Senate President Bukola Saraki has expressed optimism of being vindicated of charges of alleged false declaration of assets, for which he is currently standing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
In a statement by his special adviser on media and publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, Saraki said he was happy that the trial has commenced and that he was confidence that if the trial was conducted fairly, he would be vindicated.
The senate president is standing trial on a 13-count charge of false declaration of assets while he was the governor of Kwara State.
In spite of his optimism, Saraki moved to stall the commencement of the trial today by asking the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal to order a stay of proceedings of his trial at the CCT. But the chairman of the tribunal,Danladi Umar, ruled that the application before the Court of Appeal cannot stop the commencement of trial based on the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
While the embattled Senate president has continued to brush off allegations of wrongdoing concerning his assets declaration, his wife was named in the “Panama Papers” investigation into a trove of 11.5 million tax documents leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which specialises in creating offshore shell companies.
The Guardian reported that not less than four assets belonging to the Saraki family — all tucked away in offshore territories — were uncovered in the leak. These assets were not declared by the senate president.
Under Nigerian law, it is mandatory for the president, the vice-president, state governors and their deputies to declare their assets along with those of their wife and children under 18 when they take office and before stepping down.
But the Senate President reaffirmed his compliance with the law.
“The property in question forms part of Dr Saraki’s wife’s family asset,” Olaniyonu said on behalf of Saraki. “It is public knowledge that Mrs Saraki comes from a family of independent means and wealth with numerous and varied assets acquired over decades in family estates and investments.”
“Furthermore, the law only requires a public officer to declare both his own assets and those held by his spouse and his children under 18 years of age. The law does not require a public officer to declare assets held by the spouse’s family.
The statement continued: “It is not expected by the law that a public officer should declare such assets held in the spouse’s family estate. Indeed, the Code of Conduct form does not make provision for declaration of spouse’s family assets”, he stated
While commenting on Tuesday’s proceedings at the tribunal, Saraki noted that “though the prosecution tried to bring in some dramatic narratives, it was clear that they were merely thrashing around and hoping to titillate the public with salacious tales.”
He added that he was hopeful, however, that his lawyers will have the opportunity to present his case and prove his innocence of the charges.