The deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Timi Frank, has described the continued trial of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, as “worrisome”, saying there were flaws in the processes leading to the arraignment.
Mr. Frank said in a statement on Friday that it was dangerous that the leadership of the APC “chose to sit on the fence and watch Mr. Saraki swim or sink in his trial”.
“I sincerely hold that the current trial of Saraki is not only underserved, but amounts to paying a good man with evil. I also want to say that the leaders of our great party have unfortunately remained quiet in the face of evil.
“I don’t believe we have forgotten that the victory of the APC during the last general elections could not have been possible without courageous strategists like Saraki who lent their political weight in favour of the APC at the risk of their own lives and personal survival,” Mr. Frank said.
“I don’t think we have forgotten how Saraki as a Senator in the 7th Senate brought the attention of Nigerians to the fraud perpetrated by the the last administration in the name of fuel subsidy.
“I don’t think we have forgotten so soon how Saraki led five other governors of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) into the APC – a development that successfully turned the political tide against the PDP and eventually tipped the electoral scale against them during the 2015 general elections.
“I don’t think we have forgotten how Saraki led scores of Senators to cross over to the APC on the floor of the Senate.
“I don’t think we have also forgotten what he gave of his time, personal resources and energy to ensure that the APC emerged victorious both at the National, State and Local Government level,” he said.
Mr. Saraki is facing a 13-count charge of alleged false declaration of assets.
On Thursday, the Code of Conduct Tribunal rejected Mr. Saraki’s argument that the case against him was flawed, and ordered the trial to continue.
Mr. Frank wondered how the case of Mr. Saraki was being treated differently at the CCT, which in 2011 struck out the case against one of the national leaders of the party “because he was not given the opportunity to deny or admit the alleged discrepancies in his asset declaration forms in line with Section 3(d) of the CCB/CCT Act unlike 11 other ex-governors who had similar cases of irregularities whose cases were dropped by the CCB after they were invited by the agency”.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Section 3(d) of the CCB/CCT Act which has been so undermined by the CCT in its Thursday ruling states that the CCB shall: ‘Receive complaints about non-compliance with or breach of this Act and where the Bureau (not the AGF or EFCC) considers it necessary to do so, refer such complaints to the Code of Conduct Tribunal established by Section 20 of this Act in accordance with the provisions of Sections 20 to 25 of this Act: provided that where the concerned makes a written admission of such breach or non-compliance, no reference to the Tribunal shall be necessary'”.
Mr. Frank said it was pertinent to mention that when the particular section of the Act was pleaded in the defence of one of the leaders of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria in 2011, the same chairman of the tribunal, Justice Danlandi Umar struck out the case for lack of jurisdiction to entertain the suit when he ruled that “…On Section 3(d), I feel compelled by the argument of the learned SAN for the accused. It is a condition precedent for referring a charge to this Tribunal that the Accused ought to have been invited to either deny or admit the allegations against him. This is missing in this case as the Complainant has no such evidence of a prior invitation. It would be proper for me at this stage to simply decline further exercise of jurisdiction having held that the co diction precedent to the instituting of charges against the Accused has not been complied with. I hereby resolve this issue in favour of the Accused…”
He added: “It is based on the above precedent that I want to ask why Saraki’s case is different? Why is the judiciary suddenly giving in to apparent blackmail from a section of the media by refusing to do their job as required by law?
“Already the Senate President has told the world that the trial has nothing to do with corruption but that he is being persecuted for emerging as the Senate President. To me the ominous silence of our leaders since the day he was arraigned uphill now serves to validate the claims of the Senate President that he is being persecuted.
“Or where else in the world will the number three citizen of a country be hurled before a tribunal over alleged irregularities in his asset declaration forms 13 years ago, and the hierarchy of the ruling to which he is a bonafide member will not come out to show solidarity or defend him?
“If it is true that the trial of the Senate President is not borne out of genuine desire yo fight corruption but is being carried out for selfish political ends, then who is next?
“I think the party need to be courageous enough to speak out against this unwholesome trend whose outcome will definitely not augur well for the overall development of our party and by extension the country at this hour.
“Even the holy scriptures admonish us not to muzzle the (ox) that thresh the corn. Saraki has paid his dues at a time it was suicidal for anybody to stand up against to the then ruling PDP. I believe it is time for all of us to act to save our party. It is time to rally round our generals who have fought valiantly and led us to victory. To abandon Saraki is to abandon a worthy comrade,” he said.