How Saraki’s Anticipatory Declaration Was Exposed – Witness
The first prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, before the Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja, Mr. Michael Wetkas, insisted on Wednesday that Saraki made an anticipatory declaration of assets while he was the governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.
The subject of the alleged anticipatory asset declaration of asset in count 1 in the charges preferred against the Senate President is said to be the property at 15, McDonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.
While being corss-examined yesterday, Wetkas said his investigation team relied on information provided by the Presidential Implementation Committee on the Allienation of Federal Government Properties which sold off the property in question on behalf of the Federal Government in 2006.
Wetkas said the presidential committee informed his team that it did not have on its record, 15 A and B, Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, as declared by Saraki in his 2003 asset declaration form.
He said contrary to Saraki’s claim, the committee identified the property it sold as No.15, and Block 15, Flat 1 to 4, Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Wetkas noted that, Saraki, on assuming office as Kwara State governor in 2003, declared that he acquired 15A and B, Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos in 2000, whereas, the presidential committee wrote to his investigative team that it sold 15, Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos to Saraki through his company, Tiny Tee Limited, in 2006.
“The only authority that we could refer to was the presidential committee or the Lagos State Land Registry or the Presidential Implementation Committee. The other letters referred to by them (Saraki’s lawyers) were by private individuals.
“We relied on the document from the Presidential Implementation Committee which said they only had 15, Mcdonald Road and Block 15, Flat 1 to 4, Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, which was occupied by another lessee.
“We relied on the numbering of the properties by the presidential implementation committee and they stated that 15, Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi was sold to Tiny-Tee. That was the strength of our conclusion,” the witness said.
Wetkas said he did not physically inspect the property at 15, 15A and B, Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, but that other members of his investigative team did, and that they are in a better position to tell the tribunal what they found.
On why he did not personally visit Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, Wetkas said he needed not to because the letter from the Presidential Implementation Committee to his team had clarified issues on the existence or otherwise of the property.
“There was no need for me to ask the implementation committee to take me to the properties. The letter clarified that there were only two properties as 15 and Block 15, Flats 1 to 4,” the witness said.
Wetkas confirmed that the asset at 15, Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, was at various times offered to a company, Energy Marine Resources and occupant of the house, Mr. Virtus Nwosu.
The witness also confirmed that it was eventually sold to Saraki’s company.
Usoro confronted Wetkas with documents on the property which were obtained from the presidential committee and tendered as exhibits, to fault the prosecution’s case.
The lawyer said the property described as 15 A and B, Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, in Saraki’s asset declaration form of assumption of office in 2003, was not the same as the one described as 15, Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, by the presidential committee.
Usoro noted that the property as described by the presidential committee was also not the same described by Saraki in his asset declaration form of July 11, 2007, made after the Senate President ended his first term in office as governor.
Saraki’s asset declaration form which he submitted on assumption of office in 2003 (Exhibit 3), did not give a picture of the property he claimed to have on 15A and B, Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, but the form he submitted on July 11, 2007 after he completed his first term as governor described 15A as a five-bedroom house and 15B as an undeveloped plot.
A different document, identified by Usoro as Exhibit 14 – a report of the EFCC on Saraki’s assets in 2006 – provided a different description of the property.
On the request by Usoro, Wetkas read from the document, to the effect that the property identified as 15A and B Mcdonald, Ikoyi were verified. “While the property at 15A is a big one, painted and fenced, the other one at 15 is unpainted and lacks character, although it is also fenced. The properties are residential and belong to the declarant (Saraki).”
In yet a different document, which Usoro again, asked Wetkas to read, 15 Mcdonald, was described as a four-bedroom house.
Wetkas confirmed that none of those descriptions fitted in with the description of 15 A and B Mcdnald in Exhibit 3, which was the end of tenure asset declaration form made by Saraki in 2007
He insisted “they are not the same but that is immaterial to me. My understanding is that when you buy a property you can expand it.”
Usoro disagreed, insisting that 15B described as an undeveloped plot in Exhibit 3 could never have been such property that was later expanded after it was purchased.
Further hearing has been fixed for May 17.