Court of Appeal dismisses 15 government charges against Saraki
• Orders retrial of Senate president over Ikoyi houses
The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, has dismissed 15 out of 18 false assets declaration charges against the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, by the Federal Government.But the court asked the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) to conduct a retrial of Saraki on the remaining three charges.
The appeal was filed against the decision of the CCT which discharged and acquitted the Senate president on the 18-count charge in a ruling on no- case submission delivered in June this year.The appellate court said Saraki had to make some explanations on the three counts only.
Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson, in the 70-page unanimous judgment held that there was no evidence to substantiate the 15 out of the 18 counts as valid charges. The judge however held that on counts 4,5 and 6 bothering on the purchase of house 17 A and B at McDonald Street, Ikoyi in Lagos by the Senate president, the prosecution was able to establish a prima facie case against Saraki.
Specifically, the appellate court held that the prosecution established discrepancies in the claims on the asset declaration forms as to how the two houses in Ikoyi were acquired.According to the judgement, the Senate president needs to explain the discrepancies that the properties he claimed were bought from sales of rice and sugar in his asset declaration form were actually bought from loans acquired from a commercial bank.
The court concluded that credible evidence was presented by the prosecution on counts 4,5 and 6 to warrant the defendant to be called upon to defend himself on how he acquired the properties disclosed in the three counts.
Justice Akomolafe-Wilson said that from the totality of the evidence adduced at the tribunal, it was proved beyond reasonable doubt that the 15 counts knocked off were based on hearsay that have no probate value.The court further held that the information supplied in the report used to prepare the charge by the Federal Government against Saraki did not link the Senate president directly with the charges as required by law.
The appellate court held that the Federal Government erroneously came to the conclusion that the onus to prove the 15 charges was on Saraki whereas it is an established fact that the party that alleges must be the one to prove beyond reasonable doubt.
The court faulted the Federal Government on the claim that Saraki collected salaries and emoluments from Kwara State government after he had left office as the governor, adding that it was a big surprise that no single witness was invited to prove the allegation.The court also took a swipe at the prosecution for alleging that Saraki operated foreign account while he was in office as governor without calling any witness to establish the claim in line with section 37 of the Evidence Act.
“On this point the federal government failed in the allegation of operation of foreign account by the defendant as no foreign bank account was linked to the defendant while also no direct evidence was obtained from Kwara State government to establish the allegation of payment of salaries to Saraki after he had left,” the Judge said.
The appeal court further held that the 48 documents tendered by the federal government and admitted by the tribunal were not from the appropriate sources that were supposed to tender them before they could be admitted in line with provisions of the law.
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