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Saraki regains possession of forfeited houses

A former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has regained possession of his two houses in Ilorin which were earlier temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government by an order of a Federal High Court in Lagos. The two houses were returned to Saraki yesterday by Justice Rilwan Aikawa following the dismissal of a motion by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) seeking their permanent forfeiture to the Federal Government.

In a ruling on the EFCC’s motion, Justice Aikawa said he found no sufficient basis for the request. After declaring that he could not find his way through to grant the permanent forfeiture order, the judge ordered that the houses be returned to Saraki.

The anti-graft agency had, on December 2, 2019, secured an order temporarily forfeiting the houses situated at Plots No. 10 and No. 11 Abdulkadir Road, GRA, Ilorin, Kwara State, to the Federal Government. It said the sum of N1.09 billion spent on the two Ilorin buildings was part of the N10 billion allegedly stolen by Saraki. In an affidavit filed before the court, an official of the commission, Bilikisu Buhari, averred that the anti-graft agency found out that while he was Kwara State governor, the former Senate President diverted N100 million on a monthly basis from the federal allocation to the state.

She disclosed that the N100 million was usually diverted from the Kwara State Government account to the account of the Kwara State Government House. She added that Adama, Ofem and Austin, using fictitious names, usually paid the diverted N100 million into the bank accounts of contractors who built the houses. However, while opposing EFCC’s prayer for final forfeiture, Saraki’s lawyer, Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN) said the houses were built from his client’s legitimate earnings.

The silk 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 fivebedroom apartment, which he was entitled to as a twoterm governor of Kwara State. Ogunwumiju also drew Justice Aikawa’s attention 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 bedroomed 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 to his taste.

Ogunwumiju further contended that even 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, 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.

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