Lawmakers on trial, under investigation

Lawmakers

Some senators in the present Eighth Assembly are facing different challenges under the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government. Some of them have pending cases with the police, some with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) while others are already in court facing trial. CHUKWU DAVID reports

Bukola Saraki

Bukola Saraki represents Kwara Central Senatorial District. He is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the President of the Senate. He was a former Governor of Kwara State and ruled for eight years (2003-2011) under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

He was elected to the Senate in April 2011 under the same political party platform. He however defected to the APC in 2014 and also got re-elected to the apex legislative Chamber.

His defection alongside some other eminent PDP chieftains in the Senate, contributed adversely in diminishing the strength of the party. His ascension to the number three political seat in the country came with a lot of controversies, intrigues, horse trading, strife, acrimony and litigations.

This was because he was not a product of party consensus, nor was he anointed by the kingmakers in the party. He had defied and discarded the traditional party choice and supremacy inherent in the country’s political history, and he paid and is still paying dearly for his audacity.

Consequently, shortly after he saddled the mantle of leadership, he began to face turbulent and threatening opposition that left him and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, with no less than one year period of insomnia.

Saraki’s interest and subsequent grab of the political leadership of the Senate ushered in a centrifugal pressure which consequences still subsists and resurface to dislocate the unity of the chamber at the slightest opportunity.

Saraki was first slammed with a forgery charge together with his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, alongside the then Clerk to the National Assembly (CNA), Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa, and some other top officials of the apex Parliament.

They were accused of forging the Senate Standing Orders 2015, which was used for the election and swearing in of Saraki, Ekweremadu and others. But a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), in October 2016, struck out the forgery charge after granting the application of the Federal Government to withdraw the charge.

Saraki was also dragged to the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), becoming the first President of the Senate in Nigeria to be docked over alleged falsification of assets declaration.

He was alleged to have manipulated the assets declaration forms he submitted before the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) in 2003, 2007 and 2011, by making anticipatory declaration of assets. After months of politicking and horse trading on the case, the CCT discharged and acquitted him on the 18-count charge in a ruling on no- case submission delivered in June 2017.

However, not satisfied with the verdict, the Federal Government appealed the judgement. The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, on December 12, 2017, dismissed 15 out of the 18 false assets declaration charges against him. But the court asked the Code of Conduct Tribunal to conduct a retrial of Saraki on the remaining three charges. The matter is still pending at Tribunal.

As if that was not enough, Saraki is now faced with another allegation that he was co-sponsoring a killer squad in his home state, Kwara, with the State Governor, Dr. Abdulfatai Ahmed. Both Saraki and the Governor have denied the allegation but it is not certain at the moment what the Police may decide to do on the matter.

It is pertinent to note that the Senate has been having a running battle with the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, who has severally refused to honour its summons.

Ike Ekweremadu

The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu represents Enugu East under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He was first elected to the Senate in 2003. In 2007, he became the Deputy President of the Senate and served in that capacity for two terms under the leadership of David Mark as the President of the Senate. He also got elected for the third time in the present administration.

Just as his principal, Ekweremadu was arraigned in court for alleged forgery of the 2015 Senate Standing Orders, in collaboration with Saraki and others. However, the matter was withdrawn by the Federal Government that instituted the case.

Recently, Ekweremadu was also taken to court by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, chaired by Okoi Obono-Obla, seeking forfeiture of his property.

The Federal Government, through the Presidential Panel, had asked the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to stop Ekweremadu, from further selling off his property.

Ekweremadu had earlier approached the court challenging the power of the Public Assets Recovery Panel to seek forfeiture of his properties. The panel had alleged that Ekweremadu was having some property within and outside the country not declared in his assets declaration form. The matter is still pending in court.

Jonah Jang

Jonah Jang represents Plateau North Senatorial District on the platform of the PDP. He was governor of Plateau between 2007 and 2015. The lawmaker is being prosecuted by the EFCC for alleged misappropriation of funds when he was governor. On May 7, 2018 the EFCC invited Senator Jang for a trial notice on 12-count charge on alleged misappropriation of over N6.3 billion.

The commission accused the lawmaker of embezzling the money less than three months to the end of his tenure as governor. But no date has been fixed for his arraignment. According to one of the charges preferred against him by the antigraft agency, the embezzled money were funds released to the state by the Central Bank of Nigeria, out of which Jang allegedly took N2 billion for himself, which was for disbursement to small and medium enterprises in the state under the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Funds (MSMEDF).

