N21bn Forgery Scam: Court Sets Aside Saraki's Arrest Warrant

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A temporary respite was on Wednesday secured by embattled former governor of Kwara state and now a senator, representing the Kwara Central Senatorial District at the National Assembly, Senator Bukola Saraki, who had been in a cat and mouse game with the Nigeria Police Force over an alleged conspiracy, forgery and stealing of the sum of N21 billion belonging to Joy Petroleum Ltd.

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, where Saraki had sought refuge to evade arrest following his refusal to honour police invitation to assist in the investigation of the crime, set aside an earlier order issued by another Federal High Court in the Lagos Division which declared the embattled senator wanted as well as the warrant of arrest issued by the same court.

In setting aside the warrant of arrest and the order declaring Bukola Saraki wanted, Justice Gladys Olotu observed that the steps taken by the police had overeached the suit instituted by the senator which was intended to question his invitation by the police without any specific allegation made against him.

The court insisted that the right of the former governor to approach the court is unfettered and noted that it is only the court that can decide whether or not, the police can be restrained from arresting him or not. Such decision, the court held, does not lie with the police to make.

This ruling was sequel to the submission of Mr. Femi Falana, representing the Inspector General of Police in the matter, to the effect that the police resorted to steps taken in the matter following intelligence reports which indicated that the former governor was about to flee from the country in a similar manner as a former governor who ran away from the country to evade justice only to end up in UK where he was tried and sentenced to 13 years imprisonment.

Falana made the submission following arguments by Saraki’s lawyer, Mr. Lawal Rabana, a senior advocate of Nigeria, who described the steps taken by the police in declaring his client wanted as well as securing a warrant of arrest against him from another court, while the instant case was pending, as an act calculated to undermine the authority of the court.

The court agreed with Saraki’s lawyer and rejected Falana’s contention that it is an abuse of court process to seek an adjournment as was done by Saraki’s lawyer at the last adjourned date for the purpose of frustrating the police from carrying out its constitutional duties.

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The court condemned the issuance of a warrant for the arrest the former governor and declaring him wanted after the police had submitted to the jurisdiction of the court and noted that such steps were intended to foist a fait accompli on the court.

Albeit, this temporary respite achieved little for the former governor as he and his wife have since responded to the invitations extended to them by the police.

According to Mr. Falana, “the plaintiff had since reported at the Force Headquarters where he was grilled over the crime and had written statements. His wife had also reported and both were accorded with respect befitting a former governor and serving senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.

The court subsequently struck out the suit instituted by Saraki, same having been withdrawn by his lawyer since it has been overtaken by events.

This situation gives room for the police to properly charge the embattled senator to court if found culpable in the alleged crime.

—Nnamdi Felix / Abuja