A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has dismissed a move by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) seeking the final forfeiture of two houses in Ilorin, Kwara State, belonging to a former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki.
In his ruling delivered on Thursday, Justice Rilwan Aikawa held that the contention of the EFCC that the property was acquired with illegal funds was based on mere suspicion. He stated that the evidence placed before the court was to the effect that the property was substantially financed with money paid to Saraki as a former governor, in line with the Kwara State Governor and Deputy Governor Payment of Pension Law.
The pension law provides that a two-term governor is entitled to a house within the state upon completion of his second tenure. Justice Aikawa, therefore, discharged the interim order for forfeiture earlier granted in favour of the EFCC on December 2, 2019, and subsequently dismissed the EFCC’s application for final forfeiture of the property.
In his submission before the court, counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, said the former Senate President spent N1.09 billion on the two houses, funds which he alleged were stolen from the coffers of Kwara State. The anti-graft agency claimed that it had evidence that Saraki, who was Kwara State governor between 2003 and 2011, diverted not less than N1 billion belonging to the state.
Opposing the application for the final forfeiture of his client’s houses, Saraki’s lawyer, Kehinde Ogunwunmiju, said they were built from his legitimate earnings. Ogunwumiju said N252.2 million out of the N1.09 billion 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 of Kwara State.
He also drew the attention of Justice Aikawa to the Governor and Deputy Governor (Payment of Pension) Law 2010 of Kwara State, which stipulates that an elected two-term governor of the state is entitled to five and four-bedroom duplexes respectively, at any location of their choice within Kwara State.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria said rather than allow the state to build the house for him, Saraki chose to collect N252.2 million so he could add money to it to build a house to his taste.