by Kemi Busari,
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has said he did not violate any Nigerian law in establishing Tenia Limited, a company operating in tax havens.
The Senate President in a statement by his Special Adviser (Media and Publicity), Yusuf Olaniyonu, said the company operated ‘no bank account ‘ and ‘had been a dormant entity’ since creation.
He said the company has never been used for any cash transaction, had no asset, hence, he (Saraki) cannot be held for violating any law.
Mr. Saraki was responding to a PREMIUM TIMES report which showed how he violated the code of conduct for officials in the registration and operation of Tenia Limited.
The report followed a leaked data obtained by German newspaper, Suddeutsche Zeitung, and International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) now dubbed Paradise Papers.
Nigeria’s code of conduct mandates a public officer to complete the assets declaration form, have it sworn-to before a High Court Judge and return to the code of conduct bureau on a date not exceeding 30 days of the receipt of the form.
However, data from the Paradise papers showed that Mr. Saraki set up Tenia Limited in the Cayman Islands —a notorious tax haven in the Caribbean— in 2001, and ran it until at least 2015 as director and sole shareholder.
He failed to list the firm in his asset declaration filings when he was elected governor of Kwara in 2003, in defiance of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.
He also didn’t list the company when he was re-elected governor in 2007 and when he was elected senator in 2011, PREMIUM TIMES report observed.
In a swift reaction on Monday, the Senate President claimed that he did nothing illegal in establishing the company but did not claim that he declared Tenia Limited in his assets declaration form.
The statement reads: “Once again, the issue of offshore company registration, which was first raised in 2016 is being revived and thrown to the public space. As a responsible public officer, Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, will continue to explain his position. We know this is the period of politics when mudslinging is a common trick in the game.
“However, we will like to make it known that Dr. Saraki violated no law and did nothing illegal in the course of registering the company under reference, Tenia Limited, and afterwards.
“As we had earlier explained when the issue was first brought into public view, the company in question, Tenia Limited, was incorporated in 2001, long before Dr. Saraki ventured into politics and was elected into public office.
“The company from incorporation to date had never been used for any transaction. It held no asset. It had no bank account to the best of the knowledge of Dr. Saraki. Even if it did, the Senate President was not a signatory to such account. This is just a paper company and therefore could not have been used to hide any asset.”
Mr. Olaniyonu then suggested that Mr. Saraki forgot about the existence of the company, a possible reason he did not declare it in his assets form as required by law.
“The company, unlike the other ones investigated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), had been a dormant entity from creation such that when in late 2015, its existence was raised with the Senate President, he could not readily recollect that there was such a company linked to him,” he said.
“He then immediately directed that the company be struck off.
“For the umpteenth time, we will reiterate the fact that the Senate President has fully complied with the law on assets declaration, even as it concerns the company under reference.”
The leaked 1.4 terabyte data, has for up to a year, been under review by 380 journalists from 96 media organisations in 67 countries which cover a period of nearly 70 years, from 1950 to 2016.
PREMIUM TIMES is the only Nigerian media organisation involved in the investigation.