To many it did not come as a surprise. Yet to others, it was a most pleasant surprise and one to cherish and celebrate. The Supreme Court last week cleared President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki of all charges filed against him in his false assets declaration trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal. A five-man panel, led by Justice Dattijo Muhammad, unanimously dismissed the three-count charge preferred against Saraki on Friday, July 6, 2018.
The Senate President had earlier been cleared of all charges in June 2017 by the Justice Danladi Umar-led tribunal citing the prosecution’s failure to prove the allegations, but a December 2017 ruling by the Court of Appeal in Abuja had ordered him back to the tribunal to answer for three of the original 18 charges. To express his dissatisfaction at the order to return to the tribunal, Saraki filed a notice of appeal at the Supreme Court. During the ruling last week, the Supreme Court panel upheld Saraki’s appeal and declared the evidence led by the prosecution as hearsay.
The judgement, read by Justice Centus Nweze, agreed with the CCT’s final ruling that the prosecution’s evidence was not strong enough to build a case against Saraki. Justice Nweze said the prosecution team was duty-bound to produce a witness with a direct link to the evidence to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, a failure that rendered its case defective.
Thus the Supreme Court called the decision of the court of Appeal the “equivalent of a forensic somersault”.
In his reaction, an elated Saraki expressed his delight at being cleared of all charges filed against him in his false assets declaration trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal. In a statement signed by him the Senate President said he was happy that God has vindicated him. He went further to allege that his trial was politically-motivated, pointing out that it was instigated by certain forces who didn’t agree with his emergence as the President of the Senate.
Hear him, “at the end of a tortuous journey of 1018 days counting from September 22, 2015 when the case began at the Tribunal, I am happy that I have been vindicated. The Supreme Court has affirmed that there is no evidence of false declaration of assets. The court also observed that certain agents took over the responsibility of the Code of Conduct Bureau in this trial, and one can infer that this was done towards a pre-determined end.
“This outcome has gladdened my heart and further strengthened my belief in this country and as well as my faith in Almighty Allah, who is the righter of all wrongs. God has vindicated me today before the judgement of man, and I am most thankful and humbled at His grace and infinite mercies.
“Through it all, I refused to be shaken, knowing, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, that the arch of the moral universe may be long, but it bends towards justice. I knew the day would come when justice would prevail and I would be exonerated.
“I have always believed in the infallibility of our Judiciary, secure in the knowledge that our courts – the last refuge of the oppressed – would never condemn the innocent. This outcome is also a vindication of my belief in the rule of law.
“As I said in my first appearance at the CCT, this is a politically motivated case. The case was trumped up in the first instance because of my emergence as the President of the Senate against the wishes of certain forces. Ordinarily, I doubt anyone would be interested in the asset declaration form I filled over 15 years ago”.
This vindication is coming at a good time. Now, whoever the traducers of the Dr. Saraki may be, the apex court of the land has shut out blackmailers for good. He is now in a position to concentrate on the task of nation building and politicking. Detractors can now take the back seat or no seat at all. This is testament, tenacity and forbearance. The Senate President has shown that he is a good fighter and tough fighter. A lion heart! We hope therefore that this crushing defeat of the prosecutorial arms of this government will be humble enough to reassess their strategies and personnel. The war on corruption must not be seen as a tool of conquest. We congratulate Saraki on this feat and wish him more triumphs.