Tenure probe: EFCC seals off Saraki’s five assets in Lagos
•May approach court for interim forfeiture ahead of trial, •It’s sheer witch-hunt says Senate President
The agency is in the process of approaching a court for an order for the interim forfeiture of the properties pending the conclusion of Saraki’s trial for allegations against him.
The mansions under seal include 15, 15A, 17 and 17A McDonald Road, Ikoyi.
The commission suspects Saraki of having acquired the properties with state funds when he served as Kwara State governor between 2003 and 2011.
The anti-graft agency is currently probing Saraki’s earnings and acquisitions while in office.
The investigation covers how a N17billion bond of the state was spent; allocations to the state from the Federation Account during his tenure; and some suspicious transactions by the state government in the administration of the outgoing Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State.
An EFCC source said of the probe: “It is an ongoing case which has to do with alleged illegally acquired properties while he held sway as the governor of Kwara State.
“We have attached the five properties in line with sections 27(4), 28 and 29 of the EFCC Establishment Act.
Responding to a question, the source added: “We don’t have to obtain a court order before attaching any property. Our Act is very clear with regards to that.
“Once you link a property to proceeds of crime, the next thing is to attach it by way of marking and to approach the court for forfeiture.”
Sections 27(1-4), 28 and 29 of the EFCC Establishment Act 2004 read in part:
“(2) The completed Declaration of Assets Form shall be investigated by the Commission.
“(3) Any person who – (a) knowingly fails to make full disclosure of his assets and liabilities; or (b) knowingly makes a declaration that is false; or (c) fails, neglects or refuses to make a declaration or furnishes any information required, in the Declaration ‘of Assets Form, commits an offence under this Act and is liable Oil conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.
“(4) Subject to the provisions of section 24 of this Act, whenever the assets and properties of any person arrested under this Act are attached, the Commission shall apply to the Court for an interim forfeiture order under the provisions of this Act.
“(5) The Chairman of the Commission shall have powers to make such changes or modifications to the Declaration of Assets Form specified in Form A of the Schedule to this Act as may become necessary in order to give effect to the provisions of this Act.
“28. Where a person is arrested for an offence under this Act, the Commission shall immediately trace and attach all the assets and properties of the person acquired as a result of such economic or financial crime and shall thereafter cause to be obtained an interim attachment order from the Court.
“29. Where- (a) the assets or properties of any person arrested for an offence under this Act has been seized ; or (b) any assets or property has been seized by the Commission under this Act, the Commission shall cause an ex-parte application to be made to the Court for an interim order forfeiting the property concerned to the Federal Government and the Court shall, if satisfied that there is prima facie evidence that the property concerned is liable to forfeiture, make an interim order forfeiting the property to the Federal Government.”
Also being investigated by EFCC in respect of the N17billion Kwara State bond are outgoing Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed and the Accountant-General of the state.
The agency wants to establish how the money was spent.
The anti-graft agency suspects that part of the funds may have been diverted for private use.
The bond was intended for 13 projects and loan refinancing package during the tenures of Saraki as governor and Ahmed, who is his successor.
The EFCC has already interrogated the Secretary to the State Government, two Permanent Secretaries, the Accountant-General of the state, and about three contractors.
All those invited were said to have made “voluntary statements.”
Two ex-commissioners and two members of the House of Representatives might be questioned too.
But a government source in the State accused EFCC of embarking on a “wild goose chase because the bond has been fully repaid since 2014 without any outstanding liability for the people of Kwara State.”
Saraki, had through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu described the latest probe as a witch-hunt.
Olaniyonu in a statement said: “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,” the statement said.
“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.”
(C) The Nation