By Mumini AbdulKareem
For Senator Bukola Saraki, President of the 8th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and chairman of the National Assembly, Friday 6th July, 2018 will go down as a memorable day. It served as a turning point in the life of the towering politician and the country at large as the Supreme Court after 1,018 days of legal fireworks between him and the Federal Government over allegation of false and anticipatory asset declaration brought against him by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) pronounced him innocent.
The exoneration by the Apex court coming more than three years after the trial started was a significant milestone for the country’s judiciary and a landmark achievement which many commentators have described as a triumph over politicisation and persecution of the legal process using the instrumentality of government.
As the first Muslim Senate President in history of Nigeria, Saraki went through what none before him witnessed but was vindicated on Friday, a day regarded as the “Mother of All Days” according to his religion for a trial that incidentally began officially on a Friday (September 18, 2015).
In his reaction to the judgment, Saraki returned all glory to his Creator Allah (SWT) first and then Nigerians who stood behind by him throughout his “tribulations”.
While the trial lasted, Saraki’s kinsmen and supporters back home were dejected, worried but at the same time rested their hopes in Allah believing Him to vindicate their ‘beloved son’ in whom they were well pleased. They engaged in massive prayers across the state and spent huge fund, man-hours and human resources to ensure they were part of trial.
The Senate President did also not leave his prayer warriors alone to determine his fate for him but stepped up his spiritual warfare and travelled to Saudi Arabia. It was during this trial that Saraki embarked on his first ever hajj and the several Umrah trips that followed.
Their prayers were answered when the CCT chairman, Justice Danladi Umar discharged and acquitted Saraki of all the 18-count charges, but the APC led Federal Government, the party Saraki rode on to become the nation’s third citizen purportedly tried to draw back the hands of the clock and surprisingly appealed the judgment, bringing a new dimension into whole scenario.
To members of Saraki’s camp, the action of the Federal Government was the clearest signals that some “forces” within the presidency in collaboration with some top politicians in the country and his political adversaries back home were determined to pull him down at all cost. The presidency it was believed wanted to get back at Saraki for ‘snatching’ the Senate Presidency from them. The new development threw up the question why the Federal Government failed to appeal former Lagos Governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s case when he was discharged and acquitted on similar issue.
Dead and buried
Giving its judgment on Friday, the Supreme Court buried the case forever and by extension the antics of all Saraki’s foes as far as the issue was concerned. According to the five-man panel of the apex court led by Justice Dattijo Muhammad, they unanimously upheld Saraki’s appeal and dismissed the remnant three counts, declaring the evidence led by the prosecution as hearsay.
The Danladi Umar-led CCT had, in June last year, terminated the trial upon an application by Saraki, by dismissing the entire 18 counts preferred against the Senate President.
The CCT’s decision was based on the grounds that the prosecution, with its four witnesses and 49 exhibits tendered, only led hearsay evidence which could not be the basis to link Saraki to the 18 counts preferred against him.
However, the Court of Appeal in Abuja ruling on December 12, 2017, in an appeal filed by the Federal Government against the decision of the CCT, restored three out of the dismissed 18 counts and ordered Saraki to return to the CCT to defend the three charges.
While Saraki appealed to the Supreme Court against the part of the Court of Appeal’s decision restoring three of the 18 counts, the Federal Government cross-appealed against the part of the decision affirming the tribunal’s dismissal of the rest of the 15 counts.
However, in its lead judgment on Friday, Justice Centus Nweze upheld Saraki’s appeal and dismissed the Federal Government’s appeal.
Justice Nweze agreed with the CCT that the evidence led by the prosecution at the tribunal was entirely hearsay.
He held that the Court of Appeal was wrong to have restored three out the 18 counts earlier dismissed by the CCT when it agreed that the evidence led by the prosecution was hearsay but went ahead to isolate three of the counts as having been proved.
Justice Nweze quoted a part of the Court of Appeal’s judgment where it held that “the prosecution failed to call those who have direct knowledge of the facts sought to be proved, to testify”.
Faulting the Court of Appeal’s turn around to restore three of the counts based on the evidence it had declared as hearsay, Justice Nweze said it was “judicial equivalent of a forensic somersault”.
Jubilation in Ilorin
Subsequently, hundreds of supporters of Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki trooped out on Friday in wild jubilation over the verdict by the Supreme Court. The supporters who comprised of both youth and women and various associations and unions in the state stormed major parts of the city in large convoy of cars and tricycles celebrating the victory. The congregation which later assembled at the palace to pay homage to the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, expressed joy over outcome of the case. Special prayers were offered by the monarch for the community to show their gratitude to God over the verdict. The Chief Imam of Ilorin, Sheik Muhammad Bashir also offered prayers immediately after Juma’at service at the Ilorin central mosque. He prayed Allah to continue to guide and protect Saraki and elevate him to highest political office in the country. Speaking with newsmen, an aide of the Senate President, Abdullahi Oganija said the community is very happy over the development and thanked God for the victory.
