An attempt by the leadership of the Senate to persuade the members of the Senate Unity Forum to withdraw their suit of alleged forgery of Senate rule in order to frustrate the scheduled arraignment of the Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, at a Federal Capital Territory High Court, failed on Wednesday during a closed session that lasted for about two hours.
According to our source who pleaded anonymity he state that the leadership had appealed to the SUF to withdraw the case by the litigants, who are members of the forum, however, the appeal was turned down on the grounds that the case was now being handled by the Federal Government.
It would be recalled that the Senate Peace and Reconciliation Committee, led by Senator James Manager, had, in its report, recommended among others, the withdrawal of the suit, the recomposition of the committees and the disbandment of groups within the Senate, in a bid to assuage aggrieved members of the upper chambers.
One of the members of the SUF, who took the case to court, said the matter was now beyond them as the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, had taken over the case, adding that when they were ready for peace, Saraki shunned them and the APC leadership.
The source added, “The senators, who went to court, were of the opinion that the case had attained another dimension because it was the Federal Government that is now prosecuting those who allegedly produced the fake document.”
The panel recommending for the restructuring of the committees so that the aggrieved senators would be pacified, had accused Saraki of unduly favouring some members in appointments to juicy committees, while neglecting some others.
On June 10, the Federal Government preferred two counts of criminal conspiracy and forgery of the Standing Rules of the Senate, used for the leadership election of the presiding officers of the Senate in June, 2015, against him (Saraki), Ekweremadu and two others.
The two other co-accused persons are a former Clerk to the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa, and his then deputy, Benedict Efeturi.
The Federal Government stated that the offence of criminal conspiracy was punishable under Section 97 (1) of the Penal Code Act; and offence of forgery with “fraudulent intent” was punishable under Section 364 of the same law.
Justice Yusuf Halilu of the FCT High Court in Jabi, Abuja, in whose court the accused persons were charged, had, on Tuesday, ordered that the charges preferred against them be pasted to the notice board of the National Assembly.
The judge fixed Monday (June 27) for the arraignment of the four accused persons.
But in his fresh motion, Saraki challenged the competence of the charges, which he said disclosed no prima facie case against him.
He also contested the mode of service by pasting of the court summons alongside the charges to the notice board of the National Assembly on Tuesday, asking the court to set aside the service for being invalid.
Saraki, in the application, which his lawyer, Mr. Ahmed Raji (SAN), filed on Wednesday, said compelling him to face the fresh forgery charges alongside his ongoing trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal would jeopardise his right to fair hearing.
He augured through an affidavit which partly read, “The said Petition does not mention the name of the 3rd Defendant or anybody at all suspected to have participated in the alleged forgery, but only implores the Police to cause an investigation to be conducted on the matter.
“The proof of evidence is not supported with either the Old Standing Rules or the allegedly forged Standing Rules.
“The Statements of the 1st & 2nd Defendants neither state that the purported Standing Rules was forged nor does it name the 3rd Defendant or any person at all as part of those who carried out the alleged forgery.
“Listed as witnesses to be called by the Prosecution are: Senator Suleiman Othman Hunkuyi, Senator Ita Enang, Senator Solomon Ewuga, Dr. Ogozy Nma, Adem J, D.I.G Dan’ Azumi J. Dama, ACP David Igbodo, Senator Ahmed L. Lawan, Senator Abdullahi A. Gumel, Senator Kabiru Garba Marafa, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, Senator Robert Borofice, Senator Abu Ibrahim, Senator Ojudu Babafemi.
“The aforementioned persons all volunteered statements to the Police, except D.I.G Dan’ Azumi J. Dama and ACP David Igbodo, who neither volunteered any statement nor presented any report of investigation.
“The statements of all the intended witnesses neither mentioned the 3rd Defendant nor any other name at all as participants in the alleged forgery.”
However, a human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), said that there was nothing wrong in preferring the fresh forgery charges against Saraki and other co-defendants, adding that the Senate also lacked the power to summon the AGF, Malami, over the case.