THE acquittal of Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has been greeted with reservations and condemnations by various individuals and groups.
The Transparency International, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL) and the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) bemoaned the judgment, describing it as an indictment on the anti-corruption stance of government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Transparency International (Nigeria) described the acquittal as a sad day for the nation’s anti-corruption war, adding that the development was a calculated attempt to downplay the anti-corruption fight in the country.
Head of the Nigerian chapter of the organisation, Auwal Musa-Rafsanjani, in a statement, said the judgment indicated that Nigeria’s corrupt elite were united and bent on circumventing the system.
Musa-Rafsanjani added that “I think Nigerians are sad that this has happened. It just goes to show that Nigeria’s corrupt elite are united.”
In a similar vein, CACOL termed the judgment as compromising and a political one by the Federal Government for the purpose of settling its intra-party wrangling and discontent.
It lamented that the judiciary was complicit in how it handled corruption cases, adding that this would continue to render useless, the anti-corruption drive of the administration.
“We view the judgment as a political one achieved by the so-called anti-corruption-focused APC-led Federal Government for the purpose of settling its intra-party wrangling and discontent.
“The ruling is a big indictment on the government’s anti-corruption drive, given the fact that Saraki’s case had been of the most prominent and most vigorously pursued one out of the several corruption cases being prosecuted by the Federal Government,” CACOL said in its statement.
Similarly, SERAP, in a statement by its spokesperson, Timothy Adewale, said the acquittal weakened the notion that high-ranking public office-holders accused of corruption would be held accountable.
SERAP, therefore, urged Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to pursue the establishment of a United Nations (UN)-backed International Commission Against Corruption and Impunity, to assist the criminal justice system to effectively and efficiently investigate and prosecute high-level corruption cases in the country.
“Further, to end a culture of corruption and impunity of perpetrators, we urge the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, to urgently take over the prosecution of the corruption case against Saraki by ensuring that the CCT decision is urgently appealed and that the case is diligently prosecuted within the limits of the rule of law,” the statement read.
“The outcome of the Saraki’s case sends a damaging message that suspected corrupt leaders can get away with their crimes while keeping their stolen assets. Many would-be corrupt leaders may now see engaging in acts of corruption a risk worth taking,” the statement added.
The Movement for Genuine Change (MGC), reacting to the development, said the acquittal judgment passed on Saraki was wrong, adding that the All Progressives Congress (APC) had killed its anti-corruption campaign.
The group, led by the Director, Strategy and Communication, Alhaji Tunde Mohammed, described the judgment as kangaroo and subversion of justice.
“Going through the grounds for the dismissal of the matter by the tribunal, we are forced to reach the conclusion that the ruling is a manifestation of a mind set to deny justice to the people of Nigeria.
“This is more so because we believed that the Federal Government has unassailable facts before drawing the 18-count charge. The charges do not disclose that there would be a no-case in the allegations,” the group added.
Meanwhile, former Senate deputy chief whip, Senator Ayoola Hosea Agboola and some stakeholders of the APC in Kwara South senatorial district commended the judgment, describing it as a victory for democracy and an opportunity for the Federal Government to establish synergy in the fight against corruption in the country.
Agboola, in a statement, said the judgment further cemented Nigeria’s political stability and showed that the country was on its path to political maturity.
He then urged the National Assembly and the executive to see the development as a reason to end any strife in the interest of good governance.
Similarly, APC, Kwara South, at a rally in Ajase Ipo, in Irepodun Local Government Area of the state, led by Alhaji Jimoh Balogun, said the victory of Saraki at the tribunal should be a platform for the Federal Government to ensure better working relationship with the National Assembly.
“This is the time for President Buhari to bring everyone on board and collectively tackle corruption.
“There’s no more time for political crisis. We want food on our table and end to recession. War against corruption cannot be fought by persecution, vendetta or bickering. Senator Saraki is a man of peace and integrity with zero tolerance for corruption,” he said.
Human rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome, also lauded the acquittal of Saraki, saying it was a victory for the rule of law.