The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission insisted on Thursday that two Ilorin houses belonging to a former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, must be forfeited to the Federal Government because they were built with funds allegedly stolen from the coffers of Kwara State.
The anti-graft agency claimed that it had evidence that Saraki, who was Kwara State governor between 2003 and 2011, diverted not less than N10bn belonging to the state.
The EFCC told Justice Rilwan Aikawa at the Federal High Court in Lagos that the sum of N1.09bn spent on the two Ilorin buildings was part of the N10bn allegedly stolen by Saraki.
The commission had on December 2, 2019 obtained an order temporarily forfeiting the houses – Plots No. 10 and No. 11 Abdulkadir Road, GRA, Ilorin, Kwara State – to the Federal Government.
It is now urging the court to make the interim forfeiture order permanent, a move that Saraki, through his lawyer, Mr Kehinde Ogunwunmiju (SAN), has vehemently opposed.
In an affidavit filed before the court, an officer of the EFCC, Bilikisu Buhari, said the anti-graft agency found that while he was Kwara State governor, Saraki allegedly diverted N100m on a monthly basis from the federal allocation to the state.
She said, "After the funds were stacked in the Kwara State Government House, it was then fraudulently dissipated and taken away in cash by Messrs Abdul Adama, Ubi Ofem and Ubi Austin, acting on the instructions and direction of Dr Bukola Saraki in violent breach of public trust.
"That in this scheme of fraud alone, about N10bn was fraudulently diverted from the treasury of the Kwara State Government."
Buhari said Adama, Ofem and Austin, using fictitious name, usually paid the diverted N100m into the bank accounts of contractors who built the houses.
But opposing the prayer to permanently forfeit his client’s houses on Thursday, Saraki's lawyer, Ogunwunmiju, said they were built from his legitimate earnings.
The SAN said N252.2m out of the N1.09bn used for developing the property represented what Saraki was paid for the development of a five-bedroom apartment, which he was entitled to as a two-term governor of Kwara State.
Ogunwunmiju pointed the attention of Justice Aikawa 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 N252.2m so he could add money to it to build a house to his taste.
He urged the court to dismiss the EFCC's application for being an abuse of court processes, saying the same issues had been taken before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court where Saraki was vindicated.
But counsel for the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, insisted that as long as Saraki failed to explain how he came about the over N700m, which he added to the N252.2m to develop the houses, the houses were liable to be forfeited.
After arguments that lasted for over five hours, Justice Aikwa adjourned till April 27 for judgment.