Sunday 18 March 2018

Appeal court orders retrial of top Nigerian politician

Appeal court orders retrial of top Nigerian politician
(AFP (eng) 12/13/17)
Senate president Bukola Saraki

A panel of judges on Tuesday ordered Nigeria's third highest-ranking politician to face a retrial on corruption charges linked to his time as a state governor.

The Court of Appeal ruled that Senate president Bukola Saraki should be tried again on three charges related to false declarations of assets during his time as governor of Kwara state between 2003 and 2011.

Saraki, 54, originally faced a total of 18 charges at the Code of Conduct Tribunal but was acquitted in June. Nigeria's main anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, appealed. .

Judge Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson on Tuesday, reading a 70-page judgment, said the original verdict was upheld on 15 charges.

But Saraki needed to "offer explanation" on the remaining three charges related to how he came to buy one property in Lagos and two others in Abuja.

Prosecutor Rotimi Jacobs told reporters outside court that the ruling was a "victory to them and partly victory to us".

"What is important is that at least there is a finding that the Code of Conduct Tribunal was wrong and that the case should go back to that court," he said.

Saraki's lawyer, Paul Usoro, said the judgment reinforced the lower court ruling that there was no case to answer. The defence team would study the order for a retrial to determine whether to appeal, he added.

The case against Saraki -- who sits below President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in the political hierarchy -- was keenly watched.

It was one of the most high-profile, anti-corruption prosecutions since Buhari came to power in 2015, vowing to end graft and impunity at the highest level.

The influential politician, who is tipped in some quarters to one day challenge for the presidency, is a member of Buhari's All Progressives Congress (APC) party.

He became head of the upper chamber of parliament unopposed after securing the backing of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

But he was not the APC's first choice, leading some to believe the charges against him were politically motivated.

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