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Supreme Court clears Saraki of false asset declaration charges

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THE Supreme Court has cleared Bukola Saraki, Senate President, of all charges of false declaration of assets brought against him by the federal government.

The unanimous verdict was given on Friday by a panel of five Justices lead by Justice Centus Nweze.

Saraki was arraigned before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in September 2015 on a 13-count charge which was later amended to 16 counts, and later to 18 counts. He pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

One of the charges claimed that Saraki had stated in his assets declaration form that he acquired properties at Numbers 17a and 17b Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos on September 16, 2006, from the proceeds of sale of rice and sugar commodities. But investigations revealed that the said property were bought through a N507 million loan obtained from Guaranty Trust Bank.

However, after the prosecution had finished his case, Kanu Agabi, Saraki’s lawyer, filed a no-case submission, saying “the prosecution has not made out a case warranting an answer from the defendant”.

The tribunal upheld the submission and discharged Saraki

Not satisfied, the federal government appealed the judgement. The Court of Appeal ruled that while 15 of the 18 charges against Saraki were correctly struck out, the Senate President has cases to answer on the remaining three.

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The appeal court ordered Saraki to return to the CCT and file his defence on the three charges.

Saraki, however, further appealed the judgement to the Supreme Court, seeking to set aside the ruling of the Court of Appeal and uphold that of the CCT.

The Supreme Court judgement was delivered on Friday in Saraki’s favour.

In the main appeal, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the appeal court which held that Saraki had questions to answer with regards to charges 4, 5 and 6 in the 18-count charge against him.

The court noted that since the lower court held that the prosecution failed to call those who had direct knowledge about the fact and then turn around to rely on parts of it to reach its position, hearsay evidence cannot be used as proof to establish a prima facie case on three out of the 18 counts.

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