…We’ll take action after studying verdict —FG
…Judiciary has shown there is hope for the nation —Saraki
…It’s sweet victory for democracy —Ekweremadu
…I predicted it and it came to pass — Fayose
By Henry Umoru, Demola Akinyemi & Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—Respite came the way of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, yesterday, as the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, sitting in Abuja, dismissed the entire 18-count criminal charge the Federal Government preferred against him.
In a unanimous decision, the two-man panel tribunal headed by Justice Danladi Umar, held that Federal Government failed to prove essential elements of all the allegations it levelled against Saraki.
The tribunal held that oral and documentary evidence that the Federal Government adduced before it, were “so much discredited during cross-examination,” saying the proof of evidence was so ”manifestly unreliable that no reasonable court or tribunal can rely on it to make any conviction.”
The panel maintained that all the evidence the Federal Government tendered against the defendant lacked probative value.
It noted that four witnesses the Federal Government brought to testify against the defendant gave contradictory evidence.
Witnesses give contradictory evidence —Judge
Specifically, the tribunal Chairman, Justice Umar, who gave the lead ruling, stressed that whereas the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, is the institution constitutionally empowered to prosecute allegations against Saraki, he observed that the Federal Government placed much reliance on a report from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, which he said was more of intelligence gathering than proper investigation.
Justice Umar said the evidence of third witness, PW-2, Mr. Samuel Madujemu, who is the Head of Investigation and Intelligence Department at the CCB, did not help the case of the prosecution.
He noted that Madujemu admitted that contrary to provisions of the law, Saraki was not at any time invited by the CCB to make clarifications on discrepancies allegedly found in his assets declaration forms.
Justice Umar said Madujemu had in his testimony, also admitted that averments he made in an affidavit he deposed in support of the charge against Saraki were based on information supplied to him by his undisclosed team of investigators.
Justice Umar held: “From the simple analysis of the evidence of the prosecution, we find it difficult to accept the seriousness of the witnesses. All the evidences were so discredited, unreliable that no reasonable court will attach probate value to them.
“In the light of the foregoing, and since essential ingredients of all the charges were not proved as required by law, this tribunal has no other option than to discharge the defendant.
“The Honourable tribunal upholds the no-case submission and the defendant is accordingly discharged and acquitted.”
While concurring with the lead ruling, the second member of the panel, Mr. Williams Atedze Agwadza, held that the Federal Government failed to establish a prima-facie case capable of warranting the tribunal to compel Saraki to enter his defence to the charge against him.
He maintained that the witnesses, especially the CCB official, Madujemu, gave heresay evidence.
FG to appeal verdict
On its part, the Federal Government, through a lawyer from the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Pius Akute, said it will appeal the ruling.
“We have commenced the process to get the ruling. When we do, we will study it to know the next line of action to take,” Akute told newsmen.
Judiciary has shown there is hope for the nation — Saraki
Immediately the tribunal concluded its proceeding, Saraki was carried shoulder high by Senator Dino Melaye, to the admiration his other colleagues who struggled to have a handshake with the defendant.
Reacting to the the judgment, Saraki in a personally signed statement, said his discharge and acquittal by the CCT had vindicated his earlier resolve to clear his name.
Saraki said he harboured that he has no grudge against anyone, irrespective of the tribulations he went through.
He said: “After undergoing the crucible of a tortuous trial, my vindication today calls for celebration. It is my belief, however, that if there should be any celebration at all, it should be a celebration of the hopes that this judgment gives us as citizens that, despite all the challenges that we face as a country, we are well on our way to building a country where the innocent needs not be afraid.”
Jubilation in Ilorin
Meanwhile, wild jubilation erupted in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, yesterday afternoon, the moment news filtered in on the discharge and acquittal of Saraki.
Amid drumming, singing and dancing at the APC state secretariat, located inside GRA Ilorin, members and executives of the ruling party, members of state executive council, women groups and supporters of the Senate President, adorned in multi-coloured, customised T-shirts, sang praises to God for the judgment.
State chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state, Alhaji Isola Balogun Fulani, and former APC Women Leader, Alhaja Sarat Adebayo, in separate interviews, expressed happiness on the discharge, saying the allegations were politically motivated.
It’s sweet victory for democracy —Ekweremadu
In his reaction, Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, described the discharge and acquittal of the Senate President as sweet victory for democracy.
Ekweremadu in a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, said the judgment did not come to him as a surprise, given the trumped up forgery and conspiracy charges slammed against himself and the Senate President, which was later withdrawn by the Federal Government.
‘’This is another sweet victory for the 8th Senate in particular, separation of powers, rule of law, and the nation’s democracy. The trial, just like the arraignment of the presiding officers of the Senate on trumped up charges of forgery of Senate Standing Rules, was political vendetta and manipulations taken too far.”
I predicted it and it came to pass —Fayose
On his part, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State described the judgment as another victory of Nigerians over tyranny.
“I am happy that I predicted that the CCT will absolve the Senate President in my 2017predictions and it has come to pass.
“I have maintained that the government of President Buhari is not fighting any corruption. Rather, what is being done is hiding under anti-corruption fight to persecute, humiliate, harass and malign perceived political enemies,”Fayose said in a statement issued by his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka.