- Ex-Senate President knocks EFCC’s moves
- Says it abuses court process
BY SEGUN ADEBAYO – A Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday ordered the interim forfeiture of two houses belonging to former Senate President, Bukola Saraki in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital,
Justice Rilwan Aikawa made the order following an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against the former Kwara State governor.
The anti-graft agency had informed the court that its investigations have uncovered monumental fraud perpetrated in the treasury of Kwara State government between 2003 and 2011, when Senator Saraki held sway as the Chief Executive
Ruling on an ex parte application by the EFCC in line with Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act Number 14, 2006, Justice Aikawa ordered that Saraki’s two properties located on Plots 10 and 11 Abdulkadir Road, GRA, Ilorin, Kwara State should be temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government.
Justice Aikawa however directed the EFCC to publish the temporary forfeiture order in any national newspaper. He thereafter adjourned the case to December 17 for anyone interested in the two property to appear before him and to show cause why they should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
In an affidavit supporting the ex parte application, an EFCC operative Olamide Sadiq submitted that the forfeiture was occasioned by EFCC’s findings as contained in “the report of a committee set up to review sales of Kwara State government” during Saraki’s tenure as “Governor of Kwara State in years 2003 and 2011”.
According to him, the anti-coruption agency also received “a damning intelligence report, showing monumental fraud perpetrated in the treasury of the Kwara State government between 2003 and 2011”.
Explaining that “Whilst the investigation was ongoing, several fraudulent transactions were discovered”, Sadiq said; “I know for a fact and verily believe that our investigation has revealed the following mind-boggling findings, among others:
“That between 2003 and 2011, Dr Olubukola Abubakar Saraki was the Executive Governor of Kwara State.
“That whilst he held the aforementioned position, the common pattern was that after payment of monthly allocation by the Federal Government to the Kwara State government, a cumulative sum of not less than N100 million would be deposited into the Kwara State Government House account.
“That upon the payment of the N100 million, same would, in turn, be withdrawn in cash by Mr Afeez Yusuf from the Kwara State Government House, Ilorin account in bits and brought to the Government House.”
In urging Justice Aikawa to order the temporary forfeiture of the contentious property, EFCC Counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo said the agency has reasons to strongly believe that Senator Saraki developed the two properties with proceeds of unlawful activities.
But reacting to the development, Senator Saraki described the EFCC’s application to the Federal High Court, Lagos, for interim forfeiture order as an abuse of the court process.
He said the anti-graft agency’s action clearly violates a subsisting order of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
A statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, on Monday said the Federal High Court in Abuja, presided over by Justice Taiwo Taiwo, had given an order “restraining the respondents (Commission) by themselves, their subordinates, agents, servants, or privies howsoever, from seizing, impounding, taking over, confiscating or otherwise forfeiting the Applicant’s (Saraki) right to own and peacefully enjoy any of his assets and properties”.
The ex-Senate President noted that the “The EFCC’s claim that the Ilorin property was built by any proceed of fraud is outright false. The fact is that the Ilorin property was built partly by the Kwara State government pursuant to the Third Schedule of the Governor and Deputy Governor (Payment of Pension) Law 2010, while Dr. Saraki personally funded the remaining cost of the building.
“There are existing letters from the Office of the Head of Service of Kwara State notifying the former Governor (Saraki) of the state government’s compliance with the State Pension for Governor’s law and the one indicating his intention to bear the cost of the additional expenditure that will arise from building the property to his desired taste, dated January 25, 2012 and February 8, 2012 respectively.”
Offering further insight on the issues at stake, the statement said; “The construction of the building did not commence until the last few weeks of Dr. Saraki’s tenure as governor, and the bulk of his contribution to the funding was made by cheques. Where cash was involved, this was mainly in 2012 and 2013, more than a year after he had left office as governor.
“So, where is the claim that the money for the construction of the house was fraudulent obtained from Kwara State government coming from? It should also be noted that the land on which the house is built is not a government allocated land.
“One can only see that EFCC is playing politics and spreading falsehood in its cheap attempt to witch-hunt and intimidate a perceived enemy. We are also surprised that the EFCC could not even hide its penchant for abusing the nation’s judicial institution as it engaged in forum shopping when it filed a suit in Lagos on a property situate in Ilorin.”
The statement, which confirmed the ex-Senate President’s resolve to contest the forfeiture order in court, said; “We will like to restate our earlier position that Dr. Saraki will contest this matter in the court at least to further attest to his belief in the rule of law, the sanctity of the courts and their enduring readiness to do justice in all matters and to all persons.”