Trial of Senate President, Bukola Saraki, his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, immediate past Clerk to the National Assembly, CNA, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa and former Clerk of the Senate, Mr. Ben Efeturi over alleged forgery of the senate standing rule 2015 kicks off today.
With the formal commencement of trial, our correspondent gathered that government appears to have concluded plans to use the acting Clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori to effect court services on Saraki.
It was gathered that Saraki planned not to attend the Federal High Court trial session today, on the excuse that he was not served the court summons. But it was learnt that the decision to have Omolori receive the court papers on behalf of Saraki was to preempt the action of the Senate President not to be in court.
The plan was that in the event that he (Saraki) failed to show up in court for the reason adduced earlier, the court would order his immediate arrest wherever he may be found. Saraki has been in Lagos since Thursday evening where he had attended the retreat organised by the constitution review committee of the senate.
All efforts to serve the court summons on him proved abortive as at yesterday, hence the decision to use the acting Clerk to effect the service.
As at press time yesterday, it was gathered that Saraki was still on his way back from Lagos to Abuja. It was also gathered that government was able to easily secure the cooperation of Omolori to receive the court services on behalf of Saraki following the not-too-good relationship between the duo. Saraki vehemently opposed the appointment of Omolori, instead, supporting the candidacy of Mr. Efeturi, the Deputy Clerk to the National Assembly and immediate past Clerk of the senate The office of the Attorney General of the Federation, had last week in charge No CR/219/16, slammed a two-count charge of “criminal conspiracy, contrary to Section 97 of the Penal Code Law” and “Forgery contrary to 364 of the Penal Code Law” against Saraki and the four others for allegedly forging the Senate Standing Orders used for the inauguration of the 8th Senate on June 9, last year and later adopted as Senate Standing Orders 2015.
The decision to drag the accused to court was based on the report of the investigation carried out on a petition forwarded to police to that effect by Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi (APC, Kaduna North) on behalf of other senators of the Senate Unity Forum, SUF.
The charge sheet dated 10th June 2016 was signed by D.E Kaswe Esq., Principal State Counsel on behalf of the Attorney General of the Federation and backed by an Affidavit of Completion of Investigation deposed to at the Federal High Court Registry, Abuja on the same date by Okara Neji Jonah, a Litigation Officer at the Federal Ministry of Justice, Abuja. Okara maintained that “the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, FCIID, has concluded the investigation of the case and has forwarded the file to the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation for prosecution.”
Listed as witnesses in the suit, which has been assigned to Hon. Justice Yusuf Haliru are, Senators Hunkuyi, Ahmed Lawan, Abdullahi Gumel, Kabiru Marafa, Robert Boroffice, Gbenga Ashafa and Abu Ibrahim, all members of SUF, the group of Senators that pushed unsuccessfully for the election of Senator Lawan as the Senate President. Other witnesses include former Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, currently Senior Special Assistant, SSA, to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang; Deputy Inspector-General of Police, DIG, in charge of FCIID, Dan’Azumi Doma, and Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu.
The two count charge 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.”
Meanwhile, All Progressives Congress, APC, said it will conduct an investigation into the alleged case of forgery. National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, made this known to newsmen in Abuja yesterday. He said the investigation would ascertain the truth in the allegation. “At this stage, I don’t think there is anything to say. In fact everything is still a guess work. “Nobody has said yes or they have been arrested or asked to make statement or whatever.
As a party, we do not think it is the business of the party to interfere in judicial matters of that nature. “We will just wait and see as we are also making investigations to be sure what the situation is,” Odigie-Oyegun said. On allegation that the party leadership wanted the Senate leadership removed for lack of cordial relationship with the executive, the Chairman said: “No, no, no; this is the kind of problem that the press always cause.
“You are now taking the sensational aspect. You are forgetting the nitty-gritty. Did what they say really happen? That is what you should look at.
“Take the two copies (the new copy and the old copy) of the Senate rules and see if there is a difference.
If there is a difference, at what formal meeting was it approved and adopted? “You should start from this so that when you are commenting it would not be sensation, it would be based on fact and reality. “You see, we have to change the way we do things in this country; we have to start telling people what is right and what is wrong and to choose what is right as against what is wrong.