CCT Trial: Saraki To File No-Case Submission

Bukola Saraki, Senate President,Senate President Bukola Saraki has informed the Code of Conduct Tribunal that he intends to file a no-case submission in his ongoing trial for false asset declaration.

Saraki’s counsel, Mr. Paul Erokoro, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, informed the tribunal of the decision after the lead prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), closed his case against the Senate President.

Jacobs closed his case after calling his fourth witness, an official of the Ilorin Branch of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Mr Bayo Dauda.

Having opted against opening his defence in favour of a no-case submission, the Tribunal Chairman, Danladi Umar, fixed June 8 for the continuation of the case.

Alleged False Asset Declaration: Witness Testifies In Saraki’s Trial

Bukola Saraki, Senate President, Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, False Asset DeclarationThe trial of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over alleged false declaration of assets continued on Tuesday in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

At the resumed hearing of the case, a witness, Amazu Nwachuckwu, gave testimonies about how the Senate President allegedly transferred funds from Nigeria to service his mortgage obligation through an offshore account in the United Kingdom.

Nwachuckwu, who works as a Funds Transfer Officer in Guaranty Trust Bank, explained how Dr. Saraki purportedly transferred over $3 million between 2009 and 2012 from his domiciliary account with the bank to American Express Europe Services Limited.

The defence team, led by Mr Paul Usoro, however, argued that their client never maintained a foreign account as a public officer.

Mr Usoro added that Senator Saraki obtained a loan of 375 million Naira from the bank to acquire a property in London.

He maintained that it was not in breach of any law.

Further hearing in the case has been shifted to January 18, even though Mr Usoro has informed the Tribunal that he had more questions for the witness.

The CCT had earlier struck out an application filed by the Senate President against the Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Danladi Umar.

Senator Saraki had accused Mr Umar of bias and asked him to disqualify himself from hearing the case.

CCT Adjourns Saraki’s Trial Till June 1

Senate President, CCT, SarakiThe Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has adjourned the trial of Nigeria’s Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, over alleged false declaration of asset till Wednesday, June 1.

According to the Tribunal the trial will begin by 10:00 a.m. local time.

At the beginning of Wednesday’s proceedings, only the prosecution counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs, was at the Tribunal.

The Tribunal, however, proceeded with its sitting with the defence counsel announcing their appearance.

At that point, the prosecution witness, an operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Michael Wetkas, walked in.

After all formal introductions, further cross-examination of Mr Wetkas continued.

Witness Cross-Examination

Mr Wetkas was cross-examined on the count six.

Responding to questions from the defence counsel, Mr Wetkas agreed that the property which is in the Maitama area of Abuja was acquired in 1993 but was transferred to Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited in 2003.

On further questioning, he retracted his statement, saying he did not know when the property was transferred.

The witness was then asked to read exhibit 20, 21 and 23.

He took a glance at the exhibits and pointed out that exhibit 20, which was a letter to the Federal Capital Development Authority from the EFCC, was not signed.

“Usually letters from the commission are always signed,” he told the Tribunal.

The letter, according to him, was sent to the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) to establish the ownership of the said property.

He said he believed that the signature page would have fallen off in the administrative process, saying that for the FCTA to have acted on the document “it means it was signed”.

“To prove this, there is a letter from the FCTA in response to that letter,” he said.

When asked why he reached out to the FCTA, he said it was because they kept record of landed property in Abuja.

He was further asked if there was anyone who would have the official records of the said property.

“It should be the Abuja Geographical Systems which is a parastatal under the FCTA,” he answered in the affirmative.

The witness was then asked to read page 133 which is the Power of Attorney referred to in the letter to the FCTA which is said to have been transferred to Carlisle Properties and Investment by one David Baba Akawu.

He read the document and confirmed that it was indeed the Power of Attorney, transferring the property to Carlisle Properties and Investment which was not declared by the defendant.

When asked who were the parties in the transfer document, the witness said it was only David Baba Akawu and Carlisle Properties in 1993.

He was then asked if the property was acquired 10 years before the Senate President became a public officer and he said yes.

The defence counsel further questioned if there was a mention of Dr. Saraki’s name in the Power of Attorney and the witness said he already told the Tribunal that there were only two parties in the document.

Mr Wetkas was also asked if the defendant’s name was mention in the said Transfer of Attorney, but he said his (Saraki’s) personal name was not mentioned.

At this point, the defence counsel was interjected by the Tribunal Chairman who said his question was repetitive.

But the defence counsel, Mr Paul Usoro, requested that the Chairman took a look at charge number six, which implied that the Senate President acquired the property in 1993 and did not declare it.