How Kwara opposition elements stoked the fire
Saraki’s trial was instigated by a top member of the opposition in the state and the Chairman of the Kwara State chapter of the PDP, Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo. Oyedepo in the petitioned he co-signed with other members on an “association” demanded that the EFCC/CCT to try Saraki over alleged discrepancies in his asset declaration form and anticipatory declaration during his time as governor. While the case was still brewing at that stage, words circulated within the opposition camp in the state that Saraki’s political dominance would be over in matter of few months. “He will be jailed and banned from holding any political post or engage in related activities for ten years”, one of the top opposition members who was once in Saraki’s camp told this reporter. Oyedepo later went ahead on radio to boast that if Saraki was vindicated, he would personally go the airport to receive him when he comes to the state.
The Code of Conduct Bureau, on September 11, subsequently slammed a 13-count charge of corruption on Saraki, accusing him of offences ranging from anticipatory declaration of assets, to false declaration of assets in forms he filed before the Code of Conduct Bureau while he was governor of Kwara State. Although Saraki was not in court on Friday September 18, 2015 when the trial commenced, one of his counsel, Joseph Daudu (SAN), when the notice of the charges filed with the request to show up in court was issued, filed a motion with the Federal High Court, asking the court to grant an injunction that would prevent the CCT from proceeding with trial.
Oyedepo eats humble pie
But in a telephone chat last night, Oyedepo told National Pilot that the victory was not determined on merit but on technicalities adding that Saraki has gone through the legal process. Pressed further on how prepared he was to redeem his promise, the opposition chairman queried “Has he invited me and I didn’t go. He has to invite me to come and welcome him at the airport”.
The Bench warrant
The prosecution counsel, Muslim Hassan, then asked the tribunal to order Saraki’s arrest for failing to appear before it, arguing that the High court had parallel jurisdiction with the tribunal and as such, had no power to halt a trial of the tribunal. The Chairman of the Tribunal, Danladi Umar, issued a bench warrant against Saraki but his counsel prayed the tribunal for an adjournment until Monday which was granted
Daudu filed an ex-parte motion with the Court of Appeal, to stay the execution of the warrant of arrest. Saraki was absent in court on Monday. His counsel argued that his client did not appear because the constitution of the CCT was illegal and consequently rendered the trial ultra vires (of no legal effect). The CCT then ordered the police to present Saraki at the next trial date or risk facing consequences and dismissed Daudu’s plea for a stay of execution.
Twice at the Supreme Court
While the trial lasted, Saraki visited the Supreme Court twice. The Apex Court adjourned sine dine on March 12, 2018 for all parties to file all their remaining processes for the apex court to fix a date for final hearing on the appeal entered by the Senate President and the cross-appeal filed by the Federal Government in respect of Saraki’s trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal for false asset declaration. The 5-man panel led by Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad of the apex court sitting on the appeals had adjourned on February 21, 2018 indefinitely, but subsequently fixed Thursday March 12 to further hear arguments by counsel of both parties in the appeal. The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal had in its judgment delivered on December 12, 2017 restored three out of the 18 counts bothering on false assets declaration earlier dismissed by the Danladi Umar-led CCT in June 2017. Saraki had subsequently filed a seven-ground notice of appeal before the Supreme Court against the three counts restored by the Court of Appeal. The Federal Government had also filed a cross-appeal of 15 grounds before the apex court against the part of the judgment which affirmed the dismissal of the 15 counts. It began when the Federal Government had filed a charge marked ABT/01/15 and dated September 11, 2015, against Saraki.
Saraki lawyers staged walkout
Consequently, Saraki on September 22, 2015, pleaded not guilty to the charge which he said was grossly incompetent and ought to be quashed. Refusal of the tribunal to hands-off the trial resulted to Saraki’s lawyers staging a walk-out on the tribunal on November 5, 2015, after they accused the panel of engaging in acts of “judicial rascality”. In a related development, Justice Abdul Kafarati of the Federal High Court in Abuja had adjourned to March 22, 2016 to deliver judgment on another suit that Saraki filed with a view to disqualifying Justice Umar from handling his trial. Saraki had in the suit contended that Justice Umar was not fit and proper to try him considering that the judge also has a criminal allegation hanging on his neck. He told the court that Umar was being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), over allegations bothering on corruption. Saraki said he would not be accorded fair-hearing by the tribunal, alleging that the charge pending against him before the CCT was instigated by the anti-graft agency. He argued that Umar, in a bid to save himself from prosecution, would dance to the tune of the EFCC which he said usurped the responsibility of the CCB by recommending his trial for an offence that was allegedly committed years back. He therefore sought an order nullifying the charge and the proceedings of the CCT on the grounds that they allegedly fell short of the requirements of Article 3 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution.
