The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) sitting in Abuja was informed wednesday of how Senate President Bukola Saraki continued to get paid his salary by the Kwara State Government after he had stepped down as the governor of the state on May 29, 2011.
Details were also laid bare on the numerous lodgments and transfers made by Saraki and his aide during his tenure as governor of the state, with some occurring several times in one day.
However, power failure at the CCT wednesday forced Justice Danladi Umar, chairman of the tribunal, to adjourn Saraki’s trial to April 18, 2016.
The power outage happened when Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), counsel to the federal government, was leading a prosecution witness, Mr. Michael Wetkas, in evidence.
Prior to the outage, Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN), the lead counsel to Saraki, had pleaded with Umar for an adjournment, but the chairman of the tribunal refused, saying he was ready to continue with the case until 6 pm.
However, the blackout did the work for Agabi, as the outage compelled the chairman of the tribunal to adjourn the trial.
Before the lights went out, Wetkas, a detective of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), while continuing with his evidence which started on Tuesday against the Senate president, claimed he (Saraki) received monthly salaries from the Kwara State Government even after he had stepped down as governor and had become a senator.
Wetkas claimed that Saraki received monthly salaries from June 2011, when he left office as governor of the state, to August 2015 when he served as a senator.
“In the course of our investigation, we wrote to Access Bank for them to give us details of the salary account of the defendant. The salary that was coming into the account was N254,212 as of August 1, 2007,” the EFCC’s detective stated.
“As of June 3, 2011, the salary was N291,124. On July 4, there was another payment with the narration Kwara State Government (KSG), June 2011 salary. The amount was N572,286. On August 29, 2011, there was another payment in the sum of N744,002 from the Kwara State Government,” he testified.
He added that on September 29, 2011 there was another payment of N743,942 with the narration salary payment from the Kwara State Government and with another payment of N1,165,468 as salary payment on October 27, 2011.
The EFCC witness continued: “In November 2011, there was a payment of the same amount. The narration was December pension; on February 1, 2012, there was a payment of the same amount with the narration for pension.
“The salary payments stopped in this account on August 31, 2015. The defendant left office on May 29, 2011, he became senator in the same year.”
Wetkas also gave a detailed account of how Saraki made cash deposits of $10,000 eighteen times in one day.
While giving evidence on behalf of the prosecution, the EFCC detective claimed that the Senate president, while he was governor of Kwara State, diverted the state’s loans to buy property for himself.
According to him, “On March 23, 2005, there was a cash deposit of N8.2 million into the defendant’s account at the GRA Ilorin branch; on March 29, 2005, there was a N200 million bank draft made in favour of an implementation committee on the sale of government property.
“On October 16, 2006, the defendant obtained a loan of N380 million from Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank). On that same day, there was a bank draft in favour of the same implementation committee. The draft was N286.3 million.
“On the same day, there was another draft of N12.8 million in favour of the committee on the landed properties. The loans were meant for the purchase of properties by the defendant. On that same day there was a loan disbursement of N380 million.”
He added that on February 7, 2007, there was a transfer of N3 million by Abdul Adama (Saraki’s personal assistant) and another electronic transfer of N130.6 million on April 3, 2007 —- on the instruction of Saraki from the implementation committee to his account.
“On that same day, there were cash lodgments five times. The sums were N11 million, N20 million, N20 million, N20 million and N6 million. The total amount on that day was N77 million. Before these lodgments, there was a debit balance of N81,960,289,” the witness disclosed.
“On November 22, 2007, there were cash lodgments into the account (Saraki’s naira account) by Abdul Adama in 50 different transactions. Before those lodgments, the account had a debit balance of N80,210,976.
“On November 29, there were cash lodgments by Ubi — over 20 transactions in bits of N20 million. On March 20, 2008, there were more cash lodgments. Before then the account had a debit balance of N96 million.
“On September 23, 2008, there were different cash lodgments by different individuals. On April 30, 2009, there was a bank draft in favour of PGL Asset Management Limited in the sum of N400 million.
“On October 26, 2009, cash lodgments were made by different individuals to the Zenith Bank account of the defendant 87 times in a single day.
“On May 19, 2009, he made a cash lodgment of $10, 000 18 times in one day in his dollar account. On 23 August, 2009, $99,975 was transferred into his account,” he said.
The prosecuting lawyer, Mr. Jacobs, later tendered three documents, which according to him were the details of Saraki’s accounts at GTB, as evidence in the case.
With no serious opposition from Agabi, the tribunal admitted the documents as exhibits.
Saraki is facing a 13-count charge bordering on false assets declaration and money laundering. He had earlier pleaded not guilty to the charges.
But reacting to the evidence submitted by the federal government on the payment of salaries after Saraki had stepped down as the governor of Kwara State, the state government wednesday clarified that there was never a time it had paid the former governor’s salary after he left office in May 2011.
A statement from the Kwara State Government in Ilorin, which was signed by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Alhaji Isiaka Gold, described the allegation against Saraki as “false and uncalled for”.
Gold explained that Saraki’s last salary was N291,474 for the month of May 2011.
According to the SSG, “From June 2011, former Governor Saraki started receiving his pension which was N578,188 as other past governors in the country.”
The statement added that after the review of pensions of former political office holders by the state Pension Board, the former governor’s pension increased to N1,239,493.94 monthly from October 2014 to date.
He dismissed as false and misleading the allegation that Saraki received salaries after the expiration of his two-term tenure as governor of the state.
Gold advised interested stakeholders to seek clarification from the appropriate authority to avoid misleading the public.
In another statement, the Director General of the Abubakar Bukola Saraki Constituency Office, otherwise known as Mandate, Hon. Abdulwahab Isa, explained that since Saraki stepped down as governor of Kwara State in May 2011, his pension, which was paid into a special account, has been managed by a group of trustees and used for education endowment for students across the state.
Isa, in a statement yesterday stated that the Senate president does not even have access to the account. He said a group of trustees led by him were mandated to use the money in paying scholarship grants and funds for Joint Admission and Matriculation Board ((JAMB) forms for students across the state.
“We have also used the money to pay for coaching of students who were preparing for JAMB examinations. For example, the most recent beneficiaries from the fund were two University of Ilorin Faculty of Law students who were the best in their set and needed money for their enrollment into the Nigerian Law School,” he said.
Isa added that the funds from the pension account have been utilized in fulfillment of a pledge publicly made by Saraki to the people.