By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor, & Dirisu Yakubu
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Monday, dismissed as untenable the claim by Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, that the fresh move by the commission to probe his tenure as governor of Kwara State and Senate President amounted to a witch hunt.
Magu, in a response to the claim by Saraki, made it clear that he (Saraki) was not above the law and could, therefore, not decide how and when he should be investigated by the anti-graft agency.
Magu, who has been denied confirmation twice by the Saraki-led Senate, reminded the Senate President that he should harbour no fear if he was sure there were no skeletons in his cupboard.
Magu, in a statement by Tony Orilade, acting spokesman for EFCC, said: “While it is his prerogative to ventilate his views on the matter as he deems fit, the Commission takes great exception at the desperate attempt to cast a slur on its investigative activities by portraying Saraki as a victim of persecution.
“EFCC has taken note of the reactions of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, to the commission’s inquiries regarding his earnings as Kwara State governor as well as on the quality of his financial stewardship in the Senate.
“Furthermore, the agency finds the attempt by the Senate President to tie our inquest to his International Human Rights Commission, IHRC, appointment and his approaching life out of power as misleading, knowing too well that the background to our current inquiries reaches several years back.
“For the avoidance of doubt, EFCC is obligated by law to enthrone probity and accountability in the governance space and has supremely pursued this duty without ill-will or malice against anyone.
“It is in the interest of the public and for Saraki’s personal good that he is not only above board, but be seen at all times to be so.
“Indeed, all the instances in which EFCC have had cause to look into his financial activities either as a former governor or President of the Senate were driven by overriding public interest and due process of the law.
“Against the background of the avalanche of indicting petitions and other evidence available to EFCC, even Saraki will agree with the Commission that putting him through a legitimate forensic inquiry is the legitimate route to establish his integrity as a public servant.
“The distinguished Senate President has no need to fret so long as he has no skeletons in his cupboard.
“The Commission has a sacred mandate to rid the country of corruption and corrupt elements and restates its unflinching resolve to achieve these, no matter whose ox is gored.”
However, Saraki in his response, again described as mere witch hunt the investigations commenced by EFCC in the various institutions he had served or currently serving.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, Saraki argued that the exercise by EFCC was only aimed at settling scores, laced with malicious and partisan motives.
The EFCC in the report had claimed: “The commission’s letter to Kwara State Government House, which sought an inquest into Saraki’s earnings as the state governor, from 2003 to 2011 was dated Friday, April 26, predating his (Saraki) announcement as IHRC ambassador at large which came on Sunday, April 28, with two clear days.”
This probe has spanned 9 years, Saraki responds
But Saraki, in the statement, pointed out that the “IHRC letter informing the Senate President of his appointment was dated March 16, that is about 40 days before EFCC wrote its letter conveying the investigations to the Kwara State Government House.
“In fact, the media team of the Senate President held on to the announcement of the appointment for several weeks so that we could do due diligence on it.
“At this point, we need to remind members of the public that Dr Saraki’s tenure as Kwara State governor has been investigated several times since his last months in office in 2010.
“In fact, at a point, as the incumbent governor, he voluntarily waived his immunity and submitted to investigation and yet nothing was found against him.”
Saraki insisted that the new investigation into his activities as governor of Kwara State was a repeat performance, adding that EFCC was fishing for evidence that they did not get in the past investigations, which spanned almost nine years.
He reminded the commission he was not an outgoing governor, adding that since 2011 tens of governors had been in and out of state houses just like hundreds of senators and members of the House of Representatives.
He noted that “to single out one individual for persistent investigation can only be logically and plausibly interpreted to be a witch hunt.
“This is definitely no fight against corruption. It is a battle waged against a ‘political enemy’. It is a ‘label-to-damage’ plot.
”While we do not wish to obstruct EFCC in the performance of its tasks. We reiterate our position that the commission should be professional, ethical, transparent and consistent.
“It cannot be deemed professional when the agency is not consistent in the application of its rules and the laws to all cases and individuals.”
Meanwhile, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday, condemned what it described as renewed harassment of Saraki by the Federal Government, saying no harm must befall the outgoing lawmaker.
The party also accused the government of using EFCC to hound the Senate President “in a clear case of a political witch hunt.”
In a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbindiyan, PDP said the fresh siege against Senator Saraki was part of the larger plot for a renewed clamp-down on key opposition figures and perceived political opponents of the APC administration, particularly to frustrate the determination to retrieve its presidential mandate at the tribunal.
The statement read: “The party says nothing else can explain the federal government’s obnoxious and distasteful resort to intimidation and evidence-fishing, just to nail Senator Saraki at all costs, even when nothing incriminating has been found in his stewardship as Governor of Kwara state, after several investigations.
“The federal government is hounding Senator Saraki even after he has been prosecuted but discharged and acquitted by the Supreme Court after the government failed to substantiate claims of false asset declaration against him.
“The PDP holds that this renewed witch-hunt tailored against Senator Saraki and perceived opposition leaders further confirms that the Presidency and the APC have become frenetic over the overwhelming evidence that our party will present at the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal.
“Moreover, our party already has information on how certain elements in the APC have plotted to cash in on the new siege to harm key leaders of our party, under the certain guise.
“The APC is called upon to note that Nigerians are already aware of the truth in all issues leading to this renewed harassment of the Senate President. We insist that no harm must come to Senator Saraki or any member of his family.