Judge excuse self from trial
But following online media report (SaharaReporters), Justice Kafarati suddenly excused himself from the case on March 22, 2016 claiming his reputation had been impugned. But the intervention of the then CJN, Justice Mahmoud Mohammed, led Justice Kafarati to deliver judgement in the suit on April 15, 2016. Justice Kafarati held that he lacked jurisdiction to entertain Saraki’s suit, filed under the fundamental human rights enforcement rules, claiming it constituted an abuse of court process. Justice Ibrahim Buba of a Federal High Court in Lagos had about that time declined jurisdiction in another suit Saraki filed before him against the matter in CCT. The defense team had wanted the tribunal to suspend the trial and allow the Supreme Court to pronounce on the competence of the proceeding. Though the CCT declined to stay proceeding on the matter, on November 12, 2015, a Supreme Court panel headed by Justice John Fabiyi (now retired), directed the tribunal to “tarry for a while” to enable them to look into Saraki’s appeal. ‘’Learned senior counsel for the respondent has given an undertaking that no unusual step will be taken on behalf of the respondent. In effect, further proceedings before the CCT should be stayed pending the hearing of the main appeal’’, Justice Fabiyi held. The Justice Fabiyi-led panel ruling was greeted by uproar and the panel was subsequently disbanded. The then Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, took over the case and reconstituted a seven-man panel of Justices of the apex court that heard the appeal.
Supreme Court dismissed Saraki’s appeal
This new panel led by Justice Mahmoud Mohammed had Justices Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen (Now CJN), Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, Nwali Sylvester Ngwuta, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Chima Centus Nweze and Amiru Sanusi. In a unanimous judgment on February 5, 2016, the Supreme Court dismissed Saraki’s appeal, even as it ordered his prosecution before the CCT. The apex court which said it was satisfied that the Senate President has a case to answer before the tribunal, affirmed an earlier verdict of the Court of Appeal in Abuja which on October 30, 2015, gave FG the nod to open its case against Saraki. ‘’The judgement of the lower court delivered on October 30, 2015 dismissing the appeal of appellant against the ruling of Code of Conduct Tribunal of September 18, 2015 is hereby affirmed. Appeal dismissed’’, Justice Onnoghen held.
Meanwhile, the CCT, on March 8, 2018 suspended its judgment on the false asset declaration charge or the three- count charge FG had proffered against Saraki at the CCT. Mr. Danladi Umar-led two-man panel tribunal announced its decision to “tarry for awhile” in the matter, on a day both FG and Saraki appeared through their lawyers to adopt their final briefs of argument for judgment to be delivered in the case. When the matter was called up, the CCT Chairman, Umar, said the tribunal was hesitant to take further step in the case in view of two pending appeals before the Supreme Court.
EFCC’s twist on Danladi Umar
As the argument of Saraki for Justice Umar to hands off his the trial was rebuffed by the EFCC who wrote to give the chairman clean bill over his alleged prosecution for fraud, tThe commission surprisingly on March 3, 2018 filed a two-count criminal charge against him. The charge numbered CR/109/18, dated January 25, 2018 and signed by Festus Keyamo (SAN) accused Umar, who is presiding over a case with Charge No. CCT/ ABJ/03/12, involving one Rasheed Owolabi Taiwo. He was accused of demanding for a bribe of N10 million from Taiwo, sometime in 2012, in Abuja. According to the charge, the alleged bribe was for procuring favourable judgment for Taiwo, an offence, the EFCC said, goes contrary to Section 12(1) (a) & (b) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2003.
FG’s query amidst confusion
Subsequently, the Federal Government queried Ibrahim Magu and Festus Keyamo (SAN), over the corruption charges filed against Danladi Umar, chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). Magu was asked to explain what informed the filing of corruption charges against the tribunal chairman having been cleared of corruption allegations on two occasions. Like Magu, the senior Lawyer was given till February 20, 2018, to furnish the office of the AGF in writing the detail of who engaged or issued him with authority to file the corruption charges.
The Supreme Court adjourned indefinitely hearing in the appeal filed by the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, and the Federal Government to challenge the decision of the Court of Appeal in the trial of Saraki on false assets declaration. The apex court put off the two appeals sine die to enable Saraki and government file and exchange process relating to the legal tussle within the time allowed by the law.
