proceedings, appear before it on Monday, 21 September, 2015, to show cause why the Saraki matter should continue, and the tribunal, an inferior court ignored the order, issuing a bench warrant instead to bring Saraki to the tribunal.
If there be any doubt about the status of each the FHC and CCT, we call on the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the National Judicial Council to put the FHC and the CCT in their proper places. This clarification is most urgent to safeguard our legal system and democracy from saboteurs and selfish politicians who are bent on heating the polity.
We also recall that prior to this saga, Saraki’s wife was invited earlier by the EFCC for allegations of corruption. All these moves suggest to us that the Saraki political dynasty had been on the radar for bruising and destruction.
This development does not augur well for our democracy, our cherished judicial institutions and our nation.
The President has washed his hands clean of any complicity in the alleged Saraki false assets declaration saga, but Saraki’s party, the APC, has barely disguised its pleasure in Saraki’s travails and humiliation for his alleged disregard of its supremacy and party rules.
This nation must be governed by the rule of law and the due process of the law.

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