However, a High Court sitting in Jos, the Plateau State, has granted bail to Jang and a former cashier in the Office of the Secretary to Plateau State Government, Mr. Yusuf Pam, with two sureties each in the sum of N100 million and N50 million respectively.

Dino Melaye

Senator Dino Melaye represents Kogi West Senatorial District on the platform of the ruling APC. He is obviously the most vocal as well as most controversial senator in the 8th Senate.

As a result of his fearless and outspoken nature, Melaye has even been more vibrant in criticizing the inefficiencies of the ruling government of the APC, where he belongs.

He made himself a whistle blower, to expose any corrupt tendencies or activities of individuals, groups or agencies of government. In his home state, Kogi, Melaye has been at intense loggerheads with Governor Yahaya Bello, whom he constantly accuses of maladministration.

The non-payment of workers salaries by the Governor and escalation of kidnapping, armed banditry and political intimidation against opponents of government officials in the state have always been bases of criticism by Melaye, who through his unionistic approach to issues, has attracted enmity to himself both at the state, federal and party levels.

The Police arrested Melaye on April 24, at the Zankili Hospital in Abuja and thereafter moved him to the National Hospital. According to Police statement on April 27, 2018, Melaye is liable to charges of ‘’Criminal Conspiracy and Unlawful Possession of Prohibited Firearms and other sundry offences based on the confessions of two suspected kidnappers and armed robbers in the persons of Kabiru Saidu popularly known as “Osama” and Nuhu Salisu also known as “Small.”

The two suspects had after their arrest, confessed to the Police that Melaye hired them to cause unrest in Kogi State ahead of the 2019 general elections.

The suspects alleged that the senator gave them a bag containing one AK-47 rifle, two pump action guns and the sum of N430,000 to recruit hardened troublemakers and unleash mayhem in Kogi ahead of the 2019 general elections.

The Police eventually arraigned him at the Magistrate Court in Lokoja, Kogi State on May 3, and his bail application was refused and was ordered to be remanded in police custody till June 11. He was however, later granted bail.

Buruji Kashamu

Senator Kashamu Buruji is a chieftain of the PDP and represents Ogun East Senatorial District. He is a first timer in the apex legislative Chamber. He is currently facing threat of extradition from the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). If his extradition is effected, he will be taken to the United States, where he allegedly got himself involved in drug peddling offences.

He initially had some reprieve in Nigeria particularly when he joined the Senate. But his rift with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, brought up the matter and made it a subject of public attraction.

In May, 2015 a Federal High Court in Lagos stopped the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and nine others from arresting Buruji for extradition to the United States over the alleged offences.

Justice Okon Abang gave the restraining order in his verdict in a suit filed by Kashamu. The politician had obtained a similar order in January 2014, in which he restrained the IGP, DSS, NDLEA, NCS and the AGF from taking any step to arrest Kashamu on the strength of a petition linking him to a drug offence.

Unfortunately for Kashamu, on May 4, the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, ruled that he could be arrested by law enforcement agencies if the need arises.

The court, by the pronouncements, nullified the decision of the Federal High Court, which prohibited his arrest by Nigerian law enforcement agencies. The Appeal Court panel, led by Justice Yargata Nimpar, overturned the lower court ruling delivered earlier by Okon Abang in 2015.

The lawmaker has continued to deny the allegations, saying it was a case of mistaken identity for which a British court had acquitted him. With the ruling of the appellate court, Kashamu is still in for trouble.

Stella Oduah

Stella Oduah (PDP, Anambra North) and former Minister of Aviation in the immediate past PDP-led government faced investigation first in 2013, following a petition by a human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), alleging that she approved the purchase of two BMW vehicles worth N225 miilion by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in breach of the Public Procurement Act.

She was also accused of diverting N3.9bn out of the N9.4 billion meant for the installation of security devices at 22 airports. However, she denied the allegations.

While the case remains pending, in August 2015, the EFCC invited her but she filed a suit against the commission, Police and the Attorney-General of the Federation, requesting the court to stop them from inviting, arresting, investigating or prosecuting her. Again, on February 26, Oduah reported to the EFCC office in Abuja, where she was grilled for many hours on the allegations. The matter is still pending.

Shehu Sani

Senator Shehu Sani represents Kaduna Central Senatorial District on the platform of the APC. He was a human rights activist and went to prison a number of times in the days of military dictatorship.

He is a first timer in the Upper Chamber and has distinguished himself through his vocal voice in the chamber. He has proven to be fearless as he does not care whose ox is gored while contributing on controversial issues of national interest.