At the proceeding, Counsel to the Federal Government, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), informed the court that Saraki had just served him his response to the cross appeal of the government.
Jacobs insisted that he needed time to study the reply and file his own process and serve same to Saraki as required by law.
He asked for adjournment to enable him do so, which was not opposed by counsel to Saraki, Kanu Agabi (SAN).
Justice Mohammed Musa Dattijom who presided over four other Justices of the court, however, said the court will not give definite date for hearing until all processes have been filed. Dattijo said the Registrar of the court will communicate hearing date to parties involved as soon as their processes are confirmed filed and exchanged.
Saraki and the government contested the decision of the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, which nullified 15 out of 18 count charges filed against Saraki by the government. The Federal Government described the decision as baseless and frivolous, but asked Saraki to open defence on the remaining three charges.
While Saraki however prayed the Supreme Court to void the entire 18 count charges, the Federal Government in its own cross appeal prayed the apex court to uphold the entire charges against the Senate President for defence.
EFCC council, Rotimi Jacob lambasted over incompetent application
Although he appeared as face of the government at the trial, the Supreme Court at a point in the trial berated the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), for filing an incompetent application in the appeal that emanated from false assets declaration suit brought against the Senate President by the Federal Government. The Counsel in a trinity application before the Apex Court challenging the ruling of the Code of Conduct Tribunal and the Court of Appeal, failed to file appropriate exhibits of the two lower courts along with other processes he filed in the court. Angered by the development at the resumed hearing of the appeal, the presiding justice, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed, told the EFCC’s lawyer who is also representing the Federal Government, that the court was disappointed that a lawyer of his standing could file such an incompetent application knowing what the extant rules of the court are before such applications are filed. Justice Mohammed said: “This court is disappointed that a lawyer of your standing should file such an incompetent application.”
Some timelines of the trial
September 2015: The case was filed at the CCT but began proper in 2016.
March 11, 2016: Saraki appeared before the Code of Conduct Tribunal with an entourage of 30 Senators. The Senate President also appeared with 66 lawyers representing him.
March 18, 2016: At the resumed hearing of Saraki’s motion to quash the charges against him, his lawyer, Kanu Agabi (SAN), stated that the tribunal lacked jurisdiction to entertain the charges arguing that the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice lacked the authority to file charges before the tribunal.
CCT chairman, Danladi Umar fixed March 24 for ruling on the application.
March 24, 2016: The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) threw out the petition of the embattled Senate president, Bukola Saraki who asked the court to quash the criminal charges preferred against him by the Federal Government. President of the Court, Justice Danladi Umar, stated that the charges against Saraki was valid and legally competent.
April 6, 2016: Ninety lawyers announced their appearance for Saraki.
April 22, 2016: Saraki filed another application at the tribunal seeking to disqualify the Chairman, Danladi Umar. He asked Umar to withdraw himself from his trial because he was biased.
April 28, 2016: The Federal Government added three more charges against Saraki, making a total of 16 charges. Saraki was accused of receiving monthly salaries from Kwara state government from 2011 to 2015, after leaving office.
May 12, 2016: Danladi Umar has postponed the trial of Saraki to enable the defence lawyers cross-examine the first proscution witness, Micheal Wetkas properly.
May 18, 2016: The first prosecution witness, Micheal Wetkas said Saraki acquired a London property worth N375 million in 2010, which he did not declare in his asset declaration form.
June 1, 2016: The trial which was adjourned did not take place. It had scheduled for continuation of cross-examination of the prosecution witness, Michael Wetkas.
June 21, 2016: Saraki through his counsel, Paul Erokoro accused CCT chairman of bias again.
July 12, 2016: The trial was adjourned to October due to the annual 2016 annual recess to be embarked upon by the tribunal’s judges.
October 5, 2016: The Code of Conduct Tribunal once again dismissed an application for the dismissal of its chairman, Danladi Umar filed by Saraki. Saraki had said the chairman was biased, calling for his resignation. Saraki, through his counsel had said comments by the tribunal chairman showed the outcome of the trial was already decided. Umar, however said the chairman was the same as his tribunal.
October 27, 2016: The Appeal Court in Abuja dismissed an appeal filed by Senate President Bukola Saraki challenging the jurisdiction of the Code of Conduct Tribunal to try him for charges of false declaration of assets
November 8, 2016: Danladi Umar adjourned the trial of Saraki to January 11. Saraki’s counsel, Paul Esoro had earlier cross-examined Michael Wetkas, a detective of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and prosecution witness.
