Facts have emerged on why the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), ordered the discontinuation of the trial of the presiding officers of the 8th Senate accused of illegally altering the Senate Standing Orders 2015 as amended. BODE GBADEBO writes.
The online media was last week Wednesday awash with the story that the Federal Government had withdrawn forgery case against the duo of Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, on the ground that a similar case is pending before another court.
And by Thursday, the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Aliyu Umar (SAN), told the trial judge, Justice Yusuf Halilu of the Jabi Division of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Abuja that the charges were being withdrawn because of a pending case related to the charges before a Federal High Court in Abuja.
“This government respects the rule of law, and hierarchy of the judiciary. It is obvious from these two applications (filed by Saraki and Ekweremadu) and the similar case before your learned brother, Justice Kolawole, at the Federal High Court who is dealing with the issue that we are withdrawing the charges,” Umar had told the judge.
Recall that both Saraki and Ekweremadu along with two bureaucrats of the National Assembly: Salisu Maikasuwa, who is a former clerk of the Assembly and Benedict Efeturi, a deputy clerk of the Assembly, were arraigned before the court on Monday, June 27, 2016, over criminal conspiracy and forgery of the Senate Standing Rules, 2015.
The Federal Government had, through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), filed the charges against them. The court sat on the matter for about three times before the last week decision of the prosecution to discontinue the case.
It is pertinent to note that, while the forgery case lasted, opinions were divided over the propriety of the suit filed by the AGF. While some said Saraki and Ekweremadu must face the music for their “sins”, other opined that the case was a vendetta and to humiliate the accused at all cost even when the Senate President is at the same time facing an alleged false asset declaration trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
Meanwhile, when the case was withdrawn and the accused acquitted, there was a sigh of relief on the political space. Prominent members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) like former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu hailed the Federal Government’s decision to withdraw the case against the top lawmakers and their co-accused.
But on its part, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said President Muhammadu Buhari-led government had no case against Saraki, Ekweremadu and others all along, adding that the withdrawal of the case amounts to nothing.
PDP spokesperson, Dayo Adeyeye, in a press statement released in Abuja on Sunday, a copy of which was obtained by LEADERSHIP, said that the opposition party was rather amused by the sudden realisation by the Federal Government that the case was orchestrated to deal with the legislature.
“We are amused by this sudden realisation of the Federal Government that the so-called forgery case was a shadow chase from the beginning. It was complete nothingness!
“More so, the claim through the lead counsel, Aliyu Umar (SAN), that the withdrawal was on the grounds of respect for the rule of law and hierarchy of the judiciary, demonstrates more of comedy on the side of the Federal Government that has a penchant for legal disobedience and abuse of court processes,” he said.
Adeyeye noted that the case withdrawal justified PDP’s earlier position that the APC-led administration was