- Insists he is innocent
In spite of a clean bill of health issued to Senate President Bukola Saraki by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Abubakar Malami, over the April 5, 2018 bank robberies in Offa, Kwara State, the police Thursday interrogated the Senate president in his office at the National Assembly, Abuja.
The detectives from the Force Intelligence Response Team (FIRT) of Nigeria Police arrived the National Assembly premises about 1.40p.m. and made straight for the fourth floor office of the Senate president, where they engaged him over the robbery incidents.
Malami had in a legal opinion, signed on his behalf by the Director Public Prosecution (DPP), Mr. Mohammed E.U., to the police, dated June 22, 2018, stated that there was no concrete evidence to link Saraki and Kwara State Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed to the robbery incidents.
According to him, police need to firm up their investigation and carefully identify all critical areas before identifying the Senate president as a suspect in the incident.
Perhaps following the AGF’s advice for further investigation to mobilise evidence to nail him, the police were at the National Assembly Thursday to question Saraki, who had pleaded fear for his personal safety in declining police invitation to him to report at its Guzape, Abuja station on Tuesday.
The meeting lasted for about two hours with the detectives reportedly showing Saraki copies of the statements made by some of the suspects arrested in connection with the robbery incidents.
At a point, Saraki was reportedly asked by the detectives about 200 cars he distributed to political associates and hangers on, including some of the suspects in Ilorin last December.
The Senate president was said to have replied that as a politician he meets with hundreds of party supporters on daily basis but can’t know everybody by name.
Saraki’s meeting with the detectives was confirmed by his media adviser, Alhaji Yusuph Olaniyonu, but was not forthcoming about details of the meeting.
The Special Assistant to the Senate President on New Media, Mr. Olu Onemola, also confirmed the meeting on his Twitter page Thursday.
He had tweeted: “Further to the invitation to the Senate president by the police on July 23 and his written response to them on July 24 on why he couldn’t see them that day, today about 1.40p.m., Saraki met with a team of investigators on the Offa robbery case in his office.”
He added: “Saraki used the opportunity to reiterate the fact that he has nothing to do with the robbery incident of April 5, 2018 or any other criminal activity.”
Saraki had in an acknowledgement to the invitation letter by the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mr. Ibrahim Idris, asking him to report at Guzape Police Station in Abuja last Tuesday, expressed his inability to honour the invitation.
While acknowledging the IG’s letter with ref CR: 3000/IGPSEC/ABJ/VOL.,131/707, dated 23rd of July 2018, Saraki had stated: “For the record, I should mention that I received your letter at 8:30p.m. on Monday, July 23, inviting me for the next day at 8a.m. The two lawyers whose advice I needed were in Calabar and Lagos and had to travel to Abuja today.”
He said further: “As you are aware, the Deputy President of the Senate was unable to leave his residence this morning to preside over the Senate having been prevented from doing so by security agents. If he had been able to preside over the Senate, I would have honoured your invitation. The absence of both presiding officers would have voided the sitting of the Senate. This would have been damaging to national interest, particularly in the light of very important legislative matters that needed to be addressed in view of the imminent recess of the National Assembly. These included consideration of the Electoral Bill, which was incidentally passed today.”
Saraki also in the letter alluded to the initial intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari in the matter, saying: “You will recall that Mr. President had earlier directed as a courtesy to this office, that in the event of any request for further information from me, you should either send your personnel to my office or obtain a written response from me.”
While expressing concern about his safety, the Senate president told the IG: “Following the incident of being harassed and threatened at my residence by the police early this morning, I am deeply concerned over my physical security. I request you, therefore, to please assign your personnel who need information on this matter, to meet me in my office, immediately after plenary today, or tomorrow or any other day at your convenience.”
Idris had on Monday invited Saraki to appear before the Police Special Anti-Robbery Unit in Guzape Police Station to answer questions over his alleged involvement in the Offa robbery incidents.
Saraki had stated in an earlier response on Monday that the invitation to him by the police to report to a station in Guzape over the Offa robbery investigation was “a mere afterthought, which is designed to achieve political purpose”.
He had stated then that he had it on good authority that the police had already decided on the suspects to arraign in court in Ilorin, Kwara State on Wednesday based on the advice of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Mohammed U.E., and that the turn around to invite him was a ploy aimed at scoring cheap political points.
But the police Thursday denied reports that the AGF had in his legal advice to it exonerated the Senate president.
The Force Public Relations Officer (PRO), Jimoh Moshood, in a statement said contrary to Saraki’s claim, the DPP did not exonerate him but only advised that further investigation be carried out.
According to the statement, “It is incumbent on the Force to educate the writer of the story that the DPP of the Federation in the legal advice did not restrain or restrict the Force from investigating further, the indictments against the Senate President, Saraki, and the Governor of Kwara State, Abdulfatah Ahmed, by the principal suspects arrested in connection with the Offa bank robbery of April 5, 2018.
“The DPP’s advice did not exonerate the Senate president; it only called for further investigations into the matter.”
The police noted that in the course of further investigations into the case, a letter of invitation dated July 23, 2018 was sent to the Senate president to appear on July 24, 2018 at 8a.m. before the Investigation Team at Intelligence Response Team office, Guzape Junction, Abuja.
Re-affirming that the Senate President had case to answer by virtue of the alleged statements he submitted earlier to the investigation team, the police said it became clear that the police required further clarifications from Saraki.
The police maintained that investigation is still ongoing on the Offa bank robberies over the alleged indictment of the Senate President, from the alleged confessions of some of the arrested principal suspects.