It is no longer news that Senate President Bukola Saraki has been discharged of the false asset delaration charges leveled against him after almost three years he was put on trial by the Federal Government.
The Supreme Court in its judgment delivered on Friday, Juky 6, 2018 by Justice Centus Chima Nweze, set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal and affirmed the decision of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) which had earlier upheld the no case submission of Saraki’s counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN).
The CCT had in its judgment of June 14, 2017 discharged Saraki of all the 18-count charges brought against him by federal government on the ground that the prosecution failed to prove its allegations beyond reasonable doubt.
However, the appellate court in its judgment discharged Saraki of 15 of the 18 count charges and ordered him to open his defence on three charges, adding that prima facie case was established against him on counts 4, 5 and 6.
But delivering judgment on Saraki’s appeal penultimate Friday against the decision of the Court of Appeal in December, 2017, the apex court held that the prosecution failed to call material witnesses to support its case against the Senate President.
The court agreed that all those who had knowledge of facts were not called to testify in the matter. Besides, the court also held that those who tendered documentary evidence against Saraki during the trial were not makers of the documents, hence their evidence on the documents were hearsay and lacked probative value.
Many were not surprised about the outcome of the legal journey, which started in September, 2015 and finally ended on Friday, July 6, 2018. This is not farfetched – it was a politically motivated trial, at least so it seemed.
Saraki’s political opponents latched on the trial to clamour for his removal from the office of the Senate President but the strongman of Kwara politics did not give a damn even as he consistently insisted that he was innocent.
It is interesting to note that Saraki’s emergence as the President of the 8th Senate on June 9, 2015 against the directive of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) apparently triggered the investigation that led to his subsequent arraignment before the CCT over alleged false asset declaration charges in September, 2015 – the crimes were allegedly commited when he became the governor of Kwara state in 2003 – 12 years after the commission of the said crimes.
After the Supreme Court judgement, Saraki, who had maintained an unusual calmness over his political travails, opened up like never before on his feelings about the APC-led government at the centre.
He described the three years of APC in office as a waste of time and resources because of what he called a war of attrition among the three arms of government.
Saraki dsiclosed this in a statement he personally signed while reacting to the judgement of the Supreme Court on the case of alleged false asset declaration against him hours later.
“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,” Saraki said.
The number one Senator also noted that the much-talked-about anti-corruption crusade of President Muhammadu Buhari was only being targeted at percieved enemies of the government.
He added that he believes in the need to rid the country of corruption but he will never be a party to a selective anti-graft war even as he pointed out that he demonstrated and initiated processes, which yielded fruits when he was a presidential aide and later served as governor of Kwara state on ati-corruption approaches.
“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 believe in fighting corruption and I have made my own humble contributions to the fight against corruption in this country. As a presidential aide, I initiated the process that led to the enactment of the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
“I was the first governor to establish the Price Intelligence Unit which later metamorphosed into the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) at the federal level. In the history of this country, the highest fraud, the most brazen corruption has been the Fuel Subsidy scam. No one wanted to talk about it or confront entrenched powers.
“As a Senator on the platform of the ruling party at that time, I sponsored a motion on the floor of the Senate calling for investigation that led to the unprecedented exposure of the massive corruption in the fuel subsidy regime. That was my only point of departure with the former President. My antecedents speak for themselves,” Saraki said.
24 hours later, President Buhari also reacted to the Supreme Court judgement via a statement issued by the special assistant to the President on Media, Garba Shehu, praising Saraki for establishing his innocence rather than resorting to underhanding dealings.
Another import of the presidential reaction is that the President used the exoneration of Saraki to affirm that the nation’s judicial system is working. This no mean feat for the judiciary and it must be happy with Saraki.
“I have seen many instances where individuals and groups seek the destruction of the judicial institution in the foolish thinking of saving their skin, instead of going through the painstaking process of establishing their innocence.
“In the case of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, I have seen him take the tortuous path of using the judicial process. He persevered, and in the end, the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court, says he is not guilty as charged.
Anyway, whatever is the feeling of Saraki about his travails is no longer an issue. The most important thing is that he has been vindicated. Also, the maturity he displayed while the trial lasted was legendary. It is therefore not unlikely that many objective newspapers will settle for the Senate President as either their Man or Politician of the Year 2018 as the case may be.