The Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka scripted “The Trials of Brother Jero”, the immaculate one with more tricky and deceptive maneuvers than can be imagined, tempted not by anybody but only by himself. This sums up the on-going drama in our political landscape. The court of appeal has ordered that the code of conduct tribunal can entertain the case of false declaration of assets against the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
Earlier, the Code of Conduct Bureau has dragged the Senator to the Tribunal on allegations of false declaration of properties while he was Governor of Kwara State and at resumption of office as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Bureau laid an eighteen count charges against the Senator. However, the Tribunal in its judgment in June acquitted the Senate President which was challenged by the Bureau at the Court of Appeal. The decision at the appellate court that the Senator has a case to answer on count numbered 4, 5 and 6 is not only worthy of commendation but it is instructive to all public office holders who usually declare false assets and sometimes forget properties they own by proxy.
We, at the Center for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, (CACOL) strongly condemn every attempt to arm twist the judiciary particularly the courts which are supposed to be the last hope of the nation. It would be recalled that the trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal was characterized by ploys to stampede the Tribunal with solidarity mobilization of members of the Senate to proceedings which invariably intimidated the Tribunal into taking its political judgment. The decision of the Court of Appeal is a resounding reminder that the judiciary is still independent and can assert the law irrespective of whose ox is gored. Though the Senate President has signified intentions to appeal at the Supreme Court, we hope the path of justice would neither be muddled nor delayed by this process. For it is not common sensical for a judgment to come after the tenure of the Senate President has expired.
Nigerians know how cases drag on for years in our court system. CACOL demands that if the Senate President intends challenging the Appeal Court decision, he should first resign as the President of Senate. As a matter of fact under refined democratic rule in comparism to the crude democracy in Nigeria, even the appearance of the Dr. Bukola Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal would have warranted his stepping aside.
CACOL warns the judiciary to be wary of those who engage in technicalities to divert the smooth sail of justice. The defence that the prosecution did not proofthat Dr. Saraki operates a foreign account with American Express Service Europe Limited merely goes a long way to vindicate our position about systemic conspiracies. It is a trite fact that most Banks that serve as warehouse for laundering ill-gotten wealth would always hide under the veil of confidentialities not to reveal indicting documents. CACOL call on global leaders and well-meaning people to rise up to the challenge of piercing the invincible corporate veil whenever corruption charges are at stake.
It is instructive that the prosecution team should diligently appraise the recently released Panama Papers where the Senate President was exposed to have maintained a foreign account in a tax haven country. An account which obviously was not declared in any of the Asset Declaration Forms.
The narratives of economic sabotage committed by people in public office are legendary and this is done with impunity, believing that the system can never catch up with them. The Senate President’s family has a robust history in this regard, the collapse of defunct Societe Generale Bank is a vintage example. The Code of Conduct Bureau should re-examine the papers of all public office holders because we are confident that Dr. Bukola Saraki is just a symbolic representation of a pervasive offence by most if not all public office holders.
Executive Chairman, CACOL