*23rd February picked to take plea on the new charges
Federal Government, on Wednesday, applied to amend the 16-count charge against the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
Saraki is facing charges at the Code of Conduct Tribunal [CCT] bordering on false assets declaration.
Already, the CCT panel led by Justice Danladi Umar has okayed Dr. Saraki to enter his plea to the fresh charge.
Dr. Saraki was docked before the CCT on 22nd September, 2015, on a 13-count charge and latter re-arraigned on 28th April, 2016, on an amended 16-count corruption charge.
The Federal Government alleged that he made false/anticipatory declaration of assets, operated foreign accounts while in office as Kwara State governor.
The trial was stalled on Wednesday due to the fresh filing of the 18-count amended charge.
The Chairman of the tribunal, Mr Umar Danladi, held that the court was compelled to give a short adjournment for the defendant’s team to study the new charge.
He said “in the light of the application filed by Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), counsel to Saraki for adjournment, the matter is hereby adjourned until 23rd February for the defendant to take his plea.”
In the meantime, the Prosecution Witness, Mr Samuel Madujemu, had gone half way into his testimony before an objection was raised by the defendant’s team.
Agabi informed the tribunal that the Prosecution Counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), had earlier served him the amended charge.
He argued that the fresh charge had substantially altered the direction of the case, adding that his client required to be given time to study the new issues included.
However, Jacobs objected the submission advanced by Agabi, saying that the additions which gave rise to the amended charge stemmed from testimonies of witnesses in the court.
He said the fresh charge had not changed the direction of the case as claimed by the defendant’s team.
“I was the one who notified the defendant’s team about my decision to file an amended charge this morning. I did also served them with certified copies of the new charge. I am surprised they have chosen to use it against me. I pray the court to discountenance their motion for an adjournment as no new matter was introduced into the charge,’’ he said.
Earlier, Madujemu, the Head of Investigation Division of the bureau, said the defendant’s asset declaration forms between 2003 and 2015 were shrouded in discrepancies.
He said investigation into Saraki’s asset declaration forms was triggered by previous investigation conducted by the Inter-Agency Presidential Investigation Team in 2006.
The witness, however, said the bureau was not part of the investigation at the beginning but was later invited by the EFCC to assist in the probe.
Madujemu said “myself and two other colleagues from the bureau were directed to join the EFCC team. We reviewed EFFC’s findings and later discovered that there were a number of infractions in the defendant’s assets declaration forms.”
The amended charge still borders around false assets declaration and money laundering between 2003 and 2011 when the defendant was governor of Kwara.