By Akin Kuponiyi
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has told the Federal High Court in Lagos how former Governor of Kwara State, Dr. Bukola Saraki allegedly diverted N10 billion from the state’s coffers and used part of the proceeds to build the two houses temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government.
The commission told the court on Thursday that the money was allegedly diverted in tranches of N100 million between 2003 and 2011 when he was governor of Kwara State.
The EFCC insisted that the two Ilorin houses of Saraki, must be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria because they were built with funds stolen from the coffers of Kwara State Government.
The anti-graft agency insisted that it had evidence that Saraki allegedly diverted not less than N10 billion belonging to the state.
The court had on December 2, 2019 granted an order temporarily forfeiting the two houses – Plots No. 10 and No. 11 Abdulkadir Road, GRA, Ilorin, Kwara State – to the Federal Government.
Now EFCC is urging the court to make the interim forfeiture order permanent, a move that Saraki, through his lawyer, Mr Kehinde Ogunwunmiju (SAN), has vehemently opposed.
In an affidavit filed before the court, an officer of the EFCC, Bilikisu Buhari, said the anti-graft agency found that while Saraki was Kwara State governor, he allegedly diverted N100 million on a monthly basis from the federal allocation to the state.
She alleged that the N100 million was usually diverted from the Kwara State Government’s account to the account of the Kwara State Government’s House.
She said following the transfer, one Mr Afeez Yusuf, acting on Saraki’s instructions, usually went to withdraw the money from the Kwara State Government House’s account and took the case to the Government House.
She said, “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.
“That in this scheme of fraud alone, about N10 billion was fraudulently diverted from the treasury of the Kwara State Government.”
Buhari said Adama, Ofem and Austin, using fictitious names, usually paid the diverted N100 million into the bank accounts of contractors who built the houses.
However, in opposing the prayer to permanently forfeit his client’s houses, Saraki’s lawyer, Ogunwunmiju, SAN said they were built from his legitimate earnings.
He 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.
Ogunwunmiju drew the attention of the court to 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-bedroom 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 N252.2 million so he could add money to it to build a house of his taste.
Ogunwunmiju contended that if it was true, as alleged by the EFCC, that the document leading to the release of the N252.2 million 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 permanent forfeiture 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 the houses, the houses were liable to be forfeited.
The presiding Judge Justice Rilwan Aikwa has adjourned till April 27, 2020 to deliver judgment.