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Defence lawyer reveals details of fraud petitions against Saraki
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Defence lawyer reveals details of fraud petitions against Saraki

Yvonne Williams

The lead defence lawyer appearing for the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, in his ongoing trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), on Tuesday continued the cross-examination of the first prosecution witness, Mr. Michael Wetkas.

Agabi, who started cross-examining the witness on Monday, dwelt on the details of about four petitions tendered by the prosecution in the course of the trial accusing Saraki of looting Kwara State while serving as governor of the state between 2003 an 2011.

Agabi said he took the decision to cross-examine Wetkas on the petitions in order to challenge the contents and because they were tendered through the witness by the lead prosecution, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN).

Wetkas, in response to wide-ranging questions relating to the petition, asked him by Agabi in the course of the cross-examination on Tuesday, insisted that the allegations contained in the petitions were not the basis of the investigation which his team conducted leading to the charges of false asset declaration preferred against Saraki.

Wetkas is an operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, who said he led the inter-agency team that investigated the intelligence report on the allegations leading to the charges instituted against Saraki before the tribunal.
The petitions with which he was confronted with by Saraki were earlier admitted as Exhibits 10 to 13 by the tribunal.
The petitions which were sent to the EFCC in May and June 2012 were authored by Kwara Freedom Network.

Wetkas confirmed under cross-examination that the petitions were written about one year after Saraki left office as Governor of Kwara State.
He confirmed that none of the petitions had to do with the allegation of false asset declaration which is the subject matter before the tribunal.

He also confirmed that none of the petitions was addressed to the Code of Conduct Bureau.
He also said he did not investigate Saraki on the basis of the allegations contained in the petitions because they were not assigned to his team.

In the petition dated May 2, 2012 marked Exhibit 10, the petitioners asked th EFCC to alleged fraud in Shongai Farm Holdings.
The petition alleged that the Zimbabwean farmers did not make their own contributions to the farm which was then meant to be jointly funded by them and the Kwara State Government.

Asked if he saw the contract signed by Kwara State Government and the Zibabwean farmers, he said he did not participate in the investigation of the petition.
He added, “I’m not in the position to say that the white farmers did not live up to their obligation because I did not participate in the investigation of the petition. My other colleagues who investigated it may be more competent to say so.”

Exhibit 11 is a petition addressed to the EFCC and dated May 2, 2012.
The petition appealed to the EFCC “save Kwara State primary schools from total collapse”.
teachers’ salary was inflated
The petition also alleged illegal transfer of funds from one account to another by SUBEB officials in connivance with the Accountant-General of the state.
Wetkas while responding to a question said he did not obtain the statements of the signatories to the petitions – ‎Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo and Alhaji Hassan Atanda – because they were not material to the investigation which his own team conducted.

When asked if he investigated the Kwara State Basic Education Board with regard to the petition, he said, “Like I said before, this was not part of the petition investigated by me. The other team investigated this one.”

He repeated the same answer when asked if he contacted the Accountant General of the state, who was mentioned in the petition.
Wetkas was also asked if he confirmed that Local Government’s funds were repeatedly deducted as stated in the petition.
He was asked if he found out whether the state was making its contribution to the the Universal Basic Education Commission’s scheme.

In his response to each of the questions, he said he did not participate in its investigation.
Exhibit 12 is a petition against Saraki dated May 2, 2012, which was also addressed to EFCC.
The petition asked the EFCC to investigate borrowings by the Kwara State Government for projects described as phoney.
When asked, Wetkas said he never came across any report of investigation on the basis of the petition.

Exhibit 13 is a petition dated June 7, 2012, which was addressed to the EFCC and copied the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, the Presidency and the Kwara State House of Assembly.
The petition accused Saraki of misuse or misappropriation of monthly revenue account of the 16 Local Government Areas of Kwara State.
In the petition, Saraki was accused of arm-twisting local government officials in the state “to loot the allocation accruable to the councils from the Federation Account.”

The petition was tendered through me. I did not tender it. The prosecution would be in the best position to explain why it tendered the petition.
The ICPC, Presidency and Kwara State House of Assembly were copied in the petition.
Agabi said, “I put it to you that all the agencies did not take any action on it because on the face of it the petition was frivolous.”
But the witness said he could not confirm the statement because he did not work under any of the government bodies.

Source: punch