The Federal Government has filed charges at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Abuja, against the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, over the alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Rules, about a year after the submission of police report to the office of the Attorney General of the Federation by the Police.
Others also charged to court in a move viewed by analysts as directly targeted at docking Saraki and Ekweremadu over the manner they emerged Senate president and deputy respectively, are the immediate past Clerk to the National Assembly, Abubakar Maikasuwa and the Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly, Benedict Efeturi.
Conspicuously missing from the list of those charged are the President of the 7th Senate, Senator David Mark and former Majority Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, who had since defected to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
In Charge No. CR/219/16 filed by the office of the Attorney General of Federation on 10th June 2016, the Federal Government of Nigeria (Complainant) slammed a two-count charge of “criminal conspiracy, contrary to Section 97 of the Penal Code Law” and “Forgery contrary to 362 of the Penal Code Law” against Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa, Benedict Efeturi, Dr. Olubukola Saraki, and Ike Ekweremadu.
Instructively, the suit comes a few days after Ekweremadu boycotted a dinner for federal lawmakers to mark President Muhammadu Buhari’s one year anniversary at the Aso Presidential Villa over what many interpreted as a protest over the killing of young men and women in parts of the South-East and South-South Nigeria allegedly by security agencies during the celebration of Biafra Day.
Ekweremadu also condemned the alleged killings in Senate plenary.
Furthermore, the charges come exactly two days after the Deputy President of the Senate had during a meeting of chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at its national headquarters on 8th June 2016 lampooned the APC administration over what he termed unprecedented hardship and the poor state of the country’s economy.
In its Particulars of Offence to count one, the Federal Government alleged that the accused persons committed the offence of Conspiracy, punishable under Section 97 (1) of the Penal Code Law.
The Federal Government further alleged that Saraki, Ekweremadu and others caused the Standing Order to be believed as the genuine Standing Orders, 2015 and circulated same for use during the inauguration of the 8th Senate of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 364 of the Penal Code Law.
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 for hearing are, Senator Othman Hunkuyi, Senator Ahmed Lawan, Senator Abdullahi Gumel, Senator Kabiru Marafa, Senator Robert Boroffice, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, and Senator Abu Ibrahim, all members of the Senate Unity Forum (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 and one of the contenders for the Office of the IGP, Dan’Azumi Doma, and Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Ojudu Babafemi.
The suit was sequel to a petition to the IGP by the Senate Unity Forum signed by a first-term Senator, Suleiman Othman Hunkuyi, dated 30th June 2015.
The SUF alleged that “The so-called new Standing Orders purports to allow for secret instead of open ballot system that has been prevalent in all Senate elections as permitted by the extant rules”. The petition failed to name Saraki or Ekweremadu or anybody as suspects.
However, although there were reports of purported summons and grilling of Ekweremadu by the Police, the Police had denied inviting or interrogating Ekweremadu.
The Assistant Force Public Relations Officer (AFPRO), DSP Abayomi Shogunle, told newsmen at the Force Headquarters on 6th July 2015 that although the police team met Mr. Salisu Maikasuwa, they neither invited nor interrogated Ekweremadu.
“We cannot send out an invitation to any individual in a case like this. What we have done is to notify the Clerk of the House of Assembly of the said petition, as procedure requires, so as to enable us to carry out an unhindered investigation”, he reiterated.
When contacted last night, the media adviser to Saraki, Yusuph Onaniyonu said: “We are watching the curious development, and we expect justice to be done at the end of the day.