Nigeria: EFCC Needlessly Witch-Hunting Saraki - Aide

Senate president Bukola Saraki.

The Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Senate President, Yusuph Olaniyonu, has asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to stop the needless witch-hunt of Bukola Saraki.

This is just as Olaniyonu faulted the timeliness of a letter the commission sent to the Clerk of the Senate signed by Mohammed Umar Abba, Director of Operations, last week, in which it requested for the following: "the Certified True Copies of the following: i) All Cash Books, Payment Vouchers, Contract Award Letters, Evidence of Contract Bidding, Agreement and Certificate of Contract Completion from 2015 to date. ii) Certified True Copies of all Financial Retirement made within the same period. iii) Any other information that may assist the Commission in its investigation.

"We observed that this type of letter was only written to the Office of the Senate President and not to both chambers of the National Assembly. Also, it is the first time such a letter is written to the office of the Senate President at the twilight of the tenure of the National Assembly indicating hostile investigation along these lines.

"None of his [Saraki] predecessors got such 'exclusive' treatment in which their office was investigated by state officials seeking to nail them at all cost. What EFCC does not know is that all the issues they are seeking to probe in the office of the Senate President are handled by the National Assembly Management, that is the bureaucracy of the federal legislature. The Senate President has nothing to do with such issues. However, in the eagerness and desperation to nail Dr Saraki, they ignored even the basic facts upon which the entire investigation rests," he said.

Reacting to a recent statement by the EFCC written to the Kwara State Government in which it demanded all details of salaries, allowances, estacode or any other entitlement enjoyed by Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, the President of the Senate, during his tenure as Governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.

"While we have kept quiet over the series of letters sent to various institutions where Dr Saraki had served or is serving in which the commission stated that it is conducting various investigations, we are compelled to make our positions known on the less than noble and patriotic objectives behind these investigations because we believe it is a mere witch-hunt exercise, aimed at settling scores, laced with malicious and partisan motives.

"We will first make clarifications to put a lie to some of the claims made by the EFCC in the statement issued yesterday. The EFCC claimed that "the commission's letter to the Kwara State Government House, which sought an inquest into Saraki's earnings as the state Governor, from 2003 to 2011 was dated Friday, April 26, 2019, predating his announcement as IHRC ambassador at large which came on Sunday, 28 April 2019 with two clear days". It should be noted that the IHRC letter informing the Senate President of his appointment is dated March 16, 2019, that is about 40 days before the EFCC wrote its letter conveying the investigations to Kwara State Government House. In fact, the media team of the Senate President held on to the announcement of the appointment for several weeks so that we could do due diligence on it."

Saraki's media aide also mentioned that the former governor's tenure had 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 judgment dismissed the 16 charges filed against Dr Saraki and that verdict was upheld by the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court.

"This new investigation into his activities as Governor of Kwara State is a repeat performance. The EFCC is fishing for evidence that it did not get in the past investigations which has spanned almost nine years. 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," Olaniyonu said.

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