The trial of Nigeria’s Senate President Bukola Saraki on a 16-count charge of false assets declaration at the Code of Conduct Tribunal took a dramatic turn on Tuesday as the defence counsel accused the first prosecution witness of doctoring Saraki’s Assets Declaration Form to prove his case of anticipatory declaration of assets against him.
Paul Erokoro, the Senate President’s lawyer made the allegation while cross examining the first prosecution witness on allegation that Saraki had declared a property, No 15, McDonald Street, Ikoyi as part of his assets in the Assets Declaration Form he filled in 2003 whereas he acquired the property in 2006.
Wetkas had during the cross examination stuck to the allegation that Saraki made anticipatory declaration of the assets as he bought the property from the Presidential Implementation Committee on Sale of Federal Government Properties in 2006 whereas the Senate President declared the property as part of his assets in 2003.
The witness also said the Senate President had declared that he acquired No 15A and 15B MacDonald Ikoyi in 2000 through his company, Carlisle Properties, but findings revealed that the properties were acquired in through Tiny Tee in 2006 by Saraki.
He added that the information about the property was confirmed from the Presidential Committee.
“The Presidential Committee stated that the record they had was 15 McDonald Street, Ikoyi which was sold to the company, Tiny Tee Limited and Block 15, Flats 1-4 which was sold to another company, Bitti Oil Company.
“In the case of the prosecution, the evidence I gave was that 15 McDonald was sold to Tiny Tee Limited belonging to the defendant which we did not see in any of his asset declaration forms.
But Erokoro said it is impossible to make anticipatory declaration of assets.
He affirmed that the witness was wrong in his evidence in chief when he declared that Saraki made anticipatory declaration of assets.
He also noted that the process of the acquisition of the property was not straightforward, as other bidders, Energy Marine Resources Ltd, one Chief Charles Samson Sanke, Tiny tee and Bitti oil all bid for it.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria added that the then occupant of the property, one Engineer Vitus Egwuagu had also insisted on his right to buy the property as a sitting tenant in accordance with the rules for disposal of the government assets.
“The occupant of the property insisted that it should be offered to him. And he wrote a letter complaining about the property not being offered to him on 21 March, 2005.
He wrote to the President and they recognised him as a tenant and asked him to participate,” said Erokoro.
“The property was first offered to Energy Marine Ltd at their bid price of N251 million.
“We are showing that the defendant could have known that ‘I am buying this property in the future, let me declare it now.’ The reason Energy Marine did not pay was that they say the land advertised was bigger than actual land.
“After that, the property was offered to the sitting person at the same price. He asked for 60 per cent discount and to be given time to go and look for the money.
“Thereafter that the property now went to the next highest bidder, Tiny Tee and Bitti Oil,” the defence counsel added.
“Who inserted the No 15 McDonald after the defendant(Saraki) has signed (the asset declaration form)? Erokoro pointedly asked Wetkas.
Before the witness could answer his question, he further asked: “Did you insert no 15 A into exhibit one? Was that not the reason you never confronted the defendant with exhibit one? Wasn’t it because you know he would say this is not what he signed?”
But Wetkas denied the allegation, insisting that the Code of Conduct Bureau is a responsible organization and as such, the question of insertion did not arise.
He added that the Asset Declaration form is not like any other form as it is usually backed up by an affidavit sworn to before a Judge: “Asset declaration form is not like any other form. You have to go before a judge to swear. He swore before a judge and I believe everything here is correct.”
He also said the defendant signed each page of the document before he submitted it.
“I did not sign it. It was signed by the defendant. As far as I am concerned, the document was signed by the defendant on 16 September, 2003. I did not insert the property. There has not been any complaint of insertion,” said Wetkas.
Mr Danladi Umar, the Chairman of the Tribunal has adjourned proceedings to Wednesday, 11 May.