BY MUYIWA OYINLOLA, Abuja
All is not well among top Federal Government functionaries over the recent discharge and acquittal of Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, by the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
The politician, had in the last 21 months been facing trial for offences ranging from anticipatory declaration of assets to allegedly making false declaration of assets while he was governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011, but the tribunal last Wednesday ruled that he had no case to answer in the 18-point charge brought against him by the federal government.
There had been rumble among top echelons of government since the judgement was delivered with some calling for appeal while others are of the view that status quo ante should be maintained and the sleeping dog allow to lie.
Recall that the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Itse Sagay had condemned the acquittal saying there was no basis for the position taken by the tribunal, even as he stressed that the prosecution presented enough evidence to secure a conviction.
“To start with, I’m shocked, because a lot of materials were put before the court. And for a court to uphold a no-case submission means that there was no prima facie case made.
“That’s why I’m a bit shocked because I followed the proceedings very closely. But there’s going to be an appeal. We’ll just wait and see happen then, but I’m thoroughly shocked, yes,” he said.
In the same vein, the Special Assistant to the President on Prosecutions, Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla, at the weekend also maintained Sagay’s position that government would appeal the judgement.
“Definitely we are going to appeal against the ruling in Saraki’s case. One of our grounds of appeal is that the tribunal misapplied the law. For instance, the standard of proof that the tribunal used is not applicable to charges of false declaration of asset”, he stated.
Meanwhile, whereas the duo are drumming for the appeal of the tribunal’s verdict, LEADERSHIP gathered at the weekend that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Justice Abubakar Malami, has a different stand on the matter.
Malami, it was gathered had disclosed that he would need the advise of President Muhammadu Buhari before a decision on whether to appeal the case or not, would be taken, citing that Saraki is not just an individual but the Number 3 man in the country. He also said that FG has not appealled such case in the past and preceedent is law, since there is no such precedence in such high profile case it will be difficult to start it with Saraki’s case.
It was further gathered that there were those of the view that if Saraki’s case must the appealed, then the case of the former Lagos State State governor, Ashiwaju Bola Tinubu, should also be revisited, since he was discharged but not acquitted of the case against him.
Recall that the CCT had in 2011 dismissed the case of allegedly operating several foreign accounts while serving as governor between 1999 and 2011, over failure to establish a prima facie case against him.
But besides the foregoing, it was also gathered that there is the last group in the presidency that is considering that both cases should be allowed to go as already being decided as election year is closing in and reopening the cases might spell doom for the party as both politicians are formidable forces within the party.