Nigerian Appeals Court Drops 15 Charges Against Senate Head

(Bloomberg) -- A Nigerian appeals court dropped most charges against Senate President Bukola Saraki, accused of falsely declaring his assets, but said he still had a case to answer on three counts.

The decision of the Abuja Court of Appeal to abandon 15 of the 18 charges brought against Nigeria’s third-most powerful person after President Muhammadu Buhari and his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, “vindicates the innocence of the senate president,” his spokesman, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said Tuesday in an emailed statement.

Nigerian Appeals Court Drops 15 Charges Against Senate Head

Saraki was acquitted in June by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, which dismissed the charges on the grounds that the “evidence given was discredited in cross-examination,” a court spokesman said at the time.

Charges Denied

Saraki has denied the allegations, stemming from his time as governor of the western state of Kwara from 2003 to 2011, saying they were politically motivated.

The three counts retained by the appeals court are related to alleged false declarations of property purchases and alleged failure to declare outstanding loan liabilities, according to Lagos-based Punch newspaper.

“We remain convinced about the innocence of the Senate president on the three” remaining counts, Olaniyonu said.

As Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer and most populous nation, begins to gear up for general elections in February 2019, Saraki is seen as a key player. He has expressed interest in the past in running for president, but hasn’t said if he plans to stand in the next election.

“The ruling is mostly a victory for Saraki,” said Monima Daminabo, head of Abuja-based LegisWatch consultancy on Nigerian parliamentary affairs. “Even the cases he’s being asked to answer to are lesser charges compared to those thrown out.”

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