Senate President BukolaSaraki

Onyekachi Eze of New Telegraph News reports on the allegation by the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Timi Frank, that the party’s leadership has done nothing to mediate in the ongoing trial of the Senate President Bukola Saraki before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT)

The statement credited to Mr. Timi Frank, Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has introduced another dimension in the perjury case against the Senate President Bukola Saraki before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).

The APC deputy spokesperson had in a statement last Friday accused the leaders of the party of conspiratorial silence in Saraki’s travails. “I sincerely hold that the current trial of Saraki is not only undeserved, but amounts to paying a good man with evil.

I also want to say that the leaders of our great party have unfortunately remained quiet in the face of evil,” Frank said.

He recounted the contributions of the embattled chairman of the National Assembly in APC’s victory against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in last year’s presidential election, and said such could not have been possible without “courageous strategists like Saraki who lent their political weight in favour of the APC at the risk of their own lives and personal survival.

“I don’t think we have forgotten how Saraki as a Senator in the 7th Senate brought the attention of Nigerians to the fraud perpetrated by the last administration in the name of fuel subsidy.

I recall how Saraki led five other governors of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) into the APC – a development that successfully turned the political tide against the PDP and eventually tipped the electoral scale against them during the 2015 general elections.

“I don’t think we have forgotten how Saraki led scores of Senators to cross over to the APC on the floor of the Senate. Saraki has paid his dues at a time it was suicidal for anybody to stand up to the then ruling PDP.

I believe it is time for all of us to act to save our party. It is time to rally round our generals who have fought valiantly and led us to victory. To abandon Saraki is to abandon a worthy comrade.”

Timi Frank

The former Kwara State governor is currently standing trial before the Justice Danladi Umar-led CCT on a 13-count criminal charge. He was accused of falsely declaring his assets when he served as governor of between 2003 and 2011.

According to the charge sheet, the Senate President was said to have between May 2003 and May 2011, when he served as Kwara State governor, falsely declared his assets as well as made anticipatory declaration of assets.

He was also alleged to have operated foreign bank accounts while in office as a public officer and acquired assets beyond his legitimate earnings, which include the claim that he owned and acquired No 15A and 15B McDonald street, Ikoyi, Lagos, through his company, Carlisle Properties Limited in 2000, when the said property was actually sold by the Implementation Committee of the Federal Government landed properties in 2006 to his companies, Tiny Tee Limited and Vitti Oil Limited for the aggregate sum of N396, 150, 000.

Saraki was also alleged to have made false declaration on or about June 3, 2011, by refusing to declare plot 2A Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, which he acquired between 2007 and 2008 through his company from the Central Bank of Nigeria for a total sum of N325 million.

Again, the Senate President was said to have refused to declare No1 Tagnus street, Maitama, Abuja, which he claimed to have acquired in November 1996 from one David Baba Akawu. This offence, the prosecution said was a breach of section 2 of the CCB and Tribunal Act punishable under section 23(2) of the Act and paragraph 9 of the said Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

He was arraigned before the tribunal in September last year, and he pleaded not guilty to all the charges. Saraki had before now, queried the propriety of the tribunal to bring the charges against him, more so as at that time, the Attorney General and Minister for Justice whose duty it is to prefer the charges against him, had not been appointed.

He pursued this to the Supreme Court, which early this year, ruled that he should submit himself for trial by the tribunal. His counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), had argued that the Senate President was never accorded the opportunity to clarify the alleged discrepancies discovered in four assets declaration forms he submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) while he was in office as the governor of Kwara State.

According to him, the laws that established the CCB stipulates that any one perceived to have falsely declared his assets, must be summoned to give explanations. “The defendant was never afforded such opportunity, not even a chance to kneel down and apologise,” Agabi submitted.

He also cited the case of former Lagos State governor, Senator Bola Tinubu, who sometime in 2012, was discharged and acquitted on such ground. But the prosecution counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), who admitted error in Tinubu’s case, said the provision of 1979 constitution upon which the former Lagos State governor was freed had gone obsolete with the enactment of the 1999 constitution (as amended). “It is unfortunate that the defendant is making every effort to turn this trial to child’s play.

His argument before was that there was no Attorney General of the Federation when the charge was filed; now that there is an AGF he had turned round to argue that the AGF has no power to file charge against him.

It is our position that this application has no merit whatsoever, and same should be dismissed with substantial cost,” Jacobs submitted. Last week, the tribunal ruled that it would go ahead with the case, and asked Saraki to prepare for his defence. But, Frank, who is regarded as a renegade within the APC accused the leaders of the party of conspiratorial silence in Saraki’s travails.

This probably explains why the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) refused to allow him fill the vacancy created by the exit of Alhaji Lai Mohammed who is now Minister of Information and Culture.

Naturally, as Mohammed’s deputy, Frank ought to have stepped into his shoes, but APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and National Secretary, Alhaji Mai Bala Buni are the ones speaking for the party now. APC has scheduled a mini-National Convention to fill the vacancies created by those who left the NWC, including that of the National Publicity Secretary.

Frank is the first APC leader to speak on Saraki’s trial, stating that the trial was politically motivated. This was the same view expressed by counsel to the Senate President.

He believes the Attorney General of the Federation did not fulfill all the condition precedents capable of conferring jurisdiction on the tribunal to try him. The belief of many was that Saraki is being persecuted because he presented himself as president of the Senate against the choice of the party leadership for the position.

His action, his traducers said, led to the emergence of Senator Ike Ekweremadu of the opposition PDP as Deputy President of the Senate. Ekweremadu has presided over the upper legislative Assembly, which many APC senators regarded as embarrassment to the party.

In fact, Ekweremadu is the first senator of an opposition party to have ever presided over a majority party dominated legislature. This would have been avoided but for Saraki’s intransigence. This is a crime, which the Senate President has to pay for.

Tinubu got a reprieve even when his party was not in government. The question is: Was the case deliberately bungled to give him a soft landing? But in the case of Saraki, he was made to stand trial even in an absence of chief law officer of the federation.

Also, his charge coming barely two months after he allegedly went against the APC’s rule is enough for one to conclude that the trial has political undertone. This is more so given the fact that the said offence was committed in 2011, about four years before after he left office.

And it was when his party in government that the alleged crime was discovered. The prosecution however, rightly argued that there is no time limit for criminal prosecution. Many Nigerians believe that Saraki’s travail is orchestrated by leaders of the party, and it is associated with the Senate leadership contest.

The same people were said to be aversed to an attempt by the party leadership to find political solution to the problem when APC stakeholders’ meeting was convened at the Presidential Villa last month.

The meeting was presided over by Vice President Yemi Osibanjo with APC National Leader, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Saraki and other National Assembly leadership in attendance. President Muhammadu Buhari was outside the country on official visit to some Middle East countries.

Those opposed to the party’s intervention on Saraki’s CCT trial were said to have acted fast by sending text messages to some media houses that the Senate President was going to Villa to beg APC leaders. The issue of Saraki’s case was therefore not discussed at the meeting. Against this backdrop, some analysts say that Timi Frank may not be entirely wrong when he accused APC leaders of refusing to mediate in the trial.