- Senate President Saraki faces 13 charges of alleged fraud
- Saraki alleges that charges are politically motivated
The trial of Nigerian Senate President Bukola Saraki for fraud opened in Abuja before the Code of Conduct Tribunal after his lawyers failed to get an adjournment, in a major test of President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption drive.
Saraki, who attended the session, faces 13 charges of alleged asset declaration fraud from his time as governor of the western state of Kwara between 2003 and 2011. Tribunal Chairman Justice Danladi Umar asked the prosecution on Tuesday to call its first witness, after referring to a Supreme Court ruling in February that affirmed his court’s jurisdiction to hear the case.
Saraki, a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress, drew on support from former colleagues in the People’s Democratic Party, to win the Senate leadership last June, beating the preferred choice of Buhari and his party. He has said he’ll fight to prove his innocence and that the charges are politically motivated.
“What this means is that nobody, no matter how highly placed, is above the law,” Olumide Akpata, a partner at Lagos-based law firm Templars, said by phone. “It is important if Nigeria is going to be sending the right signals to all who are watching that nobody is above the law and that if indeed the Senate President has committed any infraction, he should be made to answer for it.”