January 11, 2017: The charges against Saraki were increased to 17.
February 23, 2017: Saraki pleaded not guilty to all 18 charges against him. Samuel Madojemu, an official of the Code of Conduct Bureau also told the CCT that Senate President Bukola Saraki made cash deposit of N77m in his account in August 2007.
March 22, 2017: The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) gave reasons why it did not invite Senate President Bukola Saraki to explain discrepancies in his asset declaration form before charging him to court.
April 6, 2017: The tribunal adjourned to April 18 and later April 25 following a notice to the effect of the further adjournment by the tribunal.
April 27, 2017: The absence of a witness led to the adjournment of the trial for the fourth time.
May 4, 2017: The Federal Government closed its false asset declaration case against Senate President, Bukola Saraki.The prosecution’s witness had testified before the Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja.
June 8, 2017: The Danladi Umar-led two-man panel reserved its ruling after hearing Saraki’s no-case submission and the federal government’s objection to it on June 8.
June 14, 2017: The tribunal dismissed all charges against Saraki, saying there was no sufficient evidence against him.
March 12, 2018: Court adjourned for all parties to file all their remaining processes for the apex court to fix a date for final hearing on the appeal entered by the Senate President and the cross-appeal filed by the Federal Government in respect of Saraki’s trial before CCT.
Meet lawyers that won the case for Saraki
Saraki prosecuted the trial at the Supreme Court with over 100 lawyers many of whom were SANs and cut across country. Some of the prominent one includes:
Daudu (SAN) was Saraki’s lead counsel before an altercation with the tribunal chairman forced him to withdraw his services. He teamed up with Mahmud Magagi, also a senior lawyer, in the early days of the trial. Daudu was the counsel who pleaded with the tribunal to give Saraki a “second chance” after a bench warrant was issued against him and he often insisted that the tribunal had no jurisdiction to hear the charges against his client. On November 5, he and his team of lawyers walked out on the CCT judge after he dismissed their application seeking to stop the trial pending the determination of an appeal at the Supreme Court. He could not secure any win for Saraki during his stint as lead counsel. The Supreme Court dismissed his appeal challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal. And that was how far he could go in the case.
Agabi (SAN), a former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), brought humour, dexterity and tact to Saraki’s trial. He also brought one other thing to the trial – 106 lawyers – which he often said was the largest consortium of legal professionals handling a single case in Nigeria. Agabi teamed up with three other senior lawyers – KK Eleja, Paul Usoro and Paul Erokoro – in the trial. When the courtroom is bursting with heated arguments and tension, Agabi would make a wisecrack to bring calm to the situation. He took the trial through a causal path despite the enormity of the charges. He also brought control and legal gravitas to the occasion.
Although the tribunal dismissed two of the applications he filed for the discharge of Saraki, he never resorted to verbal brawls to express his displeasure. The CCT judge and the lead prosecution counsel accorded him respect, perhaps because of his age and experience, but most importantly because his gentle disposition to courting issues. He won the case for the senate president at the CCT.
He was one of the Senior Advocates of Nigeria in the defence team of the senate president. At some point, he had also stood in for Agabi. He had also filed a motion for stay of proceedings of the CCT before the court of appeal in Abuja only and had subsequently requested the tribunal adjourn pending the determination of the filed motion at appeal court. Usoro cross-examined some of the witnesses in the trial.
A SAN, he was also among the top lawyers that were in Saraki’s defence team. He once berated Rotimi Jacobs, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who was the Federal Government’s lawyer for insisting that only one counsel should be allowed to cross-examine a witness. This followed the cross-examination of Michael Wetkas, the principal witness, who is an operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), by two lawyers in the defence counsel. On May 20, he had told the tribunal that Saraki, was worth “$22m , £12m, €2.6m and N4bn in cash, movable and landed assets” before he became governor of Kwara State in 2003.
Saka Isau (SAN), Abdulkadir Adelodun (SAN), Yusuf Ali (SAN), Mahmud Magaji (SAN), Kamaldeen Ajibade (SAN) John Ochogwu, Peter Erivwode, Edidiong Usungurua, Barth Ogar and Akinola Afolarin among others.
