The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has confirmed it is involved in fresh investigations of out-going President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, but denies that it has anything to do with his investiture as an ambassador of the International Human Rights Commission (IHRC).
Reacting to a story published in ThisDay newspaper, the spokesman of the Commission, Mr. Tony Orilade, said a letter it wrote to the Kwara State government seeking details of Saraki’s earnings was delivered a clear two days before he was named IHRC ambassador.
The ThisDay report reads: A few days after the International Human Rights Commission (IHRC) announced the appointment of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, as its “Ambassador-at-Large”, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has initiated a fresh investigation, which seeks to probe all salaries, allowances, estacodes, and payments he received as governor from 2003 to 2011. The probe coming eight years after Saraki left office as governor of Kwara State, was contained in a letter to the state government, through the Permanent Secretary, Government House, dated April 26, and titled, “Investigation Activities: Dr. Bukola Saraki.”
EFCC claimed in the letter that it was investigating an alleged case of conspiracy, abuse of office, misappropriation of public funds, theft, and money laundering involving Saraki.
According to the letter signed by its Zonal Head, Isyaku Sharu, EFCC stated, “In view of the above, you are kindly requested to furnish us with the full details of all his entitlements to include but not limited to emoluments, allowances, estacodes, other fringe benefits and severance package while he held sway as the Executive Governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.
“This request is made pursuant to Section 38 (1) & (2) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004 and Section 21 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.”
However, because this is coming only a few days after Saraki landed an international appointment, many in the state believe the move is a mere smear campaign intended to rubbish the senate president before the international community. This is more so as he is the one singled out for such a probe among those that held office as governor in that period.
Besides, many see the latest investigation as curious because Saraki had been through a tedious prosecution by the Code of Conduct Tribunal and was subsequently cleared by the tribunal and the Supreme Court.
“To think he is the only one who has been singled out for this kind of investigation, more so that we have probed further to check if that kind of letter was sent to anyone else and our checks revealed that he was the only one sent the letter except, of course, they just issued another one today. This, obviously, is a needless persecution and must be condemned by all,” said a stakeholder, who believed the anti-graft body had derailed.
The stakeholder, who preferred anonymity, said further, “Isn’t it curious that the EFCC wants to look at legitimate earnings like salaries, including condescending to the level of probing the esacodes and other emoluments as governor? Is the anti-graft body not a political tool already?”
The Supreme Court had in June 2018 cleared Saraki of all allegations of false asset declaration, after the federal government filed 18 counts of false and anticipatory asset declaration charges against him in 2015. Although all the counts collapsed at the Code of Conduct Tribunal in 2017, the government appealed the ruling, culminating in a judgement by the Supreme Court.
But the Court of Appeal had earlier upheld all but three of the charges and returned them to the tribunal for retrial. Saraki’s legal team contested the verdict of the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal at the Supreme Court, insisting he had no case to answer.
In its verdict, the Supreme Court said the Court of Appeal panel engaged in “forensic somersault” when it held that Saraki should answer three of the charges.
But while all the allegations of false asset declaration had been cleared at the highest court in the land, the EFCC has taken a different route, a move that has exacerbated suspicion that it is more of a political persecution than a prosecution
But the EFCC in its statement Monday said: “The attention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has been drawn to a publication in ThisDay Newspaper of Sunday, May 5, 2019 captioned “Again, EFCC Moves Against Bukola Saraki,” and wishes to correct the deliberate falsehood and misinformation it served the general public.
“According to the publication, “A few days after the International Human Rights Commission (IHRC) announced the appointment of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki as its Ambassador at large, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has initiated a fresh investigations, which seek to probe all salaries, allowances, estacodes and payment he received as Governor from 2003 to 2011.”
“With this, the writer strived to create a misleading nexus between the Senate President’s IHRC ambassadorial appointment and EFCC’s inquiries into his financial earnings as Kwara State governor.
“For the avoidance of doubt, investigation into the Senate President’s activities while he held sway as the governor of Kwara State started long before his nomination and emergence as IHRC ambassador.
“In fact, the Commission’s letter to the Kwara State Government House which sought an inquest into Saraki’s earnings as the state governor, from from 2003 to 2011 was dated Friday, April 26, 2019, predating his announcement as IHRC ambassador at large which came on Sunday, April 28, 2019 with two clear days.
“We, therefore, urge members of the public to disregard the false connect the writer sought to establish between Saraki’s IHRC ambassadorial appointment and our inquiries into his earnings as a state governor.
“We wish to restate our resolve to resist distractions from any quarter in our efforts to rid the country of corruption and corrupt elements”.