The Chairman then asked the defence lawyer if what he was trying to achieve was to show “that Carlisle is different from the Senate President” and the Defence lawyer said that was what he ultimately wanted to achieve.

Cross examination of the witness continued, with the property in Maitama still in contention.

When it was 4:00 p.m. the defence asked for an adjournment, but the prosecuting counsel opposed it, insisting that the defence had taken too much time in cross-examining his witness.

This position infuriated a member of the Tribunal, Atedze, who voiced his displeasure over what he termed grandstanding by lawyers in the case.

He noted that as much as speed would be required the Tribunal could not stifle the attempt by the accused person to defend himself.

But Mr Jacobs insisted that the delay in finishing with the cross-examination was deliberate.

But counsel to Dr. Saraki pointed out that his client must be allowed to defend himself to the best of his ability.

Done with hearing their arguments the Tribunal adjourned the hearing till June 1.

 

 

Saraki’s Trial Continues At The CCT

Senate President, CCT, SarakiCross examination of the prosecution witness in the trial of the Senate President Bukola Saraki, continues at the Code Of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Abuja.

Under cross-examination on Wednesday, Mr Michael Wetkas, insisted that the Senate President did not declare the property he bought in London and the loan he used to buy the property at the end of his tenure as Governor of Kwara State in 2011.

He was, however, not able to provide evidence showing that the property was purchased by the defendant.

This was a continuation of his cross-examination on Tuesday when he explained the numbering of a property on MacDonald Street, maintaining his testimony that number 15 was one and the same property.

Saraki’s Trial Continues With More Drilling For Wetkas

Bukola Saraki, Senate President, CCTThe cross-examination of an operative of the anti-graft agency and prosecution witness, Mr Michael Wetkas, in the trial of the Nigerian Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal continued on Wednesday.

The CCT went ahead with the trial in spite of the nationwide strike declared by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).

This is a continuation of his cross-examination on Tuesday when he explained the numbering of a property on MacDonald Street, maintaining his testimony that number 15 was one and the same property.

At the resumed session on Wednesday, a counsel to Dr. Saraki, Mr Paul Usoro, asked the witness to read page 9 of exhibit 3.

He was being drilled about his testimony regarding transfer of funds between foreign accounts held by the defendant.

He said that from the dollar account you would see a debit entry €1,200,000 on April 12, 2010 and that in the narration it was written ‘dollar exchange for Dr. Bukola Saraki’.

He added that on the pound sterling account which is exhibit 9, on that same day there was a credit in pounds sterling.

He said further that on February 15, 2010 there was a transaction with a debit of 1million dollars with the same narration like the first one seeking conversion of the funds to pound sterling and also on the same day there was a credit of $632,511.07 with a narration seeking conversion to pound sterling.

Wetkas then referred the tribunal to exhibit 8 where said funds were converted into pounds on behalf of the defendant.

When asked if there must be a telex for the transfer, the witness says yes. He also identified the telex which is part of his exhibit.

Having identified all the transfers, he was asked to read count 11 which is for making a false declaration which Dr. Saraki submitted at the end of his second tenure, where he allegedly failed to make declaration of loan he obtained from a commercial bank and remitted to Fortis Bank in full and final payment for undisclosed property he bought in London.

Mr Wetkas said that exhibit 7 has an offer letter of banking facility for the purchase of a property in London.

Mortgage Intervention
He insisted that the Senate President did not declare the property he bought in London and the loan he used to buy the property at the end of his tenure as the Governor of Kwara State in 2011.

According to Mr Wetkas, the London counterparts of the anti-graft agency are yet to furnish the commission with the details of the property.

He told the tribunal that Senator Saraki did not declare over 375 million dollars, which he converted to pound sterlings for the purchase of two houses in London that were also not declared.

When asked to read the telex for the transfers for the said transaction which he had earlier tendered as evidence, the witness pointed out that it was for mortgage intervention.

Asked if he knew the meaning of mortgage intervention, the witness admitted that he had little knowledge of mortgage business, but that the commission reached out to their counterparts in London, who gave them details of the title deeds of the property and the owner.

He, however,  said he was not in possession of the documents when asked if he had evidence to substantiate his claims.

On counts 10 and 15, Mr Wetkas told the tribunal that he did not give any testimony about them.

He was then directed to Count 5 which accused the Senate President of failing to declare his interest in number 37b Glover Road, Ikoyi and that he failed to declare the said property in his asset declaration form in 2011, and also failed to declare the annual income of 5.5 million Naira annual rent accrued from the property.

When asked how he came about that conclusion, the witness said that the Managing Director of Carlisle Properties and Investment owned by the defendant, one Mr Sule Izuabe, told him, under interrogation, that all the properties managed by the company was owned by the defendant and that during a search of the premises of Carlisle Investments and Properties Limited, the operatives of EFCC came across a document, which was labeled as ‘estimated annual income’.

