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Panama Papers Revelation: I’ve Fully Complied With Law On Asset Declaration ­– Saraki

Source: thewillnigeria.com
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SAN FRANCISCO, April 04, (THEWILL) – Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki today said he has fully complied with the provisions of the law on declaration of assets by public officers.

In a reaction to the claim contained in the Panama-based offshore provider, Mossack Fonseca and shared by the International Consortium of Investigation Journalists (ICIJ) that he failed to declare assets belonging to his wife, Mrs Toyin Saraki, in secret offshore territories, Saraki said he has in his different asset declarations included properties owned individually by himself and his wife.

The property in question forms part of Dr Saraki’s wife’s family asset. It is public knowledge that Mrs. Saraki comes from a family of independent means and wealth with numerous and varied assets acquired over decades in family estates and investments.

In a written response to ICIJ, the Senate President insisted, through his UK lawyers, that he “declared his assets properly in accordance with the relevant legislation,” and that the charges against him “are both unfounded and politically motivated.”

In their separate letters, the couple threatened to sue should the ICIJ and its partners proceed to publish information about the undeclared offshore assets, with Mrs Saraki saying any publication concerning her private financial information infringes on her privacy and breaches the Data Protection Act 1998.

“Furthermore, the law only requires a public officer to declare both his own assets and those held by his spouse and his children under 18 years of age. The law does not require a public officer to declare assets held by the spouse’s family,” he said.

“It is not expected by the law that a public officer should declare such assets held in the spouse’s family estate. Indeed, the Code of Conduct form does not make provision for declaration of spouse’s family assets.”

Saraki had been accused of failing to declare at least four assets belonging to the family, all tucked away in secret offshore territories.

Under the code of conduct law, a public office holder is required to declare his own assets, those of his wife as well as assets in the names of his children below the age of 18.

Last September the Code of Conduct Bureau slammed a 13-count charge of alleged false declaration of assets on Mr. Saraki, accusing the Senate President, among other things, of failure to declare his assets in full.

He is being tried by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, a special court that tries public officers for any contravention of the Code of Conduct for Nigerian public officers as spelt out in the Fifth Schedule of the Nigerian constitution.

The hidden assets allegedly owned by the Saraki includes Girol Properties Ltd, registered on August 25, 2004 (a year after Mrs. Saraki's husband became governor of Nigeria's north-central state of Kwara) in the British Virgin Island (BVI);

Sandon Development Limited, registered in Seychelles Island on January 12, 2011 and has Mrs. Saraki and one Babatunde Morakinyo, (a long-term personal aide and friend of Mr. Saraki) of 11 Okeme Street, Lagos, as shareholders; and

Landfield International Developments Ltd., a company registered in the British Virgin Islands on April 8, 2014. It's registration number is 1819394 while its registered office is 1 Akara Blog., 24 De Castro Street, Wickhams Cay 1, Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Island.

In July 28, 2015, Mrs Toyin Saraki, who was the first lady of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011, was interrogated by Nigeria's anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in relation to awards of contracts during her husband's tenure as governor.

The EFCC has not taken further actions since her interrogation, and nothing has been heard of the case since then.

Story by David Oputah