Friday, 18 September 2015

Court Summons Saraki, CCB, Others On Alleged False Assets Declaration

Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday, summoned the Federal Ministry of Justice, Chairman of the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, Mr. Sam Saba and that of the  Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, Justice Danladi Umar, to appear before the court on September 21, to show cause why Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki should be prosecuted.

Saraki is facing 13-count charge bordering on alleged corruption and false declaration of assets, levelled against him by the CCB.

Equally summoned to appear before the court was the deputy director in the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. M.S. Hassan, who signed the charge against Saraki. The court order was sequel to an ex-parte motion marked FHC/ABJ/CS/775/15, which was filed and moved in chamber, yesterday, by Saraki’s lawyer, Mr. Mahmud Magaji, SAN.

Already, Saraki has lined up a consortium of 12 senior lawyers, including three Senior Advocates of Nigeria, to represent him before the court. His legal team is  led by a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Mr. J.B. Daudu, SAN.

In his ruling, Justice Mohammed held thus: “An order is hereby made directing the Respondents to appear before this court on Monday, September 21, 2015, and show cause why the motion for an order of injunction being sought by the plaintiff/applicant should not be made by the court.

“All the respondents should be served with the Originating Summons filed in this suit, its accompanying affidavit, the motion-on-notice for interlocutory order of injunction, the motion ex-parte for interim order of injunction, the affidavit of urgency and all the exhibits attached to the various affidavits filed.”

The court which relied on provisions of Order 26, Rule 10 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, 2009, further directed that hearing notice should be served on all the respondents to compel their attendance in court on that date.

Saraki’s prayers before court

Saraki had through his lawyer, argued that going by a 1985 decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Attorney-General of Kaduna vs Hassan, recorded in Part 8 of the Nigeria Weekly Law Report, NWLR, the Solicitor-General of the Federation cannot exercise the powers of the Attorney-General of the Federation.

He maintained that in the absence of a substantive AGF, the charge entered against him before the CCT amounted to a nullity.

“By section 24(2) of the CCB and Tribunal Act, the power to charge and arraign can only be exercised where there is an incumbent AGF. This position of the law was further fortified by Paragraph 18 of the Third Schedule of the CCB and Tribunal Act”, Saraki contended.

Specifically, Saraki is praying the court for: “An order of interim injunction restraining the 1st-4th Respondents, their officers, servants, agents and privies from taking any further step culminating in arraignment and or preferring a charge against the applicant, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.

“A declaration that in light of Section 24(1) of the CCB and Tribunal Act, Cap C15, LFN, 2010, the 1st defendant has not complied with the provisions of the Third Schedule to the Act before preferring a charge against the plaintiff.

“A declaration that in view of the provisions of Section 24(1) and 24(2) of the CCB and Tribunal Act, Cap C15, LFN 2010, the defendants cannot proceed to arraign the plaintiff at the CCT in the Charge No: CCT/ABJ/ 01/2015 between the Federal Republic of Nigeria vs Dr. Olubukola Abubakar Saraki.

“A declaration that charge No: CCT/ABJ/ 01/2015 between the Federal Republic of Nigeria vs Dr. Olubukola Abubakar Saraki, filed at the CCT against the plaintiff is not valid and in the absence of a substantive Attorney-General of the Federation.

As well as, “ An interim injunction of this honourable court directing the parties in this suit to maintain status quo ante without any further over-reaching actions on each other, and to return to their former positions prior to this suit pending the determination of the motion on notice and substantive originating summons, filed before this honourable court”.

In a 13-paragraph affidavit deposed to by one Efut Okoi, Saraki told the court that he was served with a copy of the charge against him dated September 11, with a directive that he should appear before the Tribunal today.

He said that the summons served on him indicated that the complaint was lodged against him by the AGF.

He told the court that since May 29 when the life span of the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan expired, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to appoint an AGF.

“That upon assumption of office, President Muhammadu Buhari has made several appointments ranging from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to Senior Special Advisers and Special Assistants.

“That I also know of a fact that President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to appoint Ministers and other key Executive Officials.

“That it is also a fact that the Federal Ministry of Justice does not have an Attorney-General/ Minister of Justice yet.”

He argued that on September 14 when the 4th Defendant/Respondent (M.S. Hassan) took steps to initiate the charge before the CCT, he was never directed by any AGF to do so, since there exists no substantive AGF.

“That the charge pending before the CCT is predicated upon the falsehood that the plaintiff/applicant did not declare his assets in 2003, 2006 and 2011.

“That the applicant has consistently declared his  assets as required by law at every point before resuming any political office and that of 2015 was not exception.

“That the 2nd defendant/Respondent had investigated the assets and ascertained the claims made by the plaintiff”.

He said that he filled his asset declaration form in 2007, 2011 and 2015, saying “the present charge was initiated by external influence and undue interference on the CCT”.

He told the court that the CCB never wrote to him to complain of any inconsistency in his asset declaration form.

Saraki maintained that the charge was “purely a malicious and politically-motivated prosecution aimed at undermining the person and office of the Senate President.

“That it is a fact that this charge pending before the CCT is a case of desperation to intimidate the applicant due to his recent stance on national issues.

“That the applicant had suffered series of harassment and intimidation in the hands of the officials of the 1st defendant.”

Alleged offences

Meantime, Saraki was in the charge before the CCT, marked ABT/01/15 and dated September 11, 2015, alleged to have falsely declared his assets, contrary to 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.

The offence was said to have been committed while Saraki held sway as a governor.

Saraki who has been in the Senate since 2011 after serving as governor of Kwara State, was in the charge signed by a deputy director in the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. M.S. Hassan, equally accused of failing to declare some assets he acquired while in office as governor.

Besides, he is expected to explain before the CCT how he acquired some assets  which the Federal Government believes was beyond his legitimate earnings.

Other charges against him include an allegation that he owned and operated foreign bank accounts while being a public officer.

His actions were classified as a gross violation of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended.

Moreso, Saraki, in the charge which was transferred to the tribunal by the Code of Conduct Bureau on Tuesday, was 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.

The Federal Government alleged that Saraki claimed that he owned and acquired No 15A and 15B McDonald Road, 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 declarations 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 offence 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.