This he said, made him reach the conclusion that the property was owned by the defendant.

When asked if he had the title deed of the property, Wetkas said the document contained the name of four different owners.

He said the property was linked to the Senate President because of the income that was linked to the property, but that other officers had further investigated the ownership of the property and would be testifying in that regard.

The witness also admitted under cross examination that he had no document to show that the sum of 5.5 million Naira as alleged in the charge accrued to the defendant.

The proceedings was adjourned to Wednesday, May 25 2016 for continuation of cross examination.

Saraki’s Trial : Witness Cross-examination Continues At CCT

Court-dockThe cross-examination of a witness in the trial of the Nigerian senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal on false asset declaration has continued.

Continuing with proceedings on Tuesday after the Chairman of the Tribunal, Mr Danladi Umar, ordered that only the lead counsel of the defendant should cross-examine the witness, a counsel to Dr. Saraki, Mr Paul Usoro, requested that the witness be given exhibit 1,3,15.

When asked about the numbering in MacDonald Street, the witness, who is an opertive of the anti-graft agency, Mr Michael Wetkas, maintained his testimony that number 15 was one and the same property.

He also told the Tribunal that the Presidential Implementation Committee (PIC) on the sales of the Federal Government properties did not tell them that they were two separate property and that the Managing Director of Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited did say that the property belonged to the Senate President.

Mr Wetkas also said that the defendant, in his asset declaration in 2011 and 2015, declared it as number 15 and not number 15 A and B, claiming that that was why the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) maintained the position that it was the same property.

He further said: “In fact, there is a letter written to the Senate President by the Ministry of Housing telling him that there is a presidential concession that number 15 MacDonald be sold to the defendant.

“All the while there was no mention of 15 A and B that is why we say that the nomenclature is just for the convenience of the defendant”.

Asking a follow up question, Mr Usoro pointed out the witness had brought new details into the mix.

He asked again: “What makes you think that the defendant by 2007, because you have earlier said it was not declared, what makes you think the defendant has expanded the property”?

Responding, the witness said he believes that “when you by a property you decide how to restructure or renovate it”.

“I did not ask him if he did the restructuring and remodelling,” he told the Tribunal, saying they believe that it is one and the same property.

The Tribunal then took him to page 187 of the document from the PIC, with the defence counsel asking when the letter by the occupant of number 15 Mr Eguwagu to the PIC was written. He responded, June 21, 2008.

The Counsel further asked if the petition came after the asset declaration of the Senate President. He said yes and explained that the asset declaration of the Senate President was done on July 11, 2007, about a year difference.

Mr Usoro further drilling him said: “According to the letter by Mr Eguwagu, is it true that he said curiously that nobody had approached me to say he or they have bought the property and that the property was handed over to him by Ministry of Housing and that he was still leaving in the property?

Mr Wetkas agreed that by the content of the letter by Mr Eguwagu was still leaving in the property by 2008 June.

He was also asked if Mr Egwuagu also said that nobody had approached him that they had bought the property including Tiny Tee.

The witness also agreed that Mr Egwuagu also attached some documents which included the content referred to by Mr Wetkas.

Mr Usoro then told the Tribunal that he withdrew an initial statement that Mr Wetkas lied, saying instead that he misrepresented the facts.

When Mr Wetkas was asked if he had any other documents that contradicted the information in Mr Egwuagu’s letter, he said he had none.

When asked if he said there was a letter written by the committee that the presidency had said the property should be given to the Senate President, Wetkas answered in the affirmative and also produced the letter as ordered by the Tribunal, which was the page 122 of exhibit 16.

He was then asked to read the document  and show anything in the letter that specifically showed that 15 A and B were not the same as he said earlier. He could not mention any part of the letter that contained that and then he told the Tribunal that there was nothing in the letter that said so.

He however, stressed that why he brought the letter was for prove that number 15 existed and that it was offered to the defendant because all the correspondence, with regards to the case all, mentioned Number 15 and not 15A and B .
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According to the letter, the then President, Mr Olusegun Obasanjo, gave special presidential concession to Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola.

When asked if he still stood by charge one that Saraki on September 16 2003, did make an anticipatory asset declaration of number 15A and B, which he claimed to have acquired in the year 2000, by his companies Tiny Tee and BT Oil Limited, he said that the bank record of payment showed the list of directors of Bt Oil.

He was asked if he investigated BT Oil, he told the Tribunal that he did not check, explaining that he was yet to established a link between BT Oil and Dr. Saraki.

