Buhari on Saraki’s trial: law will take its course]

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Uproar in Senate as 83 lawmakers back leadership

President Muhammadu Buhari will not  interfere in the ongoing trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki.

He will allow the court process to run its course, the President said yesterday in New York.

Saraki is facing trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for alleged false assets declaration. The tribunal has fixed October 21-23 to hear the matter.

Saraki’s supporters are said to be pleading with emirs and other prominent citizens to put in a word for the Senate president. But Buhari told our correspondent in an interview that it would be an impeachable offence if he intervened.

Here are exerpts from the interview:

The Senate president is facing alleged false assets declaration allegations but you’ve been aloof from the case. What is your position on the issue?

“What has the President got to do with it as a person? The case is in court. Do Nigerians expect me to tell the Chief Justice to tell whichever court that they shouldn’t try the Senate president?

“Do Nigerians know about the constitution of their own country? The judiciary, the legislature and the executive have got their own roles within the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Then, how do they expect me to interfere? I can be successfully impeached if I do it.

Today in Abuja, at least 82 senators passed a vote of confidence on the Senate President. That is a significant number of senators. However, Nigerians will like to know, as the president, how confident are you in the senate president?

That would depend on the outcome of the court’s decision.

Are you on speaking terms with the Senate president?

There are some appointments, which the Senate has to approve. And I can’t remember how many letters I personally wrote to him, because this is constitutional. There are people I want to work with, I cannot work with them unless the National Assembly approves. So I’ve been writing to the Senate President and to the leader of the House (of Representatives). This is constitutional.

What do you have to say on the media’s review of your first three months in office?

“The media is too inquisitive for my liking (laughing).

“They ask too many questions, and I agonise over this with my adviser on media that especially our own press in Nigeria, why can’t they do more of investigative journalism? “There are a lot of things the media can do without harassing the president. For example,  my assets declaration. I’ve declared my assets four times since the first time I got a political appointment. Why can’t the press go and find out about the previous times? Instead they’re making headlines about my assets.

It’s been circulating that you’ve been recovering some of the money stolen by corrupt Nigerians from the treasury. How true is this and how much have you recovered?

I can’t give you figures now, because of the legal implications. It’s much easier to talk about what we’re doing according to documents. For example, every ship that is loading Nigerian crude from our terminals is supposed to record how much it has taken and on behalf of who is lifting it in terms of customer, including whether the crude oil belongs to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation or it belongs to our partners, like Shell, Mobil, Chevron and so on. And then we ask where are they going? Including the facts of the documents like when it was sold and which account the money was going. We have gone quite far and a number of countries have cooperated with us. In fact, again we try to get more facts from Lloyd’s of London, that is the famous shipping line insurance brokers. Because some people would take petroleum from terminals, and then change the receipt, change its direction, and put the money into individual accounts.

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