The acquittal of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal last week will have negative implication for Nigeria’s fight against corruption as well as jurisprudence on false asset declaration, the presidency said on Sunday.
Therefore, the federal government will appeal the ruling, according to the presidential adviser on prosecution, Okoi Obono-Obla, who spoke with our correspondent this morning.
“Federal government will definitely appeal because we will not want that to be Nigeria’s jurisprudence on assets declaration, and so that a bad precedent will not be set,” said Mr. Obono-Obla. “If we allow that judgement to stand, it is bye bye to the war against corruption.”
The CCT had last week Wednesday cleared Saraki of false asset declaration, charges brought against him by the federal government.
The tribunal chairman, Danladi Umar, ruled that the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against Mr. Saraki, thereby upholding a no-case submission made by the defendant’s counsel, Kanu Agabi.
That ruling was “outrageous”, Mr. Obono-Obla said, arguing that it was not based on the weight of evidence adduced by the prosecution.
He added that the “no-case submission” upheld by the tribunal was “anachronistic”.
“Overwhelming evidence was adduced by the prosecution. We saw the best of advocacy from one of the best advocates in the country, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN. Contrary to that, no case submission, which I considered anachronistic, was upheld.
“The tribunal should have overruled the no-case submission and called the defendant to defend himself. Standard of proof cannot be the same as ordinary criminal prosecution. You falsely declared your assets, then the onus shifts to the defendant to prove he didn’t make false declaration,” said Mr. Obono-Obla.
According to him, it is envisaged the federal government will appeal against the acquittal of Mr. Saraki by Wednesday.
“We are studying the judgement; we should get the certified true copy by Monday or Tuesday. Then, we will file notice of appeal on Wednesday,” he said.
Last week, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, Itse Sagay, had expressed shock at the acquittal of Mr. Saraki in an interview.
He said it was incredible that Mr. Saraki was absolved and, therefore, advised the federal government to appeal against the ruling.
However, Mr. Saraki’s colleagues, including his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, and the former Governor of Yobe State, Bukar Ibrahim, have taken turns to congratulate him.
At the last Senate sitting on Thursday, Mr. Ekweremadu raised a point of order to congratulate the Senate President.
Mr. Saraki’s trial commenced in September 2015, shortly after he defied the ruling All Progressives Congress to contest and win the National Assembly leadership.
He then explored all avenues, up to the Supreme Court, to avoid trial but failed. However, the trial ended in his favour even without offering any defence.
He filed a no-case submission, after the prosecution had closed its case and called four witnesses.
The submissions of the witnesses were not credible to establish sound evidence against Mr. Saraki, ruled the tribunal chairman, Mr. Umar, whom Mr. Saraki had accused of bias previously.