How Saraki Was Exposed By Whistle-blowers – Witness
The first prosecution witness on the Trial of Senate president Bukola Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal Mr. Michael Wetkas, on Tuesday said charges of false asset declaration against Saraki were a product of information leaked to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission by whistle-blowers.
Wetkas, who completed his three days of testimony on Monday, is an EFCC operative who led the inter-agency team which investigated the allegations leading to the charges preferred against Saraki.
He said while being cross-examined by the Senate President’s lead defence lawyer, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), on Tuesday that his team was set up in 2014 after which the EFCC’s management briefed him and his colleagues on the team about the “intelligence” received on Saraki.
Fielding questions from Agabi, the witness said though he did not get to see the intelligence report received by the EFCC management, the documents attached to it, such as Saraki’s statement of account and telex transfers, were handed to his team.
“This investigation is an offshoot of the analysis of the intelligence report we received,” he said.
After the defence lawyer faulted the claim, contending that there was no intelligence report received by the EFCC, the witness said, “I did not say that the CCT cannot see the report.
“I am under oath and if there was no intelligence, I wouldn’t have come to this court and testify.”
“Intelligence sometimes comes orally, sometimes it comes in writing submitted to authorities of the commission by whistle-blowers.
“In this particular case, I said this under oath, documents were handed over to my team with a briefing.
“Those documents formed the take-off of investigation by my team in 2014.”
During the cross-examination, the witness confirmed that one of the two other members of his team, Nura Bako, was present in court during the Tuesday’s proceedings.
He stated, “The investigation by three of us in my team was based on intelligence and the documents. We were also told that there were also ongoing investigations by other teams with respect to the defendants by the commission.
“The intelligence revealed to us a lot of assets acquired by the defendant and we liaised with the Federal Government and the Code of Conduct Bureau to conclude our investigation.”
When confronted with the asset declaration forms submitted by Saraki to the CCB in 2003, 2007 and 2011, Wetkas confirmed that they bore the stamp to show that they were examined by the bureau.
Earlier in his cross-examination on Tuesday, Agabi dwelt on the details of about four petitions tendered by the prosecution in the course of the trial, accusing Saraki of looting Kwara State’s treasury while serving as governor of the state between 2003 an 2011.
Agabi said he took the decision to cross-examine Wetkas on the petitions in order to challenge the contents and because they were tendered through the witness by the lead prosecution, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN).
Wetkas, in response to wide-ranging questions relating to the petitions asked by Agabi, insisted that the allegations contained in the petitions were not the basis of the investigation which his team conducted leading to the charges of false asset declaration preferred against Saraki.
The petitions, which he was confronted with by Saraki’s lawyer, were earlier admitted as Exhibits 10 to 13 by the tribunal.
The petitions, which were sent to the EFCC in May and June 2012, were authored by a group, Kwara Freedom Network.
Wetkas confirmed under cross-examination that the petitions were written about one year after Saraki left office as Governor of Kwara State.
He confirmed that none of the petitions had to do with allegation of false asset declaration which is the subject matter before the tribunal.
In the petition dated May 2, 2012, marked Exhibit 10, the petitioners asked the EFCC to probe alleged fraud in the management of Shongai Farm Holdings.
Exhibit 11 is a petition addressed to the EFCC and dated May 2, 2012.
The petition appealed to the EFCC to “save Kwara State primary schools from total collapse”.
It was alleged in the petition that teachers’ salaries were inflated by Saraki and through the alleged fraud, he (Saraki) was able to receive more than the necessary allocation for teachers’ salaries.
Wetkas, while responding to a question, said he did not obtain the statements of the signatories to the petitions – Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo and Alhaji Hassan Atanda – because they were not material to the investigation which his own team conducted.
Exhibit 12 is a petition against Saraki dated May 2, 2012, which was also addressed to the EFCC.
The petition asked the EFCC to investigate borrowings by the Kwara State Government for projects described as “phoney”.
Exhibit 13 is a petition dated June 7, 2012, which was addressed to the EFCC and copied the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, the Presidency and the Kwara State House of Assembly.
The petition accused Saraki of misuse or misappropriation of monthly revenue account of the 16 Local Government Areas of Kwara State.
While ending his questions on the petitions to Wetkas, Agabi said, “I put it to you that all the agencies did not take any action on it because on the face of it, the petition was frivolous.”
Meanwhile, the CCT chairman, Umar, on Tuesday adjourned the case at about 6.38pm till Wednesday (today) after he overruled another request by the defence team for a one week adjournment.
The defence had sought the adjournment to enable its team to study some documents tendered by the prosecution and admitted by the tribunal on Monday.
But Umar said the tribunal, having ruled on Monday that the trial would proceed on a day-to-day basis, as stipulated under Section 396 (3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, it could not turn round to take any contrary decision on the matter.
“The tribunal cannot approbate and reprobate,” he held.