By Dipo Awojobi – The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, on has said that the questionable property purportedly owned by him in the Panama Report leak, belonged to his spouse family, saying the law does not require him to include that in his asset declaration.
“It is public knowledge that Mrs. Saraki comes from a family of independent means and wealth with numerous and varied assets acquired over decades in family estates and investments,” the Saraki said in a statement on Monday.
In a reaction to the claim contained in the Panama-based offshore provider, Mossack Fonseca, and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that he failed to declare assets belonging to Toyin in secret offshore territories, Saraki said he had in his different assets declarations included properties owned individually by himself and his wife.
In a statement signed by his media aide, Yusuph Olaniyonu, Saraki said: “The property in question forms part of Saraki’s wife’s family asset. It is public knowledge that Mrs. Saraki comes from a family of independent means and wealth with numerous and varied assets acquired over decades in family estates and investments.
“Furthermore, the law only requires a public officer to declare both his own assets and those held by his spouse and his children under 18 years of age. The law does not require a public officer to declare assets held by the spouse’s family.
“It is not expected by the law that a public officer should declare such assets held in the spouse’s family estate.
Indeed, the Code of Conduct form does not make provision for declaration of spouse’s family assets.”
According to the report published by online media, The First, Girol Properties Limited, was registered on August 25, 2004, a year after Saraki became governor of Kwara State.
It was registered in the British Virgin Island. Company documents showed that Mrs. Saraki owns 25,000 numbers of shares with a par value of $1 each and was appointed the first and only director of the company.
It however remains unclear what businesses Mrs. Saraki transacted with the company.
Mrs. Saraki, however, in a letter to ICIJ, through her lawyers, denied ever owning any shareholding in Girol Properties.
The second company, Sandon Development Limited, was registered in Seychelles Island on January 12, 2011 and has Mrs. Saraki and one Babatunde Morakinyo, a long-term personal aide and friend of Mr. Saraki, of 11. Okeme Street, Lagos, as shareholders.
While incorporating that company, documents showed Mrs. Saraki bought a curious service from Mossack Fonseca & Co, the Panamanian firm that helped her to register the firm.
Perhaps to avoid being identified as the beneficial owner of Sandon, the Senate President’s wife asked Fonsecca to provide nominee directors for the company.
Nominee directors are sometimes used in tax havens to conceal real owners of companies and assets.
She then made an undertaking indemnifying the Panamanian company “in respect of all claims, demands, actions, suits, proceedings, costs and expenses whatsoever as may be incurred or become payable by you in respect of or arising out of any member or employee or associate of your company or associated companies holding any ofﬁce, directorship or shareholdings in the company or by reason of or in consequence of any act or decision made by any such person or company in connection with the management and/or administration of the said company”.