The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday alleged that a former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, diverted not less than N10billion belonging to Kwara State.
It told the Federal High Court in Lagos that Saraki diverted the sum in monthly tranches of N100million between 2003 and 2011, while he was Kwara State governor.
The anti-graft agency claimed that Saraki spent N1.09billion out of the N10b Federal allocation to build two houses in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.
The commission’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, prayed Justice Rilwan Aikawa to forfeit the houses to the Federal Government.
But the ex-governor denied the allegations through his lawyer, Mr Kehinde Ogunwunmiju (SAN) and opposed the prayer for forfeiture.
Justice Aikwa adjourned till April 27 for judgment.
The EFCC had on December 2, 2019 obtained an order temporarily forfeiting the houses – Plots No. 10 and No. 11 Abdulkadir Road, GRA, Ilorin, Kwara State – to the Federal Government.
Yesterday, Oyedepo applied that the interim forfeiture order be made permanent.
He drew the judge’s attention to an affidavit filed before the court by an EFCC officer, Bilikisu Buhari.
Buhari averred in the document that while Saraki was Kwara State governor, he diverted N100m on a monthly basis from state’s federal allocation.
She said the N100m was usually diverted from the Kwara State Government account to the account of the Kwara State Government House.
She said following the transfer, one Mr Afeez Yusuf, acting on Saraki’s instructions, usually withdrew the money from the Kwara State Government House account and took the cash to the Government House.
“After the funds were stacked in the Kwara State Government House, it was then fraudulently dissipated and taken away in cash by Messrs Abdul Adama, Ubi Ofem and Ubi Austin, acting on the instructions and direction of Dr Bukola Saraki in violent breach of public trust.
“In this scheme of fraud alone, about N10bn was fraudulently diverted from the treasury of the Kwara State Government.
“Part of the proceeds of the aforementioned fraud was reasonably suspected to have been comingled with other funds used for the development of the property sought to be forfeited,” she alleged.
Buhari said Adama, Ofem and Austin, using fictitious name, usually paid the diverted N100m into the bank accounts of contractors who built the houses.
But opposing the prayer of permanent forfeiture, Ogunwunmiju said the houses were built from Saraki’s legitimate earnings.
The SAN said N252.2m out of the N1.09bn used for developing the property represented what Saraki was paid for the development of a five-bedroom apartment, which he was entitled to as a two-term governor.
Ogunwunmiju referenced the Governor and Deputy Governor (Payment of Pension) Law 2010 of Kwara State, which stipulated that an elected two-term governor of the state was entitled to a five- and four-bedroomed duplex, respectively, at any location of their choice within Kwara State.
He said rather than allow the state to build the house for him, Saraki chose to collect N252.2m so he could add money to it to build a house to his taste.
Ogunwunmiju contended that if it was true, as alleged by the EFCC, that the document leading to the release of the N252.2m was forged by an official of the Kwara State Government, still the payment to Saraki was not illegitimate because it was provided for under the law.
He urged the court to dismiss the EFCC’s application for being an abuse of court processes, saying the same issues had been taken before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court where Saraki was vindicated.
But counsel for the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, insisted that as long as Saraki failed to explain how he came about the over N700m, which he added to the N252.2m to develop their houses, the houses were liable to be forfeited.