By Mumini AbdulKareem and Kayode Adeoti
Verdict watershed on political journey
The Kwara State governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Abdulwahab Oba described the apex court as a bastion of democracy in the country. According to the governor, “the apex court’s judgment has reinforced the belief that the judiciary remains the hope of the common man. What the Judgment has done is to re-energize the common man’s hope and belief in the judiciary. It is the only hope for a better and free Nigeria. The judgement had vindicated the Senate President as a trustworthy and patriotic Nigerian that would do everything necessary to carry the country to an enviable height. While the trial lasted, Saraki was unperturbed, unshaken and remained committed to providing purposeful leadership as the Chairman of the National Assembly and weathered the storm of legal battle for the last three years. The judgement is a watershed in Saraki’s political journey and will lay to rest his political persecution. I congratulate him for the victory and urge him to continue to work to strengthen the country’s legal process as well as democratic norms.
Speaker Ali Ahmad – Persecutors should await God’s judgment.
“The Supreme Court has affirmed what Kwarans have always contended that the Senate President is completely innocent of all the charges and slanders that the Buhari Administration has been slamming on him since 2015. We thank the judiciary for withstanding all pressures and standing by the truth and the weak. Because he is innocent, the trial court, Court of Appeal and now the Supreme Court have discharged and acquitted him. He is probably the first politician in the world that is vilified the most by his own political party. We were led to believe that Saraki was going through a fair, run-of-the-mill trial superintended by people with integrity. It was a hoax. Valuable man hour and stupendous amount of public funds were wasted on what the Supreme Court referred to as a “forensic somersault”. “During the similar case of FRN V. Tinubu, the then Jonathan Administration never appealed the acquittal of the defendant, despite the fact that he was in an opposition political party. Also, the fact that the courts threw out the charges against Saraki unanimously based only on his no-case submission and before he opened his defence shows that the trial was done in bad faith. Being an administration that constantly employs the criminal justice system to fight political battles, we will not be naïve to believe that the success at the Supreme Court will end all persecution, blackmail and intimidation of the Senate President by people who desperately want only one thing: to exterminate his political career for no just cause. But Allah that has stood by his side will continue to do so all the way, believing in the Holy Quran that “Every time they kindle the fire of war, Allah extinguishes it”. And to them, as a persecuted Northerner will retort, “Allah ya isa”.
Bolaji Abdullahi – Nigerians should brace up for a more productive Senate
I am not surprised by the decision of the apex court because Saraki was innocent all along and the court’s decision is an affirmation of what anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of the law had known all along. We share this joy with millions of ‘Sarakites’ across the country and thank Almighty Allah, who is the God of justice and thank all the people who stood by our Leader all through the long period of trial. We commend the judiciary for the courage to be impartial. They have sent a strong message that justice and politics should not be mixed. With his acquittal, the Senate President can now fully concentrate on leading the National Assembly to deliver more legislative benefits to Nigerians. Even with the court cases, He has led the most productive Senate ever, with more motions and bills passed than any other Senate in the history of Nigeria.
Verdict established Saraki’s spotless political history – Hon Funke Adedoyin
I hail the apex court for resuscitating the sacred confidence that is expected of decent, unbiased and progressive nation’s judiciary among well meaning Nigerians. Despite all sinister moves to crucify innocent man at all cost possible by his traducers, *Saraki’s spotless political history and his unblemished stewardship in public offices known to many who are working with him have now been established by the apex court judgement. I congratulate the People of Kwara and the Senate President on the monumental victory. Saraki’s persecutors in their bids to destroy him have successfully promoted him.
Emir of Ilorin, Ibrahim Sulu Gambari
Pray for political career elevation
I thank all of you that came to felicitate with me on this victory; for the show of love and affection for Saraki who I described as “my beloved son”. I am proud of his achievements as governor and Senate President and pray Allah to elevate him in his political career and grant him sound health and long life. I know you all are overwhelmed with joy but I think we should circumspect and reflect on the circumstances surrounding the whole issue.
Paul Ehokoro (SAN)
It’s needless distraction
It’s a triumph for the rule of law and for the independence of the judiciary. It was clear from the beginning that the charges were politically motivated. Often times, I’ve said Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) was not allowed to do its work;, EFCC did its function and later, Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) took it up. The Bureau was directed to file those charges, they never found anything wrong with the asset declaration forms of the Senate President. The process so far, is an unfortunate waste of resources, prosecutorial time and a needless distraction. Throughout the period, the National Assembly and the executive arm of government didn’t seem to be working together as a result of the charges filed against the Senate President. At a time, he was also charged for forgery of the Senate rule. You could see the humiliation on the part of the Federal Government, but at a time they had to withdraw the charges. We hope that some lessons have been learnt in the course of this. Politics is all about service to the country. I’m not one of the first legal team the Senate President hired. The team did great job; when we came in, we adopted different strategies and proceeded with the matter. We were certain that government could not prove the case. When the prosecution team called the first witness, we began to object his evidence; they kept on arguing but everything they were saying were just hearsay. The tribunal agreed with us … The Supreme Court decision is a clean one, anyone that is judgement observer will know so.
