Senate President Bukola Saraki is under pressure to resign his position over the exposure of his alleged secret offshore assets by #PanamaPapers.
But he yesterday dismissed the calls for his resignation as the handiwork of forces against his leadership of the Senate,and a ploy by his detractors to circumvent the country’s judicial system.
He spoke through his Special Adviser on Media, Yusuph Olaniyonu, on a day the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) and the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) demanded his immediate resignation on account of the revelations in #PanamaPapers.
TMG is a coalition of over 400 civic organisations working for the entrenchment of democracy and good governance in the country, while CACOL is an anti-corruption group.
The two organizations said in separate statements yesterday that the allegations against Saraki were too damning to be ignored by anyone, adding that the Senate President had lost all moral grounds to continue to occupy the office of the nation’s number three citizen.
The TMG asked him to follow in the footsteps of the Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson who stepped aside on Wednesday after the #PanamaPapers revealed his offshore business interests.
TMG chairman Ibrahim Zikirullahi who signed the statement cited revelations at the ongoing trial of Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for alleged corruption said: “As if what has been coming out of the CCT is just a tip of the iceberg, Saraki’s name again showed up prominently on the infamous global list of tax dodgers and those hiding suspicious assets in offshore havens as revealed in the leaked Panama Papers.
“It stands in stark contrast that while the Prime Minister of Iceland who was mentioned in the Panama leaks has since resigned, Saraki and his fellow primitive accumulators in the Senate are waiting for the Nigerian people to forget and move on.”
“These looted monies are the funds that would have paid the salaries of teachers, doctors and other workers in the state. These are the funds that should have built schools, hospitals, roads and provide education for the children of the ordinary man and woman in Kwara State.
“While it is tragic that Saraki and his co-travellers have shortchanged the people of Kwara, and set them back in their quest for good governance, the bigger tragedy is the criminal silence in the Senate.”
On its part, CACOL, said Saraki should not only resign, he should surrender himself to the appropriate authorities for prosecution.
The executive chairman of CACOL,Debo Adeniran, was particularly shocked by what he called government’s lackadaisical attitude on the matter.
“The Nigerian government’s attitude to the gruesome revelations from the Panama Papers leaks becomes worrisome and repugnant, as the attitude is apparently lackadaisical and indifferent,” he said.
Continuing, he said: “When in other places, heads of the ‘mighty’ have ‘rolled’ over the Panama papers leaks, (notably in Iceland where the Prime Minister was forced to resign from office following protests by Icelanders) the Nigerian government’s reaction or better put inaction and insensitivity over the Panama papers is unacceptable and reprehensible.
“With such a lackadaisical or indifferent attitude on the part of government toward global issues like the Panama Papers leak especially when so-called leaders from Nigeria are mentioned in the scam, the celebrated anti-corruption drive of the government and the anti-corruption poise of the present regime may as well just be described as a ‘ruse’.
“Consequently, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL is demanding that a special attention should be paid by the Federal government and the anti-corruption agencies to the revelations from the leaks with a goal of acting on them and with the view of verifying the facts; carrying out investigations, probing, prosecuting and recovering all the loots stolen from our Commonwealth that are hidden in the tax havens and offshore companies.
“Additionally, those found culpable must be punished accordingly no matter how ‘highly’ placed or influential they are in the society.
“Those specifically mentioned: Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (Rtd), Dr. Bukola Saraki, Mr. James Ibori, Senator David Mark must be invited by the anti-corruption agencies; interrogated and prosecuted if enough evidence and facts confirm their involvement in the global scam revealed in the Panama Papers.”
CACOL believed that Saraki’s action was a disgrace to the country and must resign from office, failing which which Nigerians should rally their lawmakers to commence impeachment proceedings against him.
“This is totally disgraceful and very tarnishing for the image of the country and calls for drastic action of government and good people of Nigeria.
“Saraki, who is currently facing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on a 13-count charge on the bases of corruption and false assets declaration is reported to have continued receiving salaries even after leaving office as Governor in Kwara state and used state funds to pay for private properties.”
“With the addition of the Panama Papers indictment to his ‘multi-coloured coat’ of corruption, it is time for Nigerians to call for Saraki to step down as Senate President and as Chairman of the National Assembly pending when he has successfully cleared his name and clean the ‘smears’ all over him.”
Premium Times, which is part of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) with access to the trove of internal data from the Panama-based offshore-provider, Mossack Fonseca, obtained by the German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, reported yesterday that the four assets which Saraki claimed belonged to his wife’s rich and famous family were actually his and were only held in trust for him by Toyin.
These are: Sandon Development Limited, a vehicle used in acquiring a property on 8 Whittaker Street, Belgravia, London, in 2012; Girol Properties Ltd,which was registered on August 25, 2004 (a year after Mrs. Saraki’s husband became governor of Kwara) in the British Virgin Island (BVI); Landfield International Developments Ltd., registered in the British Virgin Islands on April 8, 2014, with Mrs. Saraki as sole shareholder;and Longmeadow Holdings Limited.
It said it has now retrieved data exposing how the assets were transferred by Toyin to her spouse.
An example is the transfer of Landfield to Longmeadow.
Premium Times quoting the minutes of the meeting which authorized the deal said:
“lt was noted that there had been ongoing negotiations and discussions between Dr Bukola Saraki, Oluwatoyin Saraki and Longmeadow Holdings Limited, a company registered in Jersey (the ‘Buyer‘) in relation to:
“3.1.1 The transfer of the entire issued shares of the Company from Oluwatoyin Saraki to the Buyer for the purchase price of £3,000,000 (three million pounds sterling) (‘Transfer’);
“3.2 4.1 5.1 3.1.2 an intercompany loan in favour of the Company from the Buyer of £3,050,000 (three million and fifty thousand pounds starting) (the ‘lntercompany Loan’); and
“3.1.3 the transfer of 7 Whittaker Street, London SW1W 810. (the Property) Into the name of the Company pursuant to a sale agreement between Alain Charbit (1) and Speed 7674 Limited (2) and Dr Bukola Saraki (3).
Accordingiy, the Chairman noted that the meeting had been convened to consider and, if thought fit, approve: 1.1.1 the Transfer; 1.1.2 the registration of the transfer pursuant to the Transfer; 1.1.3 the intercompany loan; and 1.1.4 the transfer of the Property into the name of the Company.
“DOCUMENTS PRODUCED TO THE MEETING
“There were produced to the meeting the following documents: 1.1.5 the sale agreement for the Property; 1.1.6 the share purchase agreement for the Transfer (the ‘SPA’); 1.1.7 the share certificate ¡n favour of the Buyer; 1.1.8 the executed stock transfer form in respect of the transfer pursuant to the Transfer; 1.1.9 the lntercompany Loan agreement; and 1.1.10 the agreement for the transfer of the Property into the name of the Company.”
Olaniyonu, Saraki’s Special Adviser on Media, responding to growing pressure on his boss to quit as Senate President, said the Senate President was not contemplating any resignation.
“He will surely have his day in court,” he said in reference to Saraki’s ongoing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for corruption.
“There’s a case in the Tribunal and a resultant appeal at the Court of Appeal. The underlining philosophy of our legal system is that an accused person is presumed innocent until found guilty.
“Those who are contemplating calls for resignation want to circumvent the judicial system. They are obviously being sponsored by some politicians.”