His outspokenness has however, pitched him against his governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, who has been at loggerheads with him. On April 13, Sani found himself in a trouble as the Kaduna State Police Commissioner, Austin Iwar, wrote him a letter, asking him to appear on April 30 at the command headquarters, Kaduna, for questioning over his alleged involvement in a murder case in the state.

The commissioner in the letter to Senator Sani, said: “this is in connection with a case of criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide transferred to this office by 1 Division, Nigerian Army, Kaduna, alongside with exhibit audio CD in which your name was mentioned by the principal suspect.

This is to enable us fairly and timely conclude investigation into the matter.” However, on the day he was invited, he honoured the invitation and was granted bail after hours of interrogation. Meanwhile, the case is still pending.

Bassey Akpan

Bassey Akpan (PDP, Akwa Ibom North-east) is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Gas. He served as Commissioner for Finance between August 7, 2007 and 2014 under the tenure of Godswill Akpabio as governor of Akwa Ibom State. He is currently being investigated by the President Muhammadu Buhari- led Federal Government.

His investigation emanated from a letter by the Presidency, dated March 28, 2018 and signed by the Chairman of the Special Presidential Investigative Panel for the Recovery of Public Properties, Okoi Obono-Obla, requesting the Government of the United Kingdom (UK) to ban Akpan, from entering the United Kingdom (UK) and any of its territories.

The decision of the Panel was based on the allegation that Akpan acquired numerous properties within and outside Nigeria through illegal means during his stewardship as commissioner in Akwa-Ibom.

The letter, addressed to the UK Home Office Secretary, Hon. Amber Rudd, the Presidency also called on the UK government to freeze all the bank accounts and assets associated with the politician. The federal Government has also instituted a suit against him, which is pending before Justice Dimgba of the Federal High Court, Abuja. Government is seeking an interim order of forfeiture of undeclared assets belonging to the embattled lawmaker. He was detained and later granted bail recently. The matter is still hanging on his neck.

Joshua Dariye

Joshua Dariye represents Plateau Central. He is the chairman Senate Committee on Solid Minerals. He was elected to the Red chamber under the PDP but later defected to the APC. Many political analysts have since concluded that he defected to the ruling party as an umbrella to escape trial from the EFCC over alleged corruption he perpetrated in office as governor.

He was the governor of Plateau State from 1999 to 2003 and was reelected in 2003, before he was impeached in 2006 at the peak of political crisis in the state, during which the then President Olusegun Obasanjo imposed a state of emergency in Plateau.

The lawmaker has been standing trial since 2007 on 23-count charge bordering on money laundering, abuse of office and corruption. He was accused of embezzling over N1.2billion ecological funds belonging to Plateau State.

Sani Yerima

Senator Ahmed Sani Yarima represents Zamfara West Senatorial District on the platform of the APC. He was the governor of Zamfara State between 1999 and 2007. He is also serving his third term in the 8th Senate.

Yarima is the Chairman of Senate Committee on Marine Transport and member of other committees, including Interior that oversees the police, prisons, immigration and the fire service. He is facing prosecution on a 19-count charge on corruption by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) at the Zamfara State High Court in Gusau.

The commission accused him of diverting part of the N1 billion project funds for the repair of collapsed Gusau Dam and resettlement of the victims of flood to other purposes when he was the state governor.

The alleged offences were said to be committed at the tale end of his tenure of office, particularly October and November of 2006. Like his colleagues who are facing similar charges, Yerima pleaded not guilty in all.

Danjuma Goje

Senator Danjuma Goje represents Gombe Central Senatorial District. He is a chieftain of the APC and a second termer in the Red Chamber. He was the governor of Gombe State from 2003 to 2011.

The lawmaker is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations as well as the Chairman of the North-East Caucus of the National Assembly. Justlike most of the former governors who are either serving in the Senate or in other capacities, Goje is also facing corruption charges.

He is facing an 18- count charge bordering on conspiracy and fraud to embezzle N25 billion with four other persons. The EFCC is handling the matter. In 2015, the case was transferred from Gombe to Jos on the instruction of the Chief Justice of the Federation, who took the decision based on security concerns. The case is still pending till date.

George Akume

Senator George Akume is a stalwart of the APC and represents Benue North West in the Senste. He was Benue State Governor from 1999 to 2007 under the PDP.

The politician was one of those who defected to the ruling party to escape corruption charges and prosecution by the present administration. A former Chairman of the EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, had in a report on September 28, 2006, told the Senate in plenary, when invited by the Chamber, that Akume barged into the office of the State’s Commissioner of Police, beat up EFCC operatives and confiscated documents relating to his investigations for corruption.

