Afenifere, the Yoruba socio-political organisation, has described the latest probe of outgoing Senate President, Bukola Saraki, as political vendetta, saying the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was engaging in persecution instead of prosecution.
Residential houses belonging to Saraki located in Ikoyi, Lagos, were sealed off by the EFCC, which said it had opened a fresh investigation into Saraki’s stewardship as Senate President as well as a probe of his earnings as governor from 2003 – 2011.
Saraki, however, insisted that the action of the EFCC was a witch-hunt, claiming that the property in question had been investigated by the commission several times in the past.
Reacting to the development, Yinka Odumakin, Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, said while the organisation was not against probing anyone who was suspected to be corrupt, engaging in media trial and seizure of properties even before charges had been filed was not a proper way to go about investigation.
“I think it is more of persecution than prosecution because if you are doing corruption investigation, there are ways to go about it.
“All the media trial that EFCC is doing and going about seizing properties when it has not filed any charges – it is clear that there is some political vendetta at work.
“We are not against investigation of anybody for alleged corruption because nobody is above the law. But when you begin to show that you are engaged in persecution rather than prosecution, it doesn’t speak well.
“I don’t think Saraki is the only politician in Nigeria today. Why is it that it is only Saraki that the EFCC is investigating, starting from 2003 when he was state governor and Senate President? It is very unfortunate the way they are going about it.”
However, in his reaction, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), said what the anti-graft agency was investigating Saraki for was acquisition of properties by fraudulent means and not false declaration of assets for which he had been cleared by the courts.
“The investigation is not over. The earlier one was the issue of false declaration of assets. What they are doing now is acquiring properties by fraudulent means and siphoning money from the state.
“So, it is a totally different charge. Although he was cleared up to the Supreme Court on the issue of declaration of false assets, this one is different.
“That the court declared that a case is not proved does not mean that there is no guilt. So, this is a second approach which permits the agency to actually have the property forfeited without proving guilt.
“All he has to do is to go through the first process of temporary forfeiture and then, the owner of the property (in this case, Saraki) will be invited by the court through an order to come and justify how he acquired the property, usually by affidavit.
“So, the two parties will come and if he cannot establish satisfactorily to the court that he earned the money by which he acquired the property, then he will lose it to the Federal Government.”
When asked whether the current probe by EFCC was not connected to the refusal of the Senate under Saraki’s leadership to confirm Ibrahim Magu, the acting Chairman of the EFCC as the substantive chairman, Sagay said the motive for probing a crime was irrelevant.
“Certainly, I am not interested. Motive in this case is irrelevant. If a crime has been committed, you can have a wrong motive to do a good thing. Who cares?” Sagay said.