He was then handed the joint report of the EFCC/Code of Conduct Bureau investigative team and he identified them as same.

The defence then asked that the document be tendered in evidence.

Saraki’s Trial: Only Lead Counsel Can Cross-examine Witness, Court Says

Senate PresidentThe trial of the Nigerian Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for false asset declaration has continued, with the Tribunal insisting that only the lead counsel could cross-examine the witness.

Before proceedings began on Tuesday, the Tribunal Chairman, Mr Danladi Umar, said that the records of the Tribunal showed that there were about 100 counsels for the defence.

According to him, there had been too many counsels cross-examining the witness, a situation he said could make the process untidy.

“To ensure orderliness all counsels cannot cross-examine the witness.

“All the other lawyers could assist Mr Kanu Agabi (Saraki’s lead counsel) rather than every other person in the defence doing the job.

“This will make the process untidy. So, henceforth only the lead counsel, Mr Kanu Agabi, can do the cross-examination,” Mr Danladi stressed.

Raising an issue that had earlier been brought before the Tribunal, Mr Agabi said that he feared prejudice.

“I want to assure you that there is nothing that we have done here to distort the records of the court.

“Are you surprised that those who come before you are afraid?

“People come here and they are ruled by fear of prejudice. Prejudice ought not to have a place at this court but we are afraid,” he stressed.

Mr Agabi, however, pointed out that he had not accused the Tribunal of prejudice.

The Chairman of the Tribunal allaying the defence counsel’s fears, further pledged to be fair in the hearing and to ensure justice.

“I swear by the Almighty Allah to do justice.

“On our part, the insinuations that we are being influenced to see the conviction of the accused is false.

“During Bola Tinubu’s case we were under influence to convict him but we did the right thing,” he told the Tribunal.

Responding to the Tribunal Chairman’s statement, Mr Agabi said he agreed that all the persons in the case would account to God and stressed that “they should all be worried by that fact”.

Another member of the Tribunal also stressed that the issue had been settled that an accused person is entitled to as many lawyers as he wanted, pointing out that the Chairman’s remark was to ensure that there was order in court.

He added that a friend of his wife had, over a telephone conversation, told her that there was an article against her husband.

“The writer was shooting at the wrong person. There is a lot of misgivings as to the proceedings here.

“Those who know my background know am not somebody that keeps quite when things are going wrong.

“If you ask any staff here you will be told the same thing. The article was entirely about me,” he stated.

Coming back to the proceedings, the Chairman pointed out that the concern of the Tribunal was national interest.

“This is about Nigeria,” he stressed before proceedings started.

Saraki’s Supporters Besiege Tribunal While Trial Holds

Bukola-Saraki-Appeals-CCT-trialSome supporters of Nigeria’s Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on Monday besieged the Code of Conduct Tribunal to protest against his trial for alleged false declaration of assets while in office as the Governor of Kwara State.

The peaceful protesters, showing solidarity with the Senate president, had placards with different inscriptions – “Nigerian youths and students stand firm with Saraki. Let the Senate continue working and no to the ongoing witch hunt of Saraki”.

They also chanted songs in Hausa language.

But their protest did not stop the prosecution from leading one of its witnesses in presentation of evidence against the defendant.

A prosecution witness, Michael Wekpas, continued his testimony before the Tribunal and tendered 17 documents to support his claim that the Senate President did not declare all his assets and in some cases made anticipatory declaration.

Mr Wekpas told the Tribunal that there were instances where the Senate President declared some property at the beginning of his tenure as Governor in 2003 and left others out, which he later declared in 2007 and 2011 respectively.

He also alleged that the Senate President made anticipatory declaration of his property on McDonald Street, Ikoyi, which were numbers 15a and 15b, when the records of the presidential implementation committee on the sales of Federal Government property revealed that the property was only listed as number 15.

He told the Tribunal that out of the two property belonging to the Senate President at numbers 1 and 3 Targus Street, Maitama, the Senator Saraki consistently declared only number.

According to him, even though the Senate President was not the Managing Director of one Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited, by his own admission, he had controlling shares and was the beneficiary of the funds accruing to the company.

Immediately after the examination in chief ended his testimony, the defence began its cross examination.

In his response to questions asked by the defence lawyer, the witness said he did not receive any correspondent from the Kwara State government of any missing funds, neither did he conduct a forensic examination on Kwara State accounts.

He also told the Tribunal that he was not aware that the Kwara Freedom Network, the organisation that petitioned the anti-graft agency, is a fictitious organisation.

The witness, however, said that there was substance in their petition which had been revealed by the investigation.

The defence, however, asked for time to study the documents rendered as evidence before the case would continue.

But the Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Danladi Umar, said the trial would continue on a day-to-day basis.