Meanwhile, the case file of Senator Akume with the EFCC indicates that the petition against him was filed by a retired Commissioner of Police, Abubakar Tsav, on July 20, 2006. Although the case has not been disposed of by the court, he has never been arraigned by any anti-graft agencies.

Abdullahi Adamu

Senator Abdullahi Adamu represents Nasarawa West Senatorial District on the platform of the APC. He is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture, and was the Governor of Nasarawa State from 1999 to 2007. Senator Adamu was arrested in February 2010 by the EFCC for alleged misappropriation of N15 billion together with 18 other persons who reportedly committed the alleged fraud with him.

Consequently, he was arraigned on a 149-count charge before Justice Ibrahim Buba. However Justice Buba was later replaced on the case by Justice Marcel Awokulehin. Senator Adamu and other accused persons denied all the charges and challenged the jurisdiction of the court to try the case.

They argued that the money for which they were being prosecuted belonged to the Nasarawa State Government and therefore does not fall under the purview of the Federal Government and the EFCC to investigate and prosecute.

The court, however, ruled against the accused persons and ordered them to face trial. The lawmaker and his co-accused subsequently appealed the ruling to the Court of Appeal sitting in Markudi, Benue State, which is still pending.

Abdulaziz Nyako

Abdulaziz Nyako represents Adamawa Central Senatorial District. He is the son of former Governor Murtala Nyako, and a first timer in the apex legislative Chamber. He is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Special Duties. Abdulaziz and his father were on July 8, 2015, arraigned before Justice E. Chukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on a 37-count charge bordering on criminal conspiracy, stealing, abuse of office and money laundering.

They were accused of using five companies to siphon over N15billion at various times, between 2011 and 2013, from the Adamawa State treasury. Also, on February 26, 2018, Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, sitting in Maitama, Abuja, admitted in evidence, documents tendered by the prosecution, through the seventeenth prosecution witness, Zakari Mohammed Uthman, in the N29 billion fraud trial involving Senator Nyako, his father and others. The charges were preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

Five companies that allegedly served as conduit pipes for the illegal diversion of the funds – Blue Opal Limited, Sebore Farms & Extension Limited, Pagoda Fortunes Limited, Tower Assets Management Limited and Crust Energy Limited, were also charged before the court as the 5th to 9th defendants. The matter is still pending in court.

David Mark

David Mark has been in the Senate since 1999, and represents Benue South Senatorial District. He is a staunch member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He is currently serving his fifth term in the Upper Chamber. Mark served as the President of the Senate between 2007 and 2015, making him the longest serving lawmaker in that office.

However, the Idoma-born politician, was one of those listed in #PanamaPapers, the report that reveals identities of clients of the most secretive companies in the world, registered through the law firm of Mossack Fonseca. On December 14, 2017, EFCC quizzed the former Chairman of the National Assembly to respond to questions bordering on how several billions meant for projects at the National Assembly were allegedly embezzled by him and a few other members of the Assembly.

After taking his statement, he was released. Also, the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property (SPIPRPP) issued a notice to Mark to quit the at the National Assembly quarters, where he live as the official residence of the President of the Senate and acquired it as his personal property.

The Federal Government said that it would recover the property from Mark, saying that the acquisition of the 1.6-hectare property by the politician in 2011 was illegal as it was not reflected in the Federal Government’s official gazette as required.

The Federal Government also alleged that the sale of the property did not pass through due process, which is a violation of the provisions of Section 15 (1) of the Procurement Act, 2007. The matter is still pending.

Peter Nwaoboshi

Senator Peter Nwaboshi represents Delta North Senatorial District in the National Assembly. He is a first timer in the Red Chamber but had served the Delta State Government in the last political dispensation. In 2017, the lawmaker was accused of diverting a loan from NEXIM Bank amounting to N1.2 billion as a member of its board of directors.

The loan was reportedly granted to him by NEXIM Bank under the local industrial growth scheme in 2014. In the EFCC report, stating why he was arrested, it was explained that the money was meant for the purchase of equipment and electrical materials but was allegedly diverted by the PDP chieftain for purchase of properties in Lagos. This led to the Federal High Court in Lagos ordering for the temporary forfeiture of a 12-storey building belonging to the senator in 2017.

The “Guinea House” located on 27 Marine Road, Apapa, Lagos State, was said to have been sold to the senator in 2015 in a manner that negated due process and transparency between him and the then Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan. It was reported that the building was worth N10 billion but was fraudulently sold to the Nwaoboshi for a paltry sum less than N500 million.  (New Telegraph )

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