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Saraki Pleads Not Guilty At Tribunal, Case Adjourns To October 21
Embattled Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to all 13 charges of corruption and false declaration of assets filed against him before the Code of Conduct Tribunal by the federal sovernment through the of Office of the Attorney General of the Federation.
Saraki, who appeared at the CCT in company of about 50 senators, including Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweramadu, had promised on Monday to surrender himself to the tribunal after frantic and unsuccessful attempts to prevent the trial.
He is standing trial for offences committed while he was governor of Kwara state and also at the Senate. He arrived at the Tribunal around 9:30am, one hour before Tribunal chairman, Danladi Umar.
Having announced that it was banning the live transmission of the trial, argument ensued about where the Senate President would sit, with prosecution asking that he took the dock.
Defence counsel, Joseph Daudu, however, countered by quoting paragraph 18, Subsection 1 of the 5th Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, arguing the case was not a criminal one and that the tribunal lacked jurisdiction to hear it.
But the prosecution said Section 2 of the Administration of Justice Act, 2015 allows the case to be heard by the tribunal since it was created by an act of the National assembly.
The tribunal chairman ruled that the case was criminal and asked the Senate President to enter into the dock and take his plea.
Rather than simply pleading guilty or not guilty when the charges were read, Saraki elected to first make a speech, saying: “I believe that I am here as the Senate president, to indicate my respect for the Tribunal. I am puzzled why I am being compelled.”
He argued that he should not have been asked to appear before the tribunal and then pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Saraki said the assets he acquired, which are allegedly beyond his legitimate means as a public officer, were acquired from the proceeds of selling rice.
There was mild drama, however, when the prosecutor, Rotimi Jacobs, in driving home his argument, stated that the former governor included in his declarations a property sold to him by former FCT minister and now governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, at which point the audience in the Tribunal broke into laughter.
The Tribunal chairman adjourned the case to the October 21 and 23 for hearing.