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Nigeria: Supreme Court ends senate chief's graft trial

Nigeria: Supreme Court ends senate chief's graft trial
By Rafiu Ajakaye
LAGOS, Nigeria 
Nigeria’s Supreme Court on Friday terminated the corruption trial of the country's Senate president three years after it started, saying the government's case had been built on “hearsay evidence.” 


In 2015, the government brought charges of corruption and false assets declaration against Bukola Saraki, a ruling APC politician, in the most prominent graft case to date under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. 
Following a trial that lasted over a year, the country's code of conduct tribunal discharged and acquitted Saraki -- a decision the government appealed and partially won after the appeals court asked him to give a defense in at least three of the 18 charges. 
But a five-man panel of the Supreme Court chaired by Justice Dattijo Mohamed on Friday set aside the appeals court ruling and upheld the tribunal’s acquittal. 
The panel said the appeals court ruling asking Saraki to give a defense amounted to the “judicial equivalent of a forensic summersault” when the same court had agreed with the tribunal ruling that “the prosecution failed to call those who have direct knowledge of the facts.” 
At the start of the trial in 2015, Saraki insisted the charges were politically motivated and that he was innocent, and repeatedly sought to spurn the trial until the tribunal issued an arrest warrant for him.
He was the first incumbent parliament chief to be tried for corruption.