ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria’s Senate President Bukola Saraki, the third most powerful person in the country, pleaded not guilty before the national Code of Conduct Tribunal on Tuesday to 13 charges of falsely declaring his assets.
The tribunal, a special court that tries asset declaration misdemeanors, charged Saraki last week and issued a warrant for his arrest on Friday after he failed to appear before the court.
“I will not keep him (Saraki) here. I will let him go,” said tribunal chairman Danladi Umar, releasing the senate president on bail and adjourning the hearing until October 21.
The 13 charges mostly relate to the ownership of land held by his company Carlisle Properties Ltd between 2003 and 2011.
Other charges relate to his transfer of $3.4 million to an account outside Nigeria while he was governor of Kwara state, and sending 1.5 million pounds sterling to a European account to cover a mortgage for a London property.
Saraki’s media team has previously called the allegations “false, incorrect and untrue” and said they had been brought under outside influence.
Saraki secured the position of senate president in June after a no-contest vote, mainly with the backing of the opposition.
The move was controversial, prompting outrage from some members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) who backed other candidates and had been meeting outside of the National Assembly when the decision was made.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s March election victory owed much to his vow to fight corruption. A number of investigations have been launched since his inauguration at the end of May.
Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Tom Heneghan