Trial of Saraki, Ekweremadu, others over alleged forgery begins today
Again, Senate says action violates separation of powers
Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, will be arraigned before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory today on charges of criminal conspiracy and forgery of the upper legislative chamber’s Standing Rules, 2015.
Saraki and Ekweremadu are being charged along with two others, a former Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa and his deputy, Mr. Benedict Efeturi.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, reiterated in a statement yesterday that the development negated the principle of separation of powers and was capable of endangering the nation’s democracy.
The charges were filed through the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation. This means that Saraki, who is also on trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), over alleged false assets declaration and corruption, will appear, yet again, before another court for trial.
In the affidavit filed on June 10, 2016, the Investigative Police Officer (IPO) swore that the investigation into the case had been concluded.The charges 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 among 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.”
Maikasuwa was said to be the Clerk of the National Assembly (CNA) when the alleged offence was committed.Some lawmakers, on behalf of the Senate Unity Forum (SUF), petitioned the police, alleging forgery of the Senate Standing Rules 2015 that produced Saraki and his deputy, Ekweremadu, following election of principal officers for the chamber.
Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, therefore, directed the police to investigate the petition.The police had invited former Senate President, David Mark, and Ekweremadu for questioning, but both were reported to have declined honouring the invitation.
They were first summoned by the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department in July 2015, to answer questions over their roles in the alleged forgery.
Abdullahi said after reading the planned charges of forgery and conspiracy against Saraki, Ekweremadu and others and reviewing the circumstances leading to the filing of same, “we are compelled to alert the good people of Nigeria and the international community that our democracy is in danger and that the attempt by the executive to muzzle the legislature and criminalise legislative processes to cause leadership change in the National Assembly… will be a return to the era of impunity and lack of respect for due process, which we all fought to abolish.”
Pleading with President Muhammadu Buhari to call Malami, to order, Abdullahi said: “The Senate voted freely to elect its leadership into office and continuing attempts to change that leadership through the wanton abuse of the judicial processes cannot stand in the eyes of the world.
“This obviously is a dangerous case of violation of the independence of the legislature, undue and unnecessary interference in the internal affairs of the Senate and blatant abuse of the judicial process. The matter now being criminalised was brought to the plenary of the Senate in session, over a year ago. And because it had no support, it was overruled and roundly defeated in chambers. To now take a matter that was resolved on the floor of the Senate to the police and then make it form the subject of a criminal prosecution of freely elected legislators beats all imagination of free thinking men all over the world.”