Former Senate President Bukola Saraki has faulted the court ruling, which ordered the interim forfeiture of two of his properties in Ikoyi, Lagos State. He said the court must have been misled into granting the order, as neither him nor his lawyers were aware of any application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for any forfeiture order.
The order followed an ex-parte motion filed by the EFCC, praying the court to deliver the verdict in the interest of justice. EFCC, in the motion filed by its counsel, Nnaemeka Omewa, alleged that the properties were acquired with the proceeds of unlawful activities.
The commission said it brought the application pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act No. 14, 2006 and Section 44 (2)(8) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). Justice Mohammed Liman thereafter ordered the forfeiture, asking the EFCC to publish the same in a national daily within 14 days.
But Saraki, in a statement released by his special adviser (media and publicity), Yusuph Olaniyonu, said there was a subsisting court order issued by the Federal High Court, Abuja, in which the same properties were a subject matter and where the EFCC and the Federal Ministry of Justice were parties. According to him, the court, in that case, gave an order restraining the EFCC from taking any further action until the matter was determined.
The statement reads: “We are sure the FHC judge in Lagos was not aware of all these facts and has therefore been misled into giving the temporary forfeiture order. The affected properties, House Number 17 A and 17B, were specifically listed in the case against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal in which the EFCC as part of the prosecution and the case went up to the Supreme Court where the apex court in its July 6, 2018 judgment ruled in his favour.
“The Supreme Court has ruled that the source of funds for the purchase of the property was not illicit as claimed by the prosecution. On pages 12, 13 and 26 of the judgment of the highest court, this particular property on 17A McDonald Street, Ikoyi, was specifically referred to and the court upheld the no-case submission of Dr. Saraki and therefore ruled in his favour.
It adds: “We know that any action which tends to mislead the court amounts to misrepresentation and it is a good ground for us to get the court to throw away the order it issued today. We are sure the order will be reversed. We, therefore, call on all the friends, associates and supporters of Dr. Saraki to remain calm because we know this action will not stand when the court gets to hear the side of the former Senate President.”
Reacting, the chairman of the Kwara State chapter of the People Democratic Party (PDP) Mauroof Kola Shittu faulted the judgment. He told reporters that: “Saraki will appeal the judgment as required by law. At the higher court, things will be done accordingly. There is nothing to panic about over the judgment that can be appealed.”
But his All Progressives Congress (APC) counterpart, Bashiru Bolarinwa Omolaja, said: “The judgment was a well-researched one. We are not going to do anything but obey strictly the decision of the court. The judiciary is the last hope for everybody. It has the power to do what it has done. So, we can’t contest the decision of the court. We can only support its enforcement.”
The Kwara State House of Assembly recently seized two properties in Ilorin, the state capital, allegedly belonging to Saraki. Explaining the action, Special Assistant to the Speaker Ibrahim Sheriff said: “Apart from the fact that the purported sale of Alimi Chalet did not conform to the Kwara State former Governors’ Pension Law 2010, as amended, which incidentally was the brainchild of Saraki, we contend that there is no record anywhere that Saraki paid a dime to have the property transferred to him. The transfer only fits into what the late Fela Anikulapo called ‘paddy-paddy’ arrangement.
“The pension law takes adequate care of the former governor (Saraki). The law allows ex-governors to own a five-bedroomed duplex, as opposed to the Alimi Chalet, which consists of three separate chalets with three boys’ quarters of three rooms each and, therefore, does not fit into the recommendation of the pension law of 2010.
“Aside from the three houses on over one hectare of land on Alimi Road, supposedly given to Saraki under the state pension law, Saraki also got N250 million under the same law to build another retirement home for himself. The said Alimi Chalet, which was gifted to him, is the property of the people of Kwara State and was never contemplated as a gift to former governors