Nigerian senate leader faces growing calls to quit
Claims against Bukola Saraki have stirred widespread anger, calls for impeachment.
LAGOS, Nigeria (AA) - Calls for the leader of Nigeria’s Senate to step down grew Wednesday as his corruption hearing entered its second day.
Bukola Saraki, president of the upper house of the National Assembly, faces a 13-count indictment including claims of false asset declarations, illegal operation of foreign accounts and diversion of public funds to his private accounts.
“His continued stay in office while answering criminal charges is untenable,” Debo Adeniran, executive chairman of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, told Anadolu Agency. “It ridicules not just the parliament that he chairs but also shows Nigeria in bad light. We are urging him to stand down.”
He added: “Should he refuse to resign, the Senate must wield the big stick by commencing his impeachment process immediately.”
Dipo Awojide, a prominent public affairs commentator, echoed the demand. “A Senate president is facing corruption trial and he hasn't resigned?” he said. “[It] can only happen in a country like Nigeria. An individual should not drag an institution through mess. If this were a serious Senate, Saraki would have been impeached by now.”
Another prominent transparency coalition, SERAP, also called for Saraki’s resignation “on moral grounds” and to save the image of the assembly.
On Twitter, users cited claims about financial irregularities committed while Saraki was the governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.
Public anger has been fuelled by revelations in the Panama Papers leak that Saraki's wife purchased properties through the British Virgin Islands tax haven. Saraki has claimed he did not disclose the properties as required by Nigerian law because they belonged to his wife’s family - a claim his wife’s attorneys have denied.
On Wednesday, a government witness told the tribunal that Saraki continued to receive his governor’s salary four years after leaving office. The witness also tendered bank documents purportedly showing how Saraki laundered public funds to his personal accounts abroad.
Saraki has not reacted to calls for his resignation although there are claims that lawmakers have urged him to quit to stave off possible impeachment.
The code of conduct tribunal trying the case has adjourned until April 18.