ABUJA – The Supreme Court, on Friday absolved the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki of any wrongdoing in the false assets declaration and money laundering charge levelled against him by the Federal Government.
The verdict stemmed from an appeal filed by Saraki, and a cross appeal entered by the Federal Government, both challenging the decision of the Code of Conduct Tribunal in respect of Saraki’s trial over alleged false assets declaration and money laundering charges.
Also, the two appeals emanated from the judgment delivered by the Court of Appeal on December 18, 2017, which had dismissed 15 out of the 18-count charges preferred against Saraki by the Federal Government.
In view of the judgment of the CCT, Saraki contended that the Federal Government had failed to prove a prima facie case against him in counts 4, 5 and 6, and consequently filed an appeal.
However, in a lead judgment on Friday, delivered by Justice Centus Nweze, the apex court held that the Court of Appeal erred in law when it made an order that Saraki should go back to the Code of Conduct Tribunal to answer to counts 4, 5, and 6.
Justice Nweze said he was inclined to vacate the order of the court below because it committed what he described as “judicially equivalent of forensic summersault” in arriving at its decision for Saraki to face trial on counts 4, 5 and 6.
The Supreme Court agreed entirely with findings of the CCT in its judgment and that of the Court of Appeal that affidavit and material evidence relied upon by the prosecution to prove its case against Saraki was based on “hearsay”.
Justice Nweze noted that in law, hearsay evidence has no probative value.
More so, the apex panel observed that the prosecution failed to call those who had first hand knowledge of facts and allegation against Saraki to come and testify in the trial.
“Evidence found to be unreliable because it amounts to hearsay cannot be a vires to make decision, the panel stated.
Therefore, the jurist stated that having correctly relied on hearsay evidence to dismiss 15 out of 18 counts preferred against the defendant, it was wrong for the Court of Appeal to still rely on the same hearsay evidence and testimonies of prosecution witnesses to order trial of the Senate President at the CCT.
“From my intimate view, the action the court below embarked upon was a caricature of justice,” Nweze stated.
“In view of the foregoing, I hereby vacate the order of Court of Appeal. By virtue of section 302 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, I enter an order discharging the defendant, and equally restore the judgment of the Code of Conduct Tribunal,” Nweze ordered.
Other justices who sat on the panel unanimously agreed with the opinion of Nweze.
Similarly, flowing from the appeal of the defence which was allowed on its merit, the Supreme Court however dismissed the cross appeal of the Federal Government.
It would be recalled that before the appellate court’s pronouncement, the Code of Code Tribunal had on June 14, 2017, in Saraki’s no-case-submission, discharged and acquitted the Senate President of all 18-count charges levelled against him by the Federal Government.
On his part, counsel to the Federal Government, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, urged the court to hold that Saraki has case to answer in the charges.
Jacobs submitted that there was no law that an investigation must be conducted and concluded before charges can be filed against any defendant.
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Friday commended the Supreme Court Supreme Court, saying federal government wasted three years and resources, which would have been devoted to tackling issues affecting Nigerians.
This is even as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said that the judgment has further supported its disposition that the Buhari Presidency’s fight against corruption is mere shadow-chasing and a clever attempt at blackmailing the opposition as well as anyone who holds a divergent voice against this administration.
Saraki, in a statement he personally signed after the judgment, insisted that the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) case against him was political, adding that the case was trumped up in the first instance because of his emergence as the President of the Senate, against the wishes of certain forces.
The president of the senate emphasised that instead of the Federal Government tackling issues affecting Nigerians, which include economic recovery, insecurity, youth unemployment and strengthening national institutions, the government was busy stoking fire of disunity, rancour and disharmony in the past three years.
He noted that the primary purpose of government as provided for in Section 14 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution has been ignored and traded off for personal interests.
That section states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.”
Expressing gratitude to all Nigerians who supported him since the case commenced three years ago, Saraki hailed the judgment of the Supreme Court, which upheld the earlier decision of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), discharging and acquitting him of all 18-count charge instituted against him.
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