|Senate Chamber Abuja|
The Nigerian Senate has summoned the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to explain the basis for the forgery charges pressed against the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu.
The resolution to summon Mr. Malami followed a motion by Dino Melaye who said on Tuesday that “there is impending threat to democracy” and that the executive arm of government plans to enthrone “one man rule”.
Thia call came on board after Federal Capital Territory High Court officially served the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu with charges of criminal conspiracy and forgery. Mr. Saraki and Mr. Ekweremadu are accused of forging the Senate Standing Rules 2015. The charges were pasted on the notice boards of the two presiding officers of the Senate at the National Assembly on Tuesday by a court bailiff.
The federal government is accusing Messrs. Saraki and Ekweremadu as well as a former clerk to the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa, and his deputy, Benedict Efeturi, of forging the Senate Rules used for the election of the presiding officers June 9, last year.
On Sunday, the Senate, in a statement through its spokesperson, Aliyu Sabi, said the Buhari administration was bent on forcing a leadership change in the Senate by, first, “muzzling the legislature and criminalizing legislative processes”.
Dino Melaye on Tuesday, in his presentation, when he alleged that the forgery suit amounted to “grand design to silence” the National Assembly by the Buhari Administration and “enthrone one man rule”.
He warned of “impending danger to democracy”, noting alleged “defiant decision” of Mr. Malami in disregard of Federal High Court ruling which he said had upheld the right of the Senate to regulate its internal affairs.
He said all the Senators were given the Standing Rules used for the June 9, 2015 election two days earlier and on June 10, 2015, the Senate passed votes and proceedings of the previous day.
By passing the votes and proceedings, Mr. Melaye said that meant the standing rules had been endorsed by the senators as valid and authentic.
Albert Bassey (PDP-Akwa Ibom) said “power comes from God. The emergence of Bukola Saraki is a reflection of the reasoning of the majority. It’s time to rise in defence of democracy.”
Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP-Delta State) said he was not sent to legislate by fear or be controlled by Executive. We never did that, adding that “there is an attempt to strangulate the legislature”.
“Enough is enough,” said Chukwuka Utazi (PDP-Enugu State). “Why should the internal affairs of the senate be worry of somebody outside?”
Isa Misau (APC-Bauchi Central) queried the process of the police investigation and the eventual prosecution.
Mr. Misau, a retired police officer, said the police had to invite both complainant and those against whom complaint is made before approaching court.
“I am sacred for Nigeria and the president. AGF is being sponsored by other group somewhere,” he said. “There’s is calculated attempt to derail this democracy. The interference we are getting is to bring down image of the president. Many things are happening. We must on the stand on the path of justice and truth.”
Kabir Gobir (Sokoto East) also said, “I totally and 100 per cent support this motion”.
He continued, “We should be allowed to choose our own leaders. If anybody is against what we did on June 9, that’s his own problem. The following day we approved the votes and proceeding which means we agreed with what we did.
In its resolutions, the Senate summoned Mr. Malami to justify the court action against its leaders, and if his action does not amount to gross abuse of office.
It also resolved that its Standing Rules was not fake or forged.
In his remarks after the resolutions were passed, Mr. Ekweremadu said, “I won’t say much because I am also involved. But let me say those who are using their offices to persecute others should remember no condition is permanent”.
Accordly to Vanguard online, Justice Yusuf Halilu of an Abuja High Court sitting in Jabi, on Tuesday, deferred the arraignment of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, on a two-count charge bordering on conspiracy and forgery, till June 27.
The order followed an oral application by the prosecuting counsel, Mr. David Kaswe, who told the court that effecting personal service of the charge on the defendants proved “very difficult”.
Kaswe said the prosecution had also deposed an affidavit to show efforts it made to furnish the defendants with copies of the charge against them. He therefore urged the court to invoke sections 123 and 124 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, and okay that the charge be served on the defendants by substituted means.
In a brief ruling, Justice Halilu acceded to the request, though he noted that the prosecution ought to have supported the application with a motion ex-parte. However, the Judge said he was minded to grant the oral request for substituted service considering the need for the defendants to be aware of the criminal charge pending against them. The case was subsequently adjourned till next week Monday for arraignment of the defendants. Other defendants in the charge marked CR/219/16, are the former Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa and his deputy, Mr. Benedict Efeturi.
The four defendants were aThe alleged bogus Standing Order was used to conduct the July 9, 2015, election through which both Saraki and Ekweremadu took over the leadership of the Senate. FG maintained that the defendants had by their conduct committed an offence punishable under Section 97 (1) and 364 of the Penal Code Act. The two-count charge which was okayed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, read: “That you, Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa, Benedict Efeturi, Dr. Olubukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu, on or about, the 9th of June, 2015, at the National Assembly complex, Three Arms Zone, Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this court, conspired amongst yourselves to forge the Senate Standing Order, 2011 (as amended) and you thereby committed the offence of conspiracy, punishable under Section 97 (1) of the Penal Code Law.
“That you, Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa, Benedict Efeturi, Dr. Olubukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu, on or about the 9th of June, 2015, at the National Assembly complex, Three Arms Zone, Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this court, with fraudulent intent, forged the Senate Standing Order 2011 (as amended), causing it to be believed as the genuine Standing Order, 2015 and circulated same for use during the inauguration of the 8th Senate of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria when you knew that the said Order was not made in compliance with the procedure for amendment of the Senate Order. You thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 364 of the Penal Code Law.” The charge was a fallout of investigation.