Embattled President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who pleaded not guilty to a 13-count charge of corruption and false declaration of asset at the Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja on Tuesday, has reiterated his belief that his trial for alleged corruption stems from his emergence as Senate president.
Saraki, who was granted bail on self-recognition after taking his plea, had on Monday seen his ex parte application filed before the Court of Appeal and Federal High Court to stop his trial, turned down.
In a statement released by his media aide, Yusuph Olaniyonu, Tuesday evening, Mr. Saraki said he was singled out for prosecution because of his position as the Senate president – an apparent reference to the June 9 election for presiding officers of the National Assembly.
Mr Saraki had defied his party, All Progressives Congress, APC, which had anointed Ahmed Lawan for the position. He, however, got the support of senators of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, and won the seat.
There is speculation that the Presidency is refusing to recognize Saraki’s leadership of the Senate until he toes the party line.
Nonetheless, in his statement yesterday, the two-time Governor of Kwara said he previously shunned the tribunal because he was exploring the “opportunity to defend (his) fundamental human rights in other courts”.
“As I stated while taking the plea in the case, I reiterate my belief that the only reason while I am going through this trial is because I am Senate President. If I were to be just a Senator, I doubt if anybody will be interested in the asset declaration form I filled over twelve years ago”, he said.
The statement repeated a claim he made at the tribunal earlier Tuesday that the trial did not follow due process.
“This belief stems from the fact that Section 3 (d) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act provides that if there is a breach or non-compliance with any section of the law, the person involved should be given the opportunity to either admit or deny and that in the case of a written admission, no reference to the tribunal shall be necessary”, he said.
“So, if the CCB had followed the guidelines, procedure or the due process provided in its own law, we won’t be having this trial.
“It is my humble opinion that this case is a vivid example that there is still flagrant disregard for due process in our polity. This trial is not only being observed by Nigerians alone, the international community is watching because Nigeria is a key member of this community. So, the executive, legislature and judiciary should do the right thing that will truly demonstrate that we have imbibed the spirit of positive change”, he said.
In the statement, the Senate president expressed gratitude to his colleagues and supporters, who came out en mass to the court in solidarity with him, promising to clear his name.
“It is however necessary for me to thank my colleagues in the Senate for the solid support and solidarity they demonstrated for me. I also thank my counsel for the brilliance they have shown in presenting our case and the supporters who were present in the tribunal in their hundreds. I want to assure you that I am innocent of all the charges and will clear my name in due course”, he said.