Will Saraki lose luxury N1.09bn house to FG? Published March 5, 2020
By September 2015, the APC-led Federal Government had filed corruption charges against Saraki before the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
The ingredient of the charges was information exhumed from his time as Kwara State governor between 2003 and 2011.
Saraki was accused of “false/anticipatory declaration of assets and operation of foreign accounts while in office as Kwara State governor between 2003 and 2011.”
Shortly after the charges at the CCT, the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation also filed forgery charges against Saraki and then Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Jabi, Abuja.
With these two charges, Saraki was supposed to have another preoccupation apart from being the Senate President.
But he would later emerge victorious in the two legal battles. While the AGF, on his own volition, withdrew the forgery charges, the CCT freed Saraki of the false assets declaration charges, and the decision was affirmed by the Supreme Court.
These victories were a consolidation of earlier ones. Upon completing two terms as governor of Kwara State in 2003, Saraki had outfoxed his father, the late Dr Olusola Saraki, by handing over to his ally, Abdulfatah Ahmed, rather than his sister, Gbemisola, whom their father had wanted to succeed him as Kwara State Governor.
For 16 years running in his political sojourn, Saraki had a string of victories. But the tide appears to have begun to turn, when, last year, he failed to secure re-election into the Senate. He was beaten at the polls by Ibrahim Oloriegbe. For the medical-doctor-turned-politician, who had not stayed out of public office for 16 years at a stretch, this was a big blow. And this loss was even compounded when Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq defeated Abdulrasaq Atunwa, who should have succeeded Ahmed to continue the Saraki’s line of influence in Kwara State.
In what appeared to be further decimation of his influence, Saraki, in January, failed to stop his father’s legacy property in Ilorin, the Ile-Arugbo, from being demolished by the new administration in Kwara State.
This week, the new government changed the name of the state-owned university from Abubakar Olusola Saraki to Kwara State University.
And in what seemed to be an indictment, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission also this week handed over to the new government N111.4m said to have been recovered from looters looted by under the previous administration.
Currently, Saraki is in the middle of a battle with the EFCC over his luxury N1.09bn Ilorin house. He is fighting tooth and nail to convince the Federal High Court in Lagos not to grant the prayer by the EFCC to forfeit the house permanently to the Federal Government.
Last week Thursday, his lawyer, Mr Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN), stood on his feet for over two hours marshalling arguments as to why Justice Rilwan Aikawa must dismiss the application filed by the EFCC for the forfeiture of Saraki’s house, located at Plots No. 10 and No. 11 Abdulkadir Road, GRA, Ilorin, Kwara State.
Ogunwumiju described the move for the forfeiture of Saraki’s house as double jeopardy, saying the property formed part of the subject of Saraki’s trial before the CCT, in which he had emerged victorious up to the Supreme Court.
“There must be an end to litigation; the final decision of the CCT would have been forfeiture of the property, but the charges were dismissed. This forfeiture will amount to double jeopardy and I urge Your Lordship not to allow them to proceed against the intervener,” Ogunwumiju pleaded with Justice Aikawa.
The lawyer maintained that the house was developed from Saraki’s legitimate earnings. He said part of the funds used in developing the now-contentious property was the sum of N252,295,265.00, which Saraki was paid by the state pursuant to the Kwara State Governor and Deputy Governor (Payment of Pension) Law 2010.
The law, he explained, stipulates that a governor who serves two terms would be entitled to “a well-furnished five-bedroom duplex.”
He pointed the judge’s attention to the counter-affidavit filed to oppose the forfeiture application by the EFCC, in which one Daniel Itua explained how the N252m was disbursed to Saraki.
Itua said, “When Kwara State decided to implement the law, Senator Bukola Saraki was contacted and he notified the Kwara State Government of his desire to have the property constructed on Plots No. 10 and 11 Abdulkadir Road, GRA, Ilorin, Kwara State, covered with the Certificate of Occupancy No. Kw12835 acquired in the name of Carlisle Properties Investment Limited, a company in which he (Saraki) had major shareholding.
“It was then agreed that the house to be built for the former executive governor under the Kwara State Governor and Deputy Governor (Payment of Pension) Law 2010 would be on that land.
“I know as a fact that this land was acquired by the interveners (Saraki and Carlisle Properties Investment Limited) long before the Kwara State Governor and Deputy Governor (Payment of Pension) Law 2010 was implemented.
“The former governor had plans to construct a building on the land and had engaged an engineering firm, named Enptech Nigeria Limited, to develop the building before he was notified of the desire by the Kwara State Government to build a five-bedroom residential house for him under the law.
“I am aware that Enptech had given a quotation to the interveners in respect of the desired building but when Kwara State Government notified the former governor of the desire to construct a five-bedroom residential house, the engineering firm was asked to give a quotation for the construction of a five-bedroom house and this quotation, which was far less than the cost of the house to be built on the land, was forwarded to the Kwara State Government.