Yusuf Ali (SAN)
Judgment has put to rest against Saraki
It’s a welcome development; the Supreme Court has spoken well. This has put to rest all the allegations against the person of the Senate President. I will not want to talk about the politics of it, but the most important thing is that the Senate President was able to come out of this untainted
Kamaldeen Ajibade (SAN)
FG must have learnt lesson
To a lawyer, the journey through the trial of the Senate President is normal. I cannot quantify my personal efforts in the matter from the onset other than the good fruit that has come out of it. We saw that there was light at the end of the tunnel, and the important thing to me as a legal practitioner is the decision of getting the case up to Supreme Court, it has enabled us have precedence and set out how the rule of law is meant to guide our daily activities. In whatever we are doing, sentiment must be put aside; we should not do things outside the law; that is what Supreme Court decision clarified. It has further stressed the need for agency of Law be left alone to do its work, it’s very important. I’m sure government has learnt from this. The court verdict on the matter will also strengthen and challenge the agency charged with prosecution of criminal matters and investigation to really sit up and do their work properly. In the other sense of it, people shouldn’t prejudge anyone, this case started September 2015, shortly after he emerged the Senate President. Everyone knows that it is politically motivated but the beautiful thing about it is that, it got to the apex court. The pronouncement will go down with everybody in this country that nobody is above the law. Another lesson is that we should be steadfast, courageous and stand upright no matter how one is being persecuted. Finally, the judiciary has once again proved that it’s the last hope of every individual. This is a case of Federal Government against an individual.
Victory at last
Remember I have told you several times that this case is politically motivated coming up after years of exiting the office as governor. Even a primary school boy will know that this case is politically motivated. Right from the onset, we rested our faith in God and the Judiciary. It was tough I must confess. I was one of those who told him not to resign when the shout was loudest and we have been vindicated. The CCT chairman had to give favourable judgment despite the concerns then. The evidence before him was just too weak and no reasonable judicial official will make it strong. That was it. For some of us, it was not about money but about Saraki and some of us even spent our personal money. We had to prevail on some junior lawyers in Ilorin to stop coming to Abuja. The lesson is that we should be upright at all times even if people say you are bad. God will surely vindicate you.
We travelled 54 times in 3yrs
We thank God our leader has once again been vindicated. But we’ve made him realised that we can’t continue in All Progressives Congress (APC). It has nothing good to offer us other than persecution through court trials and the likes. We’ve told the Senate President to lead us out of the party; he’s the one that made us join APC in the first place. The party is in no way working in favour of its members. We can’t decide where to go next for now because he (Saraki) has not decided. The last trip we made last Friday to Abuja marked the 54th since the trial begun. It was not easy; we travelled by air and road.
It is God’s doing
There’s nothing we want to do at this time than to keep appreciating God. Supreme Court has handed down a judgement and there is nothing anyone can do about it because it is final. We are not going to be vindictive because what happened to us is God’s doing. Meanwhile, there is no peace in All Progressives Congress (APC) and anything that doesn’t give peace should be left alone. We are very much on right course; we don’t want APC again. This is the first time a number three citizen of the country will be charged to court over and over again. We have not agreed to join Peoples Democracy Party (PDP) yet. To join any party now, we have to sit down and plan how power will be shared. Also, before we join PDP, the name has to be changed. But now that victory has come, there will be lots of changes. God guided us throughout our trip
Chief Imam, Mohammed Soliu Bashir
It was a test of faith
What I can say is alhamdullahi. It was a test which is not beyond anybody, but whoever Allah (SWT) vindicates should be truly thankful to Him. I thank God for him (Saraki) and pray for continued guidance and that this cup will pass over him forever. Although I never attended the trial, but we always organised special prayers for him at ever point during the case. Finally Allah has answered our prayers.
Imam Agbaji, Aminullahi Tanolohun Ahmed Imam
I saw it coming
I am very happy over the Supreme Court verdict. We pray that Allah elevate him to higher political position. I have been receiving visitors who came to congratulate me over the issue because if it had gone the other way round, it would have been disastrous for me personally. The judgment meant a lot to me and the community. I attended all the trials since it commenced except the last one. I went to the mosque that Friday and prayed, which I always do whenever I went to Abuja for the trial. On this particularly one, I prayed on Wednesday and Allah showed it to me that they are coming home with good news. I made it a point of duty to pray at every point of the trial and daily at night. We were never at any point afraid of anything.
