This is certainly not the best of times for the immediate past Senate President, Bukola Saraki, as two of his mansions in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, are to be forfeited to the Federal Government, according to an interim court order.
A Federal High Court in Lagos, on Monday, ordered the interim forfeiture of two houses on Plots 10 and 11 Abdulkadir Road, GRA, Ilorin.
Justice Rilwan Aikawa made the order following an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The commission told the court it uncovered monumental fraud perpetrated in the treasury of Kwara State government between 2003 and 2011, when Saraki was governor.
Based on an ex parte application filed by the EFCC, pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act No. 14, 2006, Justice Aikawa ordered the temporary forfeiture of Saraki’s two properties on Plots 10 and 11 Abdulkadir Road, GRA, Ilorin.
An EFCC operative, Olamide Sadiq, had stated in an affidavit filed in support of the ex parte application that the move for the forfeiture of the houses followed the findings of the EFCC on “the report of a committee set up to review sales of Kwara State government, during the reign of the governor of Kwara State in Years 2003 and 2011”.
According to him, the EFCC also received “a damning intelligence report, showing monumental fraud perpetrated in the treasury of the Kwara State government between 2003 and 2011”.
“While the investigation was ongoing, several fraudulent transactions were discovered.
“I know for a fact and verily believe that our investigation has revealed the following mind-boggling findings, among others:
“That between 2003 and 2011, Dr Olubukola Abubakar Saraki was the Executive Governor of Kwara State.
“That whilst he held the aforementioned position, the common pattern was that after payment of monthly allocation by the Federal Government to the Kwara State government, a cumulative sum of not less than N100 million would be deposited into the Kwara State Government House account.
“That upon the payment of the N100 million, same would, in turn, be withdrawn in cash by Mr Afeez Yusuf from the Kwara State Government House, Ilorin account in bits and brought to the Government House,” he said.
The EFCC said it believed that Saraki developed the two properties with proceeds of unlawful activities.
EFCC Counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, urged Justice Aikawa to order the temporary forfeiture of the property to the Federal Government.
After granting the order, Justice Aikawa directed the EFCC to publish the temporary forfeiture order in a national newspaper and adjourned the case until December 17.
He said those interested in the properties to appear before him and to show cause why the properties should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
Saraki yesterday reiterated his position that the application to the Federal High Court, Lagos, for interim forfeiture order on his Ilorin home by the EFCC is an abuse of the court process and a violation of a subsisting order of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Yusuph Olaniyonu, the ex-Senate President noted that the Federal High Court in Abuja, presided over by Justice Taiwo Taiwo, had given an order “restraining the respondents (commission) by themselves, their subordinates, agents, servants, or privies howsoever, from seizing, impounding, taking over, confiscating or otherwise forfeiting the Applicant’s (Saraki) right to own and peacefully enjoy any of his assets and properties”.
“The EFCC’s claim that the Ilorin property was built by any proceed of fraud is outright false. The fact is that the Ilorin property was built partly by the Kwara State government pursuant to the Third Schedule of the Governor and Deputy Governor (Payment of Pension) Law 2010, while Dr. Saraki personally funded the remaining cost of the building.
“There are existing letters from the Office of the Head of Service of Kwara State notifying the former Governor (Saraki) of the state government’s compliance with the State Pension for Governor’s law and the one indicating his intention to bear the cost of the additional expenditure that will arise from building the property to his desired taste, dated January 25, 2012 and February 8, 2012 respectively.
“The construction of the building did not commence until the last few weeks of Dr. Saraki’s tenure as governor, and the bulk of his contribution to the funding was made by cheques. Where cash was involved, this was mainly in 2012 and 2013, more than a year after he had left office as governor.
“So, where is the claim that the money for the construction of the house was fraudulent obtained from Kwara State government coming from? It should also be noted that the land on which the house is built is not a government allocated land.
“One can only see that EFCC is playing politics and spreading falsehood in its cheap attempt to witch-hunt and intimidate a perceived enemy. We are also surprised that the EFCC could not even hide its penchant for abusing the nation’s judicial institution as it engaged in forum shopping when it filed a suit in Lagos on a property situate in Ilorin,’’ he stated.
“We will like to restate our earlier position that Dr. Saraki will contest this matter in the court at least to further attest to his belief in the rule of law, the sanctity of the courts and their enduring readiness to do justice in all matters and to all persons.’’