By Andy Chukwu
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has accused former Senate President Bukola Saraki of diverting N12 billion from the treasury of the Kwara State Government illegally while he was governor of the state between 2003 and 2011.
The Punch Newspaper reported that EFCC said the money was withdrawn in cash.
The money, EFCC said, was allegedly used by Saraki to offset a N1.36 billion bank loan he used in purchasing homes at 15, 15A, 17, 17A and four flats on Macdonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, hence, its decision to seize the properties.
The EFCC had in May, marked the said properties placing inscriptions ‘EFCC, Under Investigation’ in red on the walls and the fences of the houses.
It said Saraki purchased them from the Presidential Implementation Committee for the Sale of Government Property through shell companies.
In a counter-affidavit to Saraki’s originating motion with suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/507/2019, the anti-graft agency asked Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, to rescind the ex parte order preventing the commission from investigating and prosecuting Saraki.
In a counter-affidavit deposed to by Ojilibo Stanley on behalf of the EFCC, the agency said it had established a case of money laundering, criminal breach of trust and conspiracy by the immediate past Senate President.
The EFCC said Saraki, through his companies had taken loans worth N1.36 billion from the Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) and Intercontinental Bank (now Access Bank) between 2005 and 2006.
In a bid to offset the loan, the ex-governor “began to divert N100 million from the coffers of the state monthly,” the commission said.
The affidavit stated that on February 28, 2005, the Presidential Implementation Committee on the sale of Federal Government Landed Properties wrote a letter to Saraki conveying the approval of the then Minister of Lands and Housing for the sale of properties at 15 and 17 Macdonald Road, Ikoyi.
The EFCC said, sequel to the letter, Saraki wrote to GTB on March 8, 2005, requesting N200 million loan to finance the acquisition of the properties and on March 24, 2005, GTB approved the loan to partly finance the purchase of the properties.
The agency said on October 11, 2006, another loan of N380 million was granted to the ex-Senate President by GTB to partly finance the acquisition of properties located at 17 and 17A Macdonald Road, Ikoyi.
And on January 30, 2007, a personal loan of N380 million was again granted to the former governor to partly finance the same properties, it said.
EFCC alleged that another loan of N400 million was obtained by Saraki to develop the same properties on April 28, 2009.
“The personal loans used to acquire the properties were later liquidated with the proceeds of the applicant’s (Mr Saraki’s) criminal breach of trust or misappropriation of funds of the Kwara State Government.
“The applicant (Mr Saraki) procured one Abdul Adama, who was his personal member of staff to receive cash from then Controller of Finance and Account of Government House, Kwara State, Mr Isiaka Kareem, on a monthly basis, the sum of N100 million.
“While the applicant was the governor of Kwara State, the total sum of N12 billion was withdrawn in cash from the Kwara State Government House’s account domiciled in Zenith Bank,” the affidavit read.
The EFCC further denied being controlled by the All Progressives Congress (APC).
It said the ‘fresh investigation’ was different from the one conducted by the Code of Conduct Bureau, which had once arraigned Mr Saraki.
In an earlier reaction, Saraki had said the acting EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, was on a revenge mission because of the role he (Saraki) played in blocking his confirmation as EFCC chairman.
“Apart from the instigation by my political adversaries, my close contacts have confirmed to me that the 4th respondent (EFCC) renewed its harassment as a way of punishing me for the decision of the Senate not to clear acting chairman of the EFCC, Alhaji Ibrahim Magu, to be appointed as the substantive chairman of the commission,” he said.
He said the EFCC was also pained because he was in charge of the Senate when the legislative arm of government ensured the creation of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit “to Magu’s annoyance”.
He had also alleged that he was being witch-hunted by the anti-graft body because he emerged as the Senate President against the wishes of certain elements in the APC in 2015.
Saraki alleged that the allegations leveled against him were not new as he had been charged before the CCT and emerged victorious.
He said the aggrieved elements in the APC were using the EFCC agency to harass him.
The case has been adjourned till July 2, 2019.