A new twist has been added to the trial of Dr. Bukola Saraki, Senate president, who is standing trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over 13 counts of false and anticipatory asset declaration preferred against him by the federal government as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called for the retrial of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State and national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Saraki, who is doing all within his power to quash the charges, had claimed his trial was politically motivated by some forces who are hell-bent on removing him as the president of the senate. According to him, those plotting his removal from office “are seeking to achieve through the back door what some people cannot get through democratic process”.
The embattled Senate president had also maintained that the tribunal must discharge and acquit him the way it did to Tinubu who was discharged in 2011, adding that the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) should have invited him to clarify issues on his asset declaration form before charging him to the tribunal for alleged false asset declaration, a ground for which, he said, the CCT struck out a similar case against Tinubu.
Saraki, who spoke through his lawyer, Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN) said Tinubu, who was accused of false declaration of assets, was set free by the tribunal because of the failure of the CCB to fulfill necessary conditions of inviting him first to make statement on the alleged discrepancies before referring him for trial. He also told the tribunal chairman, Mr. Danladi Umar, that Saraki should have been invited to clarify issues before charging him before the tribunal.
“The result of the investigation by Bureau is expected to be presented to Your Lordship. Where is it?” Where is the reference? We don’t have it, you can strike it out and let them start afresh. He has not been invited; he should be invited like Tinubu. He is the Senate President of this country. We have not been invited, it is not discriminatory. My Lord, the reason you said you allow Tinubu to go home was that ten other governors was invited, but he was not invited, the defendant is a former governor,” Agabi said.
However, in a vehement opposition to the application to quash the charge, counsel to the Federal Government, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), accused the defendant of engaging in abuse of court process and that what Saraki was asking for had been determined by various courts.
He said the Ministry of Justice referred the trial of Saraki to the CCB on the strength of joint investigation carried out by EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) in which the defendant was found to have procured assets that were not declared in his form.
On the issue of Tinubu, who was set free by the tribunal on the failure of the CCB to fulfil the conditions precedent, Jacobs who spoke to journalists opined that the tribunal was in error in arriving at that decision in setting Tinubu free.
“Tinubu’s case was based on 1979 law and the Tribunal having realised its mistake more than three years ago upturned the decision and said they made a mistake, that it was an error and that it was given without considering the 1999 Constitution,” he said.
Giving its ruling, Justice Umar said Tinubu was discharged in error in 2011 and so cannot be compared to that of Saraki.
” The tribunal has since realised that the decision it made on the case between FRN vs Tinubu was in error and has clearly departed from it. It is not out of place for the prosecution to charge the defendant now. The application to quash the charge is hereby refused. The tribunal hereby re-inforces its jurisdiction in line with the constitution an section 3(d) of the CCB &Tribunal Act. Accordingly, the prosecution is hereby ordered to produce its witnesses for the trial of the defendant to commence immediately” Justice Umar held.
Speaking on the development, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Lagos state chapter, in a statement has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately order the arrest and prosecution of Tinubu. While accusing the president of manifesting selective fight and prosecution in his anti corruption crusade, the party in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Taofik Gani said the call is consequent upon the disclosure by the CCB lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) that the former governor, Tinubu, was erroneously discharged by the CCT in the Trial of holding 10 foreign accounts contrary to section 7 of the CCB & Tribunal Act, Cap 15 LFN, 2004 as amended.
“We demand the immediate invitation, arrest and prosecution of Tinubu for violating the laws of the land and breaching public trust by operating several foreign accounts during his tenure as Lagos state governor between 1999 and 2007. During this period, the state did not witness meaningful developments commensurate to its internally generated revenues and federal government allocations. We strongly believe that those foreign accounts were used to steal Lagos funds”.
“It still amazes us how a Tinubu, well known before he became Lagos state governor, is now the undoubtedly wealthiest and ‘influential’ personality out of politics in the country. The code of conduct tribunal erroneously discharged but that does not remove the fact that the offence was committed. Now that the facts of Tinubu’s erroneous discharge are in the public glare and in the spirit of the hyped anti corruption crusade, President Buhari ought to take a stance and speak out on the proprietary of Tinubu walking free while Saraki, Dasuki, Kanu, are being prosecuted with vigour. Alas!”
“Rather, the president and other APC leaders chose to adopt and celebrate a betrayer of public service. The President particularly recently directed the grounding of the capital city to celebrate Tinubu’s birthday. An unequivocal declaration of loyalty to Tinubu who no doubt, bankrolled the president’s election. No doubt that president Buhari is only mouthing anti – corruption and cannot summon the guts to prosecute APC leaders”.
“The erroneous discharge of Tinubu must be appealed against. Alternatively, Tinubu should be invited, interrogated and prosecuted. He was discharged and not acquitted and there is no time limitation for criminal trial”.
However speaking with Independent, the Lagos State Publicity Secretary of the APC, Joe Igbokwe said the PDP’ s statement calling for the retrial of Tinubu is mischievous. According to him, there is a clear-cut difference between Saraki’s case and that of Tinubu.
“Asiwaju has no case at the Code of Conduct Tribunal. His invitation was an error. He was not even supposed to appear at the tribunal in the first place. It was political witch-hunting by PDP in those days. They are trying to compare that with a well-known case of a corrupt official. It is a well-known case”.
“The fact that somebody went to court and was successful does not imply that if anybody goes to court, he will be successful. Go and prove your case beyond reasonable doubt and if you are free, you go. There is no basis for comparism because the two cases are different”.
“Go and answer your father’s name at the Code of Conduct tribunal. Tinubu did just that when he appeared before the tribunal. If he appears and the court sets him free, let him be. If he guilty, then he goes in for it. Nobody is going to play cheap politics. President Buhari is in charge” he said.