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SUPREME COURT ACQUIT SARAKI OF FALSE ASSET DECLARATION CHARGE

NEWS 54

ABUJA – The Supreme Court, on Friday, quashed the assets falsification charge the Federal Government preferred against the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT.

The apex court, in a unanimous decision by a five-man panel of Justices, vacated the Court of Appeal judgement that ordered Saraki to enter his defence to three out of the 18-count corruption charge FG entered against him.

It relied on section 302 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, and discharged the embattled Senate President of all the allegations against him.

While upholding Saraki’s appeal, the apex court panel held that the Court of Appeal committed “judicial equivalent of forensic somersault” by ordering the appellant to open his defence to the criminal charge, even after it noted that all material evidence the prosecution adduced before the CCT amounted to hearsay evidence.

Justice Centus Nweze who delivered the lead judgment, wondered why the lower court, having held that totality of the proof of evidence were inadmissible, turned round to order the appellant to defend three counts in the charge, based on the same evidence.

It held that FG could not have established a prima-facie case against the appellant on the basis of hearsay and inadmissible proof of evidence. Besides, the apex court panel held that the lower court was right when it observed that FG failed to produce witnesses that had direct knowledge of facts of the case. “When evidence lacks probative value, it cannot be relied upon”, the court held. In a second verdict, the apex court panel dismissed a Cross-Appeal FG filed to challenge the decision of the Court of Appeal to quash 15 out of the 18-count allegation against Saraki. It will be recalled that a three-man panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal led by Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson, dismissed 15 counts of the charge on the premise that they were not supported with credible evidence capable of warranting the Respondent (Saraki) to be called upon to enter his defence to them.

The appellate court panel directed Saraki to return to the tribunal to defend counts 4, 5 and 6 of the amended charge. Whereas count 4 and 5 of the charge alleged that the Senate President made false declaration of his assets at the end of his tenure as Executive Governor of Kwara State in 2011 and on assumption of office as a Senator in 2011, when he declared that he acquired properties at No. 17A and No. 17B McDonald, Ikoyi Lagos on September 6, 2006, from the proceeds of sale of rice and sugar. In count-6, FG alleged that the defendant made false declaration of his assets at the end of his tenure as Governor of Kwara state, when he failed to declare his outstanding loan liabilities of N315, 054, 355.92 out of the loan of N380, 000, 000 he obtained from Guaranty Trust Bank Plc.

However, Saraki, who had since closed his defence before the CCT inline with the judgment of the appellate court, prayed the Supreme Court to set aside the Court of Appeal judgment and reinstate the June 14, 2017, verdict of the Mr. Danladi Umar-led CCT panel that discharged and acquitted him of all the allegations FG levelled against him Saraki, through his team of lawyers led by a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, maintained that the decision of the appellate court with respect to the three charges against him, amounted to a miscarriage of justice.

Read more at: https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/07/breaking-s-court-upholds-sarakis-appeal-quashes-charges-against-him/

Ogaga Onokwakpor

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