After conceding to a humiliating defeat in the Kwara Central senate election held in March 2019, the travails of former senate president, Bukola Saraki, are not over yet.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) this week revealed that nothing will stop it from prosecuting Saraki over alleged corruption charges. The Kwara politician had earlier filed a motion before a high court in a bid to stop the EFCC from proceeding with its plans.
The payback angle: While Saraki was senate president, several attempts to have Ibrahim Magu confirmed as chairman of the EFCC failed at the upper legislative house. Magu has consequently been serving as ‘acting’ EFCC chair for almost four years. Saraki alleged in a letter to the chief judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Abu-Kafarati, that “Magu is after me because he feels that as the President of the 8th Senate, I was responsible for the non-confirmation of his appointment.”
- The EFCC has however pushed back against the insinuations that it is moving against Saraki as payback for the senate’s refusal to confirm Magu.
- Key point: The eight senate relied on a damning report by the Department of State Service (DSS) to reject Magu as EFCC chairman. Both the DSS and EFCC are agencies under the presidency, yet the DSS had a damaging security report against a nominee from the presidency but he was still pushed forward for confirmation.
Plot twist: Saraki also claimed in his letter that Magu came to plead with him to facilitate his confirmation by the senate in 2016.
- “Magu after his nomination, came to see me pleading that I should do my best to help him during the screening process. During that meeting, I made it clear that I had no objection to his nomination and revealed to him, in confidence that he needed to go and clear himself with the DSS because the report on him was unfavourable.”
- The allegation by Saraki was not backed by any evidence.
Atiku backs Saraki: In a statement on Tuesday, the former vice president and PDP candidate for president in the 2019 general elections said:
- “Saraki… is one of the most investigated politicians in Nigeria. He has been investigated and prosecuted all the way to the Supreme Court and has prevailed against his accusers. It was expected that that should have been the end of the matter. However, the revival of previously investigated cases, and the fact that Dr. Saraki was politically opposed to the administration of General Muhammadu Buhari seems to give strong grounds for objective bystanders to conclude that his current travails have gone beyond prosecution and are now tending towards persecution.”
Bottomline: Saraki no longer has the covering of the senate presidency to push back against EFCC prosecution. As senate president, scores of his colleagues frequently joined him on his frequent court appearances, a privilege he would no longer enjoy. He is betting on winning in the court of public opinion, but he has a formidable opponent in the EFCC which is the master of media trials.