We’re dissapointed in FG, APC Magaji Nda
Well for me, I have been highly disappointed in the Federal Government, the leadership of the party at the national level, the Attorney General of the Federation and the Court of Appeal for trying to elevate hearsay to the level of evidence and for referring the same case to a judge who had said the evidence before him was unreliable. That is not even commonsensical. I have never seen where framed up charges will be brought against the number three citizen of the country. The APC have shown that they are poor managers of success and crises and they have bitten the fingers that fed them, that was what they did to Saraki who had expended enormous time and resources to bring the party to power. With the verdict of the Supreme Court, people like Malami and the police boss, who should have been fired, should bury their heads in shame and promote the CCT chairman. For me personally, I have been harassed and my son is now in detention yet to be tried.
Sarat Adebayo – Attestation of Saraki’s innocence
For us, it was a victory well deserved and attestation to Saraki’s innocence from the highest court in the land. We knew all along that he was being vilified but has Allah vindicated him and raised him above his adversaries who were trying to drag his name in mud. I congratulate Kwarans and all lovers of justice for standing with us in truth while the trial lasted. .
Caleb Rotimi Atitebi – He’s a man with steel nerves
While the charges against Dr. Saraki were baseless ab initio, the distraction occasioned by the protracted litigation was such that only a man with nerves of steel like Dr. Saraki could face such and still have the clear mind to perform his constitutionally assigned responsibilities with unequalled excellence. I join millions of followers and supporters of our leaders to congratulate him on his victory in a case that was not more than a witch hunt to every discerning observer. I am delighted that the Senate President, a man known for excellence, will now have the total concentration necessary to further his work for the good of the country, even as he already recorded unmatched achievements in his legislative duties. All through the case, I was confident that the trust we repose in Saraki as his followers is justified, and I know that with his calmed mien and unrivalled courage in the face of adversity; the storm would be over. Now that victory is finally secured, I am certain that even the adversaries of Saraki would agree that our leader is a ‘cat with more than nine lives’.
Its entrenchment of rule of law – forum
The forum of the Federal Board of Parastatals has congratulated Saraki over his vindication by the Supreme Court.
The forum in a statement last night jointly signed by its Acting Chairman, Dr Soliu Woru Muhammed and Acting Secretary, Luqman Owolewa, described the victory as landmark judgement which has further affirmed Saraki’s claim that the charges were politically motivated for the purpose of smearing his reputation in the eyes of the discerning members of the public.
While it saluted Saraki’s courage, the forum praised the Senate President for his perseverance and his unshaken stance throughout the trying period. It commended the Judiciary, especially the five-man panel, who took the far reaching decision, despite all intimidations.
“By this judgment, the judiciary has further entrenched the rule of law and remain a bastion of hope for all men. We also commend all your distinguished colleagues and Honourable Members of the 8th National Assembly for standing solidly behind you all through the persecution, your brilliant legal team, your family members, admirers, supporters and political disciples all over Nigeria and especially the good people of Kwara State. It is our fervent belief and prayers that this all important verdict will put an end to all these persecutions and consequently allow you to concentrate on your staunch belief in moving this Country forward”.
Legislative aides hail Judgment
The Forum of Legislative Aides to the Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has hailed the Supreme Court judgment that discharged and acquitted him of allegations of false assets declaration.
The forum said that the landmark judgment was a vindication of Saraki’s persistent claim that the assets declaration charges were trumped up charges and politically motivated.
In a statement signed by the Kwara Central coordinator of the Senate President’s Legislative Aides Forum, Alh AbdulRasaq Oba Bolanta, the forum said it had always been its belief that Saraki would be vindicated at the end of the day, knowing fully well that the former Kwara state governor is an upright and incorruptible politician.
It, therefore, thanked the Nigerian judiciary for standing by the truth in discharging and acquitting the Senate President, not minding the interest of the powerful cabal that orchestrated the Code of Conduct Tribunal’s trial.
“It gladdens our heart that the judicial officers right from CCT to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court did a thorough job, stand by the truth and refused to be rail roaded into perverting the course of justice. The judiciary has indeed proved that its the last hope of not only the common man but the oppressed, “it stated.
It added that the apex court’s judgement affirmed what Kwarans have always contended that the Saraki was completely innocent of all the charges that the presidency has been slamming on him since 2015.
The forum thanked the Emir of Ilorin, Alh Ibrahim Sulu- Gambari, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, Speaker, Kwara state House of Assembly, Dr Ali Ahmad, the All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership in the state led by Hon. Ishola Balogun- Fulani, party’s chieftains and supporters and well meaning individuals and groups across the country for standing with Saraki while the trial lasted.
It assured the Senate President of the continued loyalty and support of the legislative aides and prayed God to further elevate him to a higher political office.