The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was in the news again recently on its latest moves to probe Senate President Bukola Saraki’s tenure as the governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.
This is not the first time the commission is visiting cases directly affecting the former Kwara State governor in the last four years, since his assumption of office as the number three citizen on June 9, 2015.
It was part of the investigation conducted by the commission that led to his prosecution at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for over two years until he was discharged last year by the Supreme Court.
The commission made its intention known on the latest probe through a letter to the Kwara State government dated April 26 where it demanded for the earnings of the former governor within the eight years he served the state.
Part of the investigation was to uncover how a N17 billion bond of the state was expended as well as the federal allocations to the state during Saraki’s tenure.
Also at stake were some suspicious transactions by the state government under Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed.
Many believe that the EFCC’s latest probe of Saraki is a continuation of the political persecution that he was subjected to from 2015.
For those in this category, apart from external forces that may want to see Saraki frustrated politically to the point of no-recovery, the failure of the 8th Senate to confirm the acting chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, twice after being duly nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari may be part of the problem.
Saraki, apart from being the first senate president to be docked in the history of Nigerian democracy, was roundly defeated during the last presidential and National Assembly elections by Yahaya Ibrahim Oloriegbe, who clinched the seat for Kwara Central Senatorial District.
Not only was Saraki defeated as an individual, all the people he chose to occupy other elective positions in the state lost their bids.
Saraki, who hitherto determined who became what in Kwara, did not succeed in installing anybody during the last elections as all the Senate and House of Representatives as well as governorship and state assembly seats went to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Some believe that those behind Saraki’s current travails do not want him to bounce back politically in the near future, hence the move to probe him.
However, others believe that Saraki indeed has a case to answer in view of the revelations and discoveries made by the EFCC.
They believe that if Saraki is clean, as he claimed, he would once again be set free by the judiciary, the way he was set free during his prosecution on false assets declaration at the CCT.
Saraki himself said the latest EFCC action was nothing but a witch-hunt intended to nail him at all costs.
The senate president said through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, that the commission had relied on his tenure as governor as part of the probe that led to his prosecution at the CCT.
“At this point, we need to remind members of the public that Dr. Saraki’s tenure as Kwara State governor has been investigated several times since his last months in office in 2010 till date.
“In fact, at a point, as incumbent governor, he voluntarily waived his immunity and submitted to investigation and yet nothing was found against him.
“Also, members of the public should be reminded that during the proceedings of his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) between 2015 and 2018, it became clear that the evidence relied upon was from investigations conducted by the EFCC on his tenure as governor and that is why the lead witness for the prosecution was an EFCC agent, Michael Wetkas.
“Yet, the CCT in its judgement dismissed the 16 charges filed against Dr. Saraki and that verdict was upheld by the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court. However, we need to remind the commission that Dr. Saraki is not an outgoing governor.
“Since 2011, tens of governors have been in and out of our various state houses. Likewise, hundreds of senators and Representatives have been in and out of the National Assembly.
“To single out one individual for persistent investigation can only be logically and plausibly interpreted to be a witch-hunt. This is definitely no fight against corruption. It is a battle waged against a ‘political enemy’. It is a ‘label to damage’ plot,” he said.
But the EFCC in its reaction said there was nothing like witch-hunt in its latest investigation of Saraki as it was only carrying out its mandate as an anti-graft agency, and that there was no going back.
Reacting through its acting head of media and publicity, Mr Tony Orilade, EFCC said it had taken note of the reactions of Saraki to the commission’s inquiries regarding his earnings as Kwara State governor as well as on the quality of his financial stewardship in the senate.
“While it is his prerogative to ventilate his views on the matter as he deems fit, the commission takes great exception at the desperate attempt to cast a slur on its investigative activities by portraying Saraki as a victim of persecution.
“Furthermore, the agency finds the attempt by the senate president to tie our inquest to his International Human Rights Commission (IHRC) appointment and his approaching life out of power as misleading, knowing too well that the background to our current inquiries reaches several years back.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the EFCC is obligated by law to enthrone probity and accountability in the governance space and has supremely pursued this duty without ill-will or malice against anyone. It is in the interest of the public, and for Saraki’s personal good that he is not only above board, but be seen at all times to be so,” the commission said.
As part of the first phase of the investigation, the commission last week sealed off five houses in Lagos allegedly belonging to the Saraki.
The houses were located at numbers 15, 15A, 17 and 17A McDonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, which EFCC alleged that Saraki acquired using Kwara State funds without declaring same in his assets declaration.
Allow the Senate President be-Senator
Meanwhile, a senator has said that the senate president should be left alone as the ongoing investigation was nothing but a witch-hunt.
The senator, a member of the APC who does not want to be named, said probing Saraki at this time would certainly send a wrong signal, as the last time they prosecuted him.
“I don’t see any reason why they should go after the man at this time. Remember, they made him to go through a lot as senate president. He was docked, and he never enjoyed his tenure as senate president.
“I feel this is a wrong move. We shouldn’t be seen to be doing this as a party or government. It was part of the frustration last time that made the man to leave the APC.
“They have succeeded in dismantling the man politically in Kwara, let them allow him to lick his wounds. If you look at the ongoing probe, what is it about? Saraki was a bank director and even headed his family’s bank. Are they saying he can’t own houses in Lagos or even in Manhattan?” the senator said.
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