Prosecution witness admits discrepancies in listed Saraki’s properties
• EFCC counsel says testimony against Umar freely given
Discrepancies emerged yesterday at the Code of Conduct Tribunal over the ownership of some of the properties alleged to have been bought by Senate President Bukola Saraki from the Presidential Implementation Committee for the Sale of Government Houses.
Meanwhile, in another trial before Justice Christiana Orji, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), yesterday insisted that the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Danladi Umar, was freely implicated in a N10 million bribery allegation levelled against him by a retired Customs Comptroller, Rasheed Taiwo Owolabi, who is standing trial before him.
The anti-graft agency told an Abuja High Court that the personal assistant to the CCT chairman, Gambo Abdullahi named the CCT chairman as the beneficiary of the part payment made by Taiwo in respect of the bribery matter.
At the resumed hearing of the Senate President trial over false asset declaration, the Defence team tried to establish the fact that the numbering of the properties at MacDonald Street, Ikoyi, alleged to be belonging to Saraki was ambiguous as various numbers were used for the same property.
To buttress the point, the Defense Counsel, Mr. Paul Usoro, urged the witness to read aloud, a letter from one of the bidders for the said property to the committee, where he highlighted some discrepancies in the numbering of the properties.
According to the letters, the properties in question were labelled 15a MacDonald Street, Ikoyi, 15b, MacDonald Street, Ikoyi and Block 15, McDonald Street, Ikoyi. Behind these was another plot of land labelled No. 15 Macdonald Street, Ikoyi. The witness had testified that Nos. 15a and 15b were the same as No.15 and Block 15, MacDonald Street
When asked whether the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) invited the owner of the letter Energy Marine Limited to explain the content, the Witness said ‘no’.
On whether he visited the properties to ascertain the discrepancies in the numbering, he also told the Tribunal that he did not. He however, stated that other members of the team did and reported back to him.
The witness was thereby asked by a member of CCT Panel how he came to the conclusion that 15a and 15b were the same as No.15 and Block 15, MacDonald Street. He said he was not conversant with how properties were numbered but that as an investigator, he often relied on the replies from the Lagos State Land Registry and the Presidential Committee.
When asked if he filed a report concerning his findings, he said it was verbal and that when the other persons who are listed as witnesses in the case take their stand, they will be in a better position to answer better.
The witness at this point was handed the joint report of the investigative team dated July 28, 2006. The witness read from it that indeed, there were two properties, while one was painted, the other lacked character. The report as read by the witness also indicated that the properties were both residential.
He also accepted that the investigation report by the joint committee of EFCC and Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) was written before Tiny Tee Limited, the company in which the Senate President had shares, acquired the property.
Having established his point, the defence Counsel took the witness to Exhibit 14 and he was again requested to read another letter by tenants in the said number 15a Macdonald Street Ikoyi, which had four flats.
According to the letter which was dated in 2006, the four occupants of the building had approached the Federal Government, complaining that as sitting tenants, they were not given the right to first purchase of the property.
In the course of the cross-examination, the witness stated that the Presidential Committee had written to say that the property at No.15a, 15b and one behind were one and the same.
He said he did not ask the Presidential Committee to show him the properties because there was no need. He however insisted that the 2006 report of the investigating team held that 15A and 15 B belong to Saraki
At the time of adjournment till next Tuesday, the Counsels were yet to conclude examination of witness on the controversial property at MacDonald Street, which was becoming very technical.
While testifying before Justice Orji, an operative with the EFCC, Abdulmajeed Ibrahim, who led the investigation into the bribery allegation, told the judge that Abdullahi freely made statement on September 2013 revealing that the CCT boss allegedly asked him to act on his behalf.
In the trial within trial before Justice Orji, Abdulmajeed asked the court to disregard a denial made by the said Abdullahi in another statement that he did not give the bribery money to Justice Umar.
He said that the denial statement was made much later after his first statement of September 9, 2013 and it was a mere after thought and cannot invalidate the first statement of 2013 because it was voluntarily made by the accused person.