“This was because the former governor, who had a planned concept for the proposed building, wrote to the Head of Service of Kwara State, expressing his desire to construct the building to his taste and specification.
“He, however, clearly stated that he would bear the differential between the cost of the building proposed by the government and his desired concept.
“Consequently, the Kwara State Government thereafter notified Senator Bukola Abubakar Saraki of the approval of N252,295,265.00 for the building.
“I know for a fact that the sum of N219,494,880.00 was paid by the Kwara State Government into the account of Enptech Nigeria Limited and this money was fully utilised by Enptech Nigeria Limited in the partial construction of the house belonging to Senator Bukola Abubakar Saraki.”
Itua, who urged the court to dismiss the EFCC’s forfeiture application, described it as “the latest in the series of abusive actions instigated by the executive arm of government to mess up and embarrass the distinguished Senator Bukola Saraki at all costs.”
But the EFCC lawyer, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, urged the court not to be persuaded by Saraki’s explanation.
First, Oyedepo said investigation by the EFCC revealed that the document leading to the release of N219,494,880.00 to Enptech Nigeria Limited by the Kwara State Government was forged.
He said, “At no point did Enptech Nigeria Limited apply for and/or present a quotation to the Kwara State Government as falsely claimed by the Head of Service.
“The Managing Director of Enptech Nigeria Limited was invited and he volunteered his statement wherein he unequivocally denied applying for the contract from Kwara State Government.”
Oyedepo insisted that notwithstanding that the N219,494,880.00 payment was made pursuant to the Kwara State Governor and Deputy Governor (Payment of Pension) Law 2010, the release of the money using forged document rendered it proceeds of criminal activities.
The EFCC lawyer submitted that if proceeds of criminal activities were comingled with legitimate funds to acquire a property, that property was liable to be forfeited to the government.
Oyedepo said Saraki also had the burden of explaining to the court the source of the over N700m which he added to the N252m released by the state to build the N1.09bn house.
He said on their own, the EFCC had investigated and discovered that the money came from a total of N10bn, which Saraki allegedly diverted from the treasury of the Kwara State Government between 2003 and 2011 when he was governor.
Oyedepo said when EFCC investigators went through the statements of accounts of Enptech Nigeria Limited and ECAD Architects, which handled the building, they did not see any payments into their accounts bearing Saraki’s name.
The lawyer said what the EFCC found was that the N700m balance was paid into the accounts of the firms by Saraki’s cronies, who used fictitious names.
He pointed the court’s attention to the affidavit filed in support of the application seeking the forfeiture of Saraki’s properties, in which an officer of the EFCC, Bilikisu Buhari, said investigation by the anti-graft agency revealed that Saraki diverted N100m on a monthly basis from the federal allocation to Kwara State.
In the affidavit, Buhari said, “Between 2003 and 2011, Dr Olubukola Abubakar Saraki was the Executive Governor of Kwara State, Nigeria.
“While he held the aforementioned position, the common pattern was that after the payment of monthly allocation by the Federal Government to the Kwara State Government, a cumulative sum of N100m would be deposited into the Kwara State Government House account and same would in turn be withdrawn in cash by one Mr Azeez Yusuf from the Kwara State Government House in bits and brought to the Government House.
“The funds would be stacked in Kwara State Government House, it was then fraudulently dissipated and taken away in cash by Messrs Abdul Adama, Ubi Ofem and Ubi Austin, acting on the instructions of Dr Bukola Saraki.
“In this scheme of fraud alone, about N10bn was fraudulently diverted from the treasury of Kwara State Government.
“Part of the proceeds of the aforementioned fraud was reasonably suspected to have been comingled with other funds used for the development of the property sought to be forfeited.
“While the construction was ongoing, there were various cash payments into the accounts of Enptech Nigeria Limited and ECAD Architects, which funds were reasonably suspected to have formed part of the funds stolen and taken away by Abdul Adama, Ubi Ofem and Ubi Austin, while acting in concert with Dr Bukola Saraki.”
Buhari said analysis of the accounts of ECAD and Enptech showed 22 and nine cash lodgments, respectively under fictitious names.
She said though the deposit slips had different depositors’ names, the depositor’s phone number filled in all the 31 deposit slips was the same.
Last week Thursday, despite a long list of cases in a small courtroom filled up with lawyers waiting, Justice Aikawa, at the Federal High Court in Lagos, devoted well over five hours listening to arguments from Ogunwumiju and Oyedepo.
“I want to hear everything,” the judge quipped at least twice, in response to grumblings that the case was taking too long.
The arguments, which began from about 10am, eventually ended minutes after 3pm.
Justice Aikawa, who has the serious task of determining the truth in this case, fixed April 27 for his judgment.