By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
Insists Sagay and other PACAC members should know better
Says Saraki’s case not over yet; heads to Appeal Court
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, yesterday expressed disappointment at comments made by chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, PACAC, Prof. Itse Sagay, SAN, to the effect that he was not committed to the anti-corruption efforts of the government.
Sagay spoke at a programme organised by the National Association of Seadogs (the Pyrates Confraternity), entitled “Feast of Barracuda” with the theme “Critical Review of the Anti-Corruption War in Nigeria: Strategies, Challenges and Prospects.”
He said: “The Federal Government, particularly the President and Vice-President, who were elected into office principally to eliminate corruption, must go back to their drawing board, search and scan the constitution and other laws to draw the requisite irresistible power to deal firmly with this terrible scourge of our times, otherwise we are all dead.”
A member of PACAC, Professor Femi Odekunle also spoke in like manner at the event.
Frontally, Odekunle wondered if the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), was committed to the anti-graft war and further questioned the honesty of the Code of Conduct Tribunal chairman, Mr. Danladi Umar, who discharged and acquitted Senate President, Bukola Saraki of all 18 charges levelled against him in the false asset declaration case.
His words: “Does the Presidency realise that routine crime prevention and methodology, instruments and processes are not adequate in fighting corruption in this country? That is, does the Presidency realise that fighting corruption must be a ‘rofo rofo’ fight? That it is not a question of due process, long process, fair hearing and all those that will give you technical justice instead of real justice?
“Is the Attorney-General of the Federation, who is to lead the anti-corruption fight, going by the way things have been going in the past two years, as committed as others who could have done the job better? I have no answers but I believe if they are answered, it will give us an insight into the cause of our current dilemma in the fight against corruption.”
But Malami in a statement issued by his spokesman, Isah Salihu, regretted that Sagay and other members of PACAC, who ought to know better, were now the same people making unguarded statements against him.
Explaining that the Federal Government was more than ever committed to the eradication of corruption in the country, the statement said: ‘’The Attorney General asked Nigerians not to condemn the anti-corruption drive of the present administration based on temporary setbacks recorded lately.
“Attorney General of the Federation wishes to assure Nigerians that despite some recent setbacks recorded in some of the cases involving politically exposed people, the war against corruption is fully on course.
“It shall be fought resolutely, painstakingly, doggedly, purposefully and determinedly with all the constitutional and legal arsenals at the disposal of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“In this regard, the AGF has directed that a Notice of Appeal be lodged against the ruling of the Code of Conduct Tribunal acquitting and discharging false assets declaration case preferred against the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki.
“To those in a hurry to condemn due to the temporary setbacks recorded lately, they should tarry awhile because a legal process is deemed not concluded until it terminates at the Supreme Court which is the highest court of arbitration in Nigeria.
‘’The Attorney-General is disappointed that the Professor Itse Sagay, SAN, led Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, PACAC, had at a public function recently, questioned his commitment towards the war against corruption in the country.
‘’He is highly disappointed that such accusation and statement could be made by those who ought to know better.
“The Attorney General of the Federation is saddened and flummoxed at the attempt to cast aspersions on his integrity, dedication and commitment to the war against corruption which undoubtedly is one of the major cornerstones of the present administration.’’
Why Saraki must defend corruption case against him—FG
Meanwhile, the Federal Government, yesterday, adduced reasons Saraki should return to the CCT to defend the 18-count corruption charges preferred against him.
Government said it decided to appeal against the June 14 ruling of the CCT that discharged and acquitted Saraki, to prove that it is “more than ever before committed towards the complete eradication of the scourge of corruption and graft in the country.’’
The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, said in a statement that he had already directed that a Notice of Appeal be lodged against the ruling of the Code of Conduct Tribunal which acquitted and discharged false assets declaration case preferred against the Senate President.
Government had through its private prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, raised 11 grounds of appeal against an unanimous judgment of the Justice Danladi Umar-led two-man CCT panel that terminated further hearing on charges against Saraki.
The tribunal maintained that the Federal Goverment failed to, by way of credible evidence, substantiate any of its allegations.
However, in its Notice of Appeal, FG faulted all the grounds on which the CCT predicated Saraki’s acquittal.
According to FG, “the judgment of the lower tribunal is unwarranted, unreasonable and against the weight of evidence.”
It maintained that the CCT erred in law by upholding Saraki’s no-case submission “when the onus of proof” was on the Senate President to show that there was no infraction in the Code of Conduct Forms.
“By the provisions of paragraphs 11 (2), (3) and (13) of Part 1, 5th Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), once the Code of Conduct form filled by the public officer is investigated and found to be false or that some assets are beyond the legitimate income of the public officer or that the assets were acquired by means of corrupt practices, the public officer concerned is deemed to have breached the Code of Conduct and it is for him to show to the tribunal that there is no infraction in the form.
“The honourable tribunal wrongly placed the onus of proof on the prosecution contrary to paragraphs 11 (2), (3) and (13) of Part 1, 5th Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
“The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) clearly excluded the presumption of innocence on the allegation of infraction of the Code of Conduct by public officers and the Tribunal wrongly applied the presumption of innocence contrary to the constitutional requirement.
“The tribunal’s decision is unconstitutional and without jurisdiction.”
Consequently, the Federal Goverment prayed the Court of Appeal in Abuja for; “an order setting aside the ruling of the Code of Conduct Tribunal delivered on June 14, 2017 upholding the no-case submission raised by the respondent (Saraki) at the close of the prosecution’s case.
As well as, “an order calling upon the respondent to enter his defence.”
It told the appellate court that the CCT failed to analyse and evaluate the evidence of prosecution witnesses before reaching the conclusion that there was no case made against Saraki.
Specifically, Saraki was in the charge sheet marked ABT/01/15 and dated September 11, 2015, alleged to have falsely declared his assets, contrary to the constitutionally requirement.
He was accused of deliberately manipulating the assets declaration form that he filed prior to his assumption of office as the Senate President, by making anticipatory declaration of assets, as well as, operated foreign bank account while in office as a public servant.
The offence was said to have been committed while Saraki held sway as a governor.
He was also accused of breaching section 2 of the CCB and Tribunal Act, an offence punishable under section 23(2) of the Act and paragraph 9 of the said Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
FG, among other offences, alleged that Saraki, claimed that he owned and acquired No 15A and 15B Mc Donald, 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, 00.
He was 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, 000, 000, 00.
Similarly, Saraki 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.
Some of his alleged offences while in office as governor, which are said to be punishable under section 15(1) and (2) of the CCB and Tribunal Act, Cap C15, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, were allegedly committed between October 2006 and May 2007.
His actions were classified as a gross violation of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended.