By Ibrahim Sulaiman
The Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja has discharged and acquitted the Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki in the 18-count charge of false declaration of assets brought against him since September 2015 by the federal government.
The tribunal held that the evidence proffered against Mr Saraki by the federal government was bereft of probate value and manifestly unreliable to hold the charges against the defendant.
Delivering ruling in a no case submission made by Kanu Agabi SAN on behalf of Mr Saraki, chairman of the tribunal Danladi Umar said the prosecution at the close of the case failed to establish a prima facie case against the defendant.
Mr Umar said the four witnesses called by the prosecution to testify in the matter gave contradictory evidence that were manifestly unreliable to convict the defendant or order him to enter his defense.
The chairman specifically referred to the evidence of the third prosecution witness Samuel Madojemu to the effect that oral investigation was conducted on Mr Saraki and that there was no written report on Mr Saraki by the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, adding that such an evidence has no probate value upon which the tribunal can hold the charges against the defendant.
According to him, Mr Madojemu as Head of Investigation and Intelligent Department of the Code of Conduct Bureau did not in any way help the prosecution in his evidence when he (Madojemu) claimed that all his averments in the affidavit in support of the charges against Saraki were based on information supplied to him by an undisclosed team of investigators who are not from CCB.
Mr Umar further said that the report of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, put at the disposal of the tribunal was more of intelligence gathering rather than conventional investigation.
He said that to worsen the case, the defendant was never invited or be made to make statement so that truth can be unearthed if there are allegations against him.
The chairman of the tribunal said “From the simple analysis of the evidence of the prosecution, we find it difficult to accept the seriousness of the witnesses. All the evidences were so discredited, unreliable that no reasonable court will attach probate value to them.
“Since the essential ingredients of all the charges were not proved as required by law, this tribunal has no option to discharge and acquit the defendant in view of the manifestly unreliable evidence of the prosecution witnesses.
In his supporting ruling, the second member of the panel Williams Agwadza said that he was persuaded by the ultimate conclusion of the chairman of the tribunal on the no case submission.
He said a careful perusal of the four witnesses and 48 exhibits tendered by the prosecution showed grave defectiveness as no prima facie case was established to sustain the charge.
“The formulation of the 18 count charge was based on the affidavit evidence of Mr. Samuel Madojemu of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB). His testimony and affidavit evidence later became affliction and epidemic that befell the prosecution because they were based on mere hearsays.
He said sections 37, 38 and 126 of the Evidence Act were violated with manifestly inadmissible exhibits and testimony.
He further said that the team referred to by Mr Madojemu and which comprised of the operatives of the EFCC, DSS, and CCB is unknown to law as the team has no constitutional or statutory backing to do what they did thereby making the charge against Saraki incurably defective and capable of causing miscarriage of justice against the defendant.
“Evidence to establish offence must be such that has probate value. Another fatal error on the part of the complainant was the failure to obtain statement of the defendant.
Besides, Agwadza said that prosecution also failed by its inability to call vital witnesses including the Accountant General of Kwara state to establish the alleged collection of salary by Saraki long after he left office as governor of Kwara State.
“My humble conclusion is that the defendant in this case has no case to answer and is accordingly discharged and acquitted”.
It would be recalled that the Federal government had in September 2015 slammed charges of false declaration of assets, operating foreign accounts and collecting salaries from Kwara State government on Saraki years after he left office as Chief executive of the State.