A Nigerian civil society organization, the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) Resource Centre, has urged the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to investigate and prosecute Senate President Bukola Saraki over false declaration of assets and other financial crimes.
The organization made its call for the prosecution of Mr. Saraki after he was implicated in the Paradise Papers, a massive leak exposing the offshore tax havens owned by prominent world politicians and wealthy business people.
According to the Paradise Papers, Mr. Saraki sat on the board of an offshore entity while he served as Kwara State governor and continued to do so when he became Senate President, which violates Nigeria’s code of conduct law.
He was also found to have established a shell company, Tenia Limited, in 2001 in the Cayman Islands, a Caribbean country commonly used as a tax haven for the ultra-rich. He ran the company as director and sole shareholder until at least 2015.
HEDA Chairman Olanrewaju Suraju explained that all public office holders in Nigeria must declare such assets, and Mr. Saraki failed to do so. He added that the most recent revelation of Mr. Saraki’s offshore assets came only 18 months after he was revealed to own at least three offshore firms which he used to conceal assets abroad.
It would be recalled that Mr. Saraki was tried by the Code of Conduct Tribunal in 2016 for charges of false assets declaration and corruption. The charges were tossed out in June 2017 in a curious “no case” submission.
In a press release signed by Mr. Suraju, HEDA said, “In the new findings by PREMIUM TIMES and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), Mr. Saraki was found to sit on the board of an offshore entity while he was governor and later member of the Nigerian Senate in violation of his country’s code of conduct law.
“Senator Saraki allegedly, according to the news report, set up Tenia Limited in the Cayman Islands — a notorious tax haven in the Caribbean — in 2001 and ran it until at least 2015 as director and sole shareholder. It remains unclear what business he transacted with the entity and what asset he might have used it to conceal.”
HEDA explained that Mr. Saraki violated Nigerian code of conduct laws by failing to disclose these foreign assets.
“He failed to list the firm in his assets declaration filings when he was elected governor of Kwara in 2003, in defiance of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act. He also didn’t list the company when he was re-elected governor in 2007 and when he was elected senator in 2011. These facts were not disclosed by the Senate President in breach of the country’s numerous laws.
“The code of conduct law requires public office holders to declare own assets, as well as those owned by their spouses and children below the age of 18. Section 6(b) of the Code of Conduct Act says a public office holder shall not, “except where he is not employed on full‐time basis, engage or participate in the management or running of any private business, profession or trade,” HEDA said.
HEDA further revealed that Mr. Saraki also violated Section 2 of the Code of Conduct and Tribunal Act, which is punishable under Section 23(2) of the Act and Paragraph 9, Part 1 of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers under the 5th Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
The group therefore called on the Code of Conduct Bureau to investigate these crimes and prosecute Mr. Saraki in accordance with the laws of Nigeria.
“HEDA is by hereby demanding the immediate, full and comprehensive investigation and prosecution of Senator Bukola Saraki for these alleged violation of the above stated provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended and relevant laws of the country.
“We shall look forward to your response and action on this issue. In the event of no response to this request or commencement of action towards discharging your constitutional within 2 weeks of the receipt of this letter, our organization shall be left with no option than to proceed against your organization before a competent court of jurisdiction for a writ of mandamus to compel your necessary action on this matter," HEDA concluded.