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Victory for rule of law, democracy

PENULTIMATE Friday, the Supreme Court dismissed the false assets declaration charges brought against Senate President Bukola Saraki by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

In itsverdict, the apex court affirmed the June 14, 2017 decision of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, which ruled that the prosecution failed to prove the case against Senator Saraki and thereby ended a 1,018-day legal tango that began on September 22, 2015, at the Tribunal.

During the trial, many meanings were read into the case. With the lawmaker insisting on being innocent and the anti-graft agency countering that he had cases to answer, the Saraki case dominated public discourse for nearly three years. The lawmaker bore his cross and faced his trial squarely.

Senator Saraki was brought to the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on an initial 16-count charge of false asset declaration in September 2016.He was accused of making an anticipatory declaration of assets and withholding information regarding his assets while he was the Governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011, and when he became a senator in 2011.

The case against Saraki failed at the CCT and partially succeeded at the Court of Appeal.The Supreme Court Justices, in a decision read by Justice Chima Nweze held that the failure of the prosecution to produce a witness with direct link to the evidence rendered its case ineffective.

This epic trial, as a judicial experiment, is a victory for our democracy and therule of law. It shows that the Judiciary remains the last hope of the citizenry and that justice can still be meted no matter who is involved. This is why we have always insisted on the independence of both the Legislative and Judiciary arms of our Presidential Democracy. We would all live as captives of Executive tyranny if any of these arms of government becomes a rubberstamp of the Executive.

With this verdict, the EFCC and other anti-graft agencies should be more thorough in the pursuit of their noble responsibilities. They must avoid being teleguided by politicians, and ensure that the public funds spent in the efforts to bring corrupt individuals to justice are not wasted in the pursuit of mere shadows.

That the President of the Senate, Nigeria’s Third Citizen, could be docked and made to go through the rigour of trial up to the Supreme Court is a testimonial that no one is above the law. It also shows that once your hands are clean you have nothing fear from the law.

We urge the Judiciary to stand firm and continue to dispense justice to all Nigerians without fear or favour. This will reassure Nigerians that they are fully protected under the law so long as they remain peaceful and law-abiding.

 


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