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15 Jun 2017

Burnt Evidence, Unavailable Witnesses: 9 Reasons Saraki Defeated FG at CCT

These are summarized details of how Senate President Bukola Saraki defeated the Federal Government at the CCT in a case of false declaration of assets.
Senate President Bukola Saraki
On Wednesday, the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) discharged and acquitted Bukola Saraki, President of the Senate, of an 18-count charge of false assets declaration.

Saraki’s acquittal has been largely received with shock from the public, but here are eight reasons why the case was never destined for a different outcome.

ALLEGATIONS WITHOUT DILIGENT WORK

Michael Wetkas, a detective of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), often made grave allegations against Saraki but fumbled for words when cross-examined by the defence counsel. In November 2016, he said Saraki borrowed money from GTB to buy a piece of property in Lagos only to claim that the money was from the sale of rice and sugar.

It was an allegation that appeared to suggest that it was the Kwara State government, not Saraki, that footed the repayment of the loan. However, when the defence asked him if he at any time saw the account of the Kwara state government, Wetkas said: “I was not the one investigating Kwara state government.”

Asked if he had any evidence that the state government refunded the loan, he answered: “I can’t give a direct answer to this.”

He who alleges must prove, don’t they say?

LATE-COMING PROSECUTING WITNESS

Sometime in March 2016, Saraki’s trial for the day was delayed for hours. Reason? Wetkas, the principal witness, the one who was supposed to be proving Saraki’s guilt, was nowhere to be found.

Danladi Umar, Chairman of the Tribunal, stood down the trial, first for two hours and later for one more, before it eventually kicked off.

Body language to everyone in court, including Umar: the prosecuting team was unprepared for the case.

ALLEGATION WITHOUT VERIFICATION

In stating the rules of assets declaration on its website, the Code of Conduct Bureau ((CCB) notes: Also NOTE that all declarations made by declarant are subject to VERIFICATION by the Officers of the Bureau authorized on that behalf.

Meanwhile, Section 15 Subsection 2 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Gribunal Act states: Any statement in any declaration that is found to be false by any authority or person authorised in that behalf to verify it, shall be deemed to be a breach of this Act.

Clearly, some verification ought to have been carried out before the filing of charges against someone deemed to have breached the Act.
However, when asked on April 21, 2016, if the CCB interrogated Saraki on the charge under discussion, Wetkas answered: “Not to my knowledge.”

ALLEGATIONS WITHOUT EVIDENCE

In May 2016, Wetkas admitted that there was no evidence to show that Saraki did not declare a piece of property in London.

Saraki’s counsel had said he saw in the charge sheet something on mortgage redemption but nothing on purchase of property. “Is there current evidence that shows the location/description of the properties referred in count 11,” he had asked.

“There is none,” Wetkas replied.

The counsel probed further: “I cannot see any signature or anything to show who prepared this document. Do you have anything to show?”

Wetkas answered: “There’s no signature.”

CAVING IN TO PRESSURE

So many times during the trial, it did seem Saraki’s counsel was adept at waiting for the charges to be read and then turning the heat on Wetkas. On many occasions, Wetkas caved in under pressure. Consider the following conversation between him and Paul Usoro (SAN), Saraki’s lawyer.

Usoro: “The function of the implementation committee does not include numbering of streets. Does it?

‎Wetkas: “I don’t know that.‎”

Usoro: “You do know that the committee does not deal with private property?”

Wetkas: “Yes. It only deals with government property.”

Usoro: “Why did you go to the Lagos Land Registry?”

Wetkas: “For verification of property at 15A and B‎ McDonald, Ikoyi, Lagos.”

Usoro: “Are you aware that Lagos state government does not keep title deeds of federal government property?”

Wetkas: “I don’t know.”

Usoro lawyer: “Your inquiry to Lagos Land Registry, how was it?

Wetkas: “It was in writing.”

Usoro: “Was the property in the reply of the registry?”

Wetkas: “I can’t recall.”

Usoro: “Did you check with them if they have a record of the property?‎”

Wetkas: “I didn’t check.‎”

Usoro: “Did you come across any document saying that the defendant bought personally the property in the course of your investigation?”

Wetkas: “There was none.”

‘BURNT EVIDENCE’

In April 2016, Wetkas said documents that were evidence of transactions in Saraki’s foreign account were burnt.

Responding to a question from the defence counsel on some fund transfers from Sarakis GTB account to his alleged American Express bank account, Wetkas said: “Several telexes from American Express Bank and facts are here from the bank (GTB).

“All the transfer requests made by the investigating team to provide information was an offshoot of a debit transaction that was already consummated on that account, which showed that the bank carried it out.

“There is no doubt that the transaction was actually carried out by American Express Bank. There were also police report and an affidavit, which they (GTB) swore to, to show that some of the documents were burnt. There is an affidavit and I believe it was a fire outbreak.”

PETITION WITHOUT PREPARATION

On April 19, Wetkas tendered “Exhibit 11″, a petition by the Kwara Freedom Network alleging corruption against Saraki. But cross-examined by Kanu Agabi, Saraki’s lead counsel, Wetkas had no clear answers to all the questions.

Asked if he confirmed that local government funds were being illegally deducted as alleged in the petition against Saraki, he said: “Not part of the investigation I carried out.”

Asked: “Do you know whether the petition was addressed to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).”

He answered: “I don’t work for the CCB. I wouldn’t know.”

Asked: “In terms illegal transfer of funds by the accountant general, was he invited?”

He answered: “I cannot say because I was not the one in charge of this.”

Asked: “Did you meet with the members of Kwara Freedom Network?”

He answered: “It was not part of my investigation.”

Asked: “In the course of your work, did you come upon any document in which members of this network were called upon to justify their petition.”

He answered: “I was involved in this investigation in 2014; the petition was in 2012.”

Asked: “Have you read the petition?”

He replied: “I only perused through it.”

Asked: “When you tendered this document, did it occur to you that you will be questioned?”

He replied: “This is not the aspect I investigated. Someone more competent than me will talk about it.”

Asked: “Did your perusal show that the asset declaration of the defendant was the issue.”

Wetkas: “I can’t remember seeing that.”

BUNGLED PROSECUTION

In April, Rotimi Daodu, the prosecuting counsel, asked for an adjournment of the trial because his next witness was unavailable. It was adjourned to April 18 for continuation of trial.

On April 18, Daodu presented the same plea, and Umar granted it. Seven days later, it was the same story. The matter was moved to May 4; and on May 4, Daodu still couldn’t produce the witness, prompting Saraki’s legal team to take advantage of the situation by filing a no-case submission

MEANWHILE…

Saraki hired the senior advocates in the land to defend him. These were the likes of Joseph Daodu (SAN); Kanu Agabi (SAN), a former Attorney-General of the federation (AGF); KK Eleja, Paul Usoro and Paul Erokoro, all SANs.

And some of these lawyers once went to court with not two or three more lawyers but 100! All these were telltale signs of where the pendulum would eventually swing.

Source: ICIR Nigeria

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