There is a saying from ancient Greece attributed to an Athenian playwright Euripides that goes like this, ‘Those who the gods want to destroy, they first make mad’. I quote this line to explain the story of our current Senate President Olubukola Saraki.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.
A man whose hands are staggeringly dirty and who decided to employ Machiavellian precepts to seize the senate president position, which move has now exposed him to massive scrutiny and has led to his being charged before the Code of Conduct Tribunal. Nigeria is now faced with a situation where the 3rd highest position in the land is held by a man being prosecuted by the same state and who is now perceived on a global level as an offshore asset user and a tax avoider.
For Mr. Saraki, the blows just keep coming. He has spent the last six months since his dramatic takeover of the Nigerian senate, rushing from court room to court room with his retinue of over 80 lawyers and 50 senators.
He was charged at the Code of Conduct Tribunal and has taken a number of applications all the way through the judicial system from the Federal High Court to the Appeals court to the Supreme Court. His wife has had a session with the EFCC to which she was followed by a number of senators who purportedly work for Nigeria but had space off their busy schedules to still go provide moral support for her. All the above had to do with the assets declarations filed by the Senate president prior to ascension of office as a governor of Kwara State and subsequent to leaving office. Now, he is in even bigger trouble.
A whistleblower provided detailed information on the faces behind a vast number of offshore companies set up by a Panama based international law firm called ‘Mossack Fonseca’. Mossack Fonseca basically opens offshore corporate firms for clients who require these vehicles for one of three reasons: to hide acquisitions and assets; to reduce or avoid tax payment (which is reasonable to be honest); or for purely legal corporate reasons like holding offshore assets.
In Mr. Saraki’s case, a huge number of theses companies were used for the first two reasons, which is why he finds himself now having to defend his or, more appropriately, his wife’s reasons for using these mechanisms and his decision not to report it in his asset declaration.
Mr. Saraki’s wife, Toyin Saraki, features prominently in the list of names that have come out of the leak. She is accused of having set up a number of offshore companies to hide her ownership of houses in the United Kingdom, a fact which was not declared by her husband in any of his asset declaration documents till date. Now, it’s a well-known fact in Nigeria that the easiest way for a corrupt official to hide assets is to have such held by family members or trusted associates; so there is really no way that anyone will believe that the assets are not linked to Mr. Saraki.
One of the assets held by an offshore company set up by Mrs. Toyin Saraki is a house located on Whittaker Street in Belgravia in London. A cursory search online shows the value of two other properties on this street as being £7m and £6.3m, so we can safely assume a conservative value of about £6m for the Saraki owned property, which translates to about N2.7billion. How in heavens name can a public official acquire a property worth N2.7billion, hide the purchase through an intricate network of global transactions and wants us to believe that he is not hiding it from the government and any possible prosecution? N2.7billion! The average Nigerian earns N18,000 in minimum wage, N216,000 per annum and N8.64million over a 40 year lifetime! So a politician who has a N2.7billion property is certainly not a normal Nigerian.
In all this, Mr. Saraki is the single biggest reason why his enemies have been able to place a noose of corruption around his neck and are about to hang him with it. Every step of the way, he has behaved egregiously, hiding assets or under-declaring assets and behaving in ways that taint the position he holds, considering that if anything happened to both the President and Vice President of Nigeria, he would be the next in line to rule Nigeria. Which is why I think it’s time for him to retreat from the political stage as the Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson just did. Let’s end this ridiculous political theatre now!
This article was written by Femi Akinfolarin, a lawyer from Lagos.The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.