[BUKOLA SARAKI]: Fantastically Wealthy

THE NATION, MAY 16, 2016

There is no question that Senate President Bukola Saraki is rich. But there are certainly questions arising from his prosperity-status. When an individual is stinking rich, the wealth may well be stinking. Or, put differently, when an individual is filthy rich, the wealth may well be filthy.

Saraki’s lawyer, Paul Erokoro (SAN), reportedly described him as “extremely rich”. Erokoro made Saraki’s riches public during his ongoing trial for alleged false assets declaration before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Abuja. Saraki didn’t need to become Kwara State governor in 2003 to make mega money, his lawyer argued. He was already rolling in money by the time he became a governor, his legal representative stressed.

It is thought-provoking that Erokoro, based on the asset declaration form Saraki submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) in 2003, reportedly “said he needed to point out that his client was very rich before he became Kwara State governor to erase the wrong impression created by the prosecution that, he could not have acquired the property he claimed to have, without obtaining loans from banks”.

A report said: “He said he had $22 million US dollars, about 12 million pounds, 2.6m Euro and about N4 billion in cash in his various accounts.” Apart from “the liquid asset,” the report stated: “Saraki said he also possessed landed property estimated at N2 billion and 15 vehicles valued at about N263.4m”.

The report continued: “He gave details of the vehicles he acquired as at 2003 to include: Mercedes X320, valued at N16m; Mercedes X500 worth N20m; Mercedes G500, valued at N6m; Mercedes V220 worth 2m and Ferrari456GT, valued at N25m.”

It also said: “Others are: Navigator, N15m, MN240 worth N8.5m; Peugeot 406, valued at N2.9m; Mercedes CLK 320 worth N9m; Mercedes E320 valued at N11m; Mercedes G500 bullet proof, worth N45m; Mercedes X500; Lexus jeep bullet proof, valued at N30m and Lincoln Navigator bullet proof worth N25m.”

Indeed, this is a rich collection of vehicles, and the logical question should be how Saraki acquired the vehicles, or how he acquired the capacity to acquire the vehicles.

The report added: “The lawyer was however silent on the source of his client’s wealth and how he came about all the property and cash he claimed to have possessed before he became governor in 2003.” Silence will not answer the loud questions Saraki needs to answer to clarify his claims: How did Saraki come to be so rich? What super explanations can explain Saraki’s super wealth?

It is noteworthy that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said its findings “showed that the defendant/applicant abused his office, while he was the governor of Kwara State and was involved in various acts of corruption as the governor of the state”. The anti-graft agency also said: “The defendant/applicant borrowed huge sums of money running into billions from commercial banks, particularly Guaranty Trust Bank, and used the proceeds of the loan to acquire several landed properties in Lagos, Abuja and London, while he was the governor of Kwara State”.

Consequently, Saraki is facing charges “ranging from anticipatory declaration of assets to making false declaration of assets in forms” he had filed with the Code of Conduct Bureau while he was governor of Kwara State. Saraki was also “accused of failing to declare some assets he acquired while in office as governor, acquiring assets beyond his legitimate earnings, and accused of operating foreign accounts while being a public officer”.

It is important to note that the EFCC said: ”Asset declaration form is not just any document. The person declaring his assets is expected to go before a high court judge to swear an oath. They swear to affidavit, so it is believed that all he swore to, and appended his signature to is the truth.” If so, it may well be that Saraki is yet to tell the whole truth, meaning that he would need to say how he made so much which enabled him to acquire so much.

It is relevant to consider Saraki’s trajectory before his trial. His profile said: ”Abubakar Bukola Saraki was born on 19 December 1962 to the family of Olusola Saraki, a senator (1979 – 1983) and a one- time Senate Leader of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and his mother Florence Morenike Saraki. He attended King’s College, Lagos from 1973 to 1978, and Cheltenham College, Cheltenham, London, from 1979 to 1981 for his High School Certificate. He then studied at the London Hospital Medical College of the University of London, from 1982 to 1987, when he obtained his M.B.B.S (London). He worked as a medical officer at Rush Green Hospital, Essex, from 1988 to 1989. He was a director of Societe Generale Bank (Nig) Ltd from 1990 to 2000.”

The biographical account also said: “In 2000, President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed Saraki as Special Assistant to the President on Budget…In 2003, he ran for the office of governor of Kwara State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and won. He was sworn into office in May 2003. He ran again for re-election in 2007 and won his second term. He was first elected to the Senate in April 2011, representing the Kwara Central senatorial district, and re-elected in the March 2015 elections… After his re-election in the 2015 general elections, Saraki was on 9 June 2015 elected unopposed as President of the Senate by an across the party alliance comprising PDP and APC Senators.”

This background gives no clue as to how Saraki could have made what he claims to have made before he became a governor. Perhaps more important than how much an individual has, the question of how such an individual came to have so much should be beyond a shadow of a doubt. The clarification of the sources of personal wealth is so crucial that it must not be a subject of speculation.

Saraki currently belongs to the All Progressives Congress (APC) which he joined from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but his Senate presidency is seriously imperiled, following an understandable backlash occasioned by his opportunistic subversion of his party’s calculations for the federal legislature. He may yet learn that party supremacy is supreme.

In the final analysis, an individual’s fantastic wealth cannot be left to the public imagination for explanation. This is the reality Saraki must face.