The Supreme Court, on Friday, discharged Senate President Bukola Saraki of the remaining three-count charges of false assets declaration and money laundering.
It will be recalled that the Code of Code Tribunal (CCT) had earlier acquitted Saraki of all the 18 charges that were brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for lacking in merit. However, the Federal Government felt displeased with the judgement and approached the Court of Appeal where a prima facie was said to have been established against Saraki in three out of the 18-count charges initially brought against him.
Meanwhile, Saraki had made it known at the beginning of his trial in 2015 that he was only being persecuted for emerging as the Senate President against the interest of certain highly connected individuals. “As I said in my first appearance at the CCT, this is a politically motivated case. The case was trumped up in the first instance because of my emergence as the President of the Senate against the wishes of certain forces,”said Saraki.
The trial which began on September 22, 2015 at the Code of Conduct Tribunal and lasted for 1018 days was no doubt extremely convoluted for the Senate President. Nonetheless, justice prevailed at the end with the vindication of Saraki. Earlier, the Court of Appeal had partly agreed with the CCT in its January 14, 2018 ruling that Saraki had a case to answer in counts 4, 5, and 6, which had to do with his purchase of properties in the Ikoyi area of Lagos State. But the Apex Court in its wisdom demonstrated that the judiciary is indeed the last vestige of hope for the oppressed citizenry. The lead judgement that was delivered by Justice Centus Nweze was fair, instructive and clearly served the best interest of justice. He ruled in clear conscience that there was no basis for the Court of Appeal to have asked Saraki to defend himself on charges 4,5 and 6 because the entire evidence of the prosecution were a product of hearsay.
Justice Nweze also added that the Court of Appeal judgement was akin to forensic summersault and it was capable of making ill of jurisprudence. “This court will not lend its jurisdiction to such a charade and caricature of justice. It carries grave error in holding that a prima facie case has been established against the appellant,” held the court. A five man panel of the Apex Court had in the unanimous judgment agreed that the failure of the Federal Government to call vital witnesses in the trial of Saraki was fatal and thus rendered it nugatory. “The prosecution is duty bound by law to call all key witnesses to be able to establish prima facie case against anybody,” held the court.
The Supreme Court also agreed that all those who have knowledge of facts were not called to testified in the matter and thus held that those who tendered documentary evidence against Saraki during the trial were not the makers of the document, hence their evidence on the documents were hearsay and lacked probative value. It was equally held in the judgement that the Court of Appeal made a caricature of its judgment when it found as a fact that the entire evidence presented by the prosecution was hearsay and manifestly unreliable and still went ahead to agree that prima facie case was established against the Senate President in three out of the 18 charges. The triumph of Bukola Saraki at the end of his trial should ordinarily be heartwarming for lovers of justice and good governance in the country. The Senate President’s victory should be more heartwarming because it has become evident that the case was politically motivated from the beginning to achieve a pre-determined end. Although, it is quite disturbing that some powerful individuals could have attempted to pervert the course of justice with the singular aim of punishing an innocent citizen.
Nigerians and those in position of authority need to learn some useful lessons from the trial and eventual triumph of Senator Saraki. The earlier those in authority realised that the current lopsided anti-corruption war that is targeted against the political opponents and some perceived independent minded individuals within the ruling party, the better for the nation. We all agree that corruption can never be in the interest of any nation and it is desirable to wage total war against the scourge. However, trying to cow the opposition into submission to selective anti-graft war should be condemned by all. The Senate President is not in any way opposed to the war against corruption in Nigeria, but vowed never to be a party to the selective application of the law.
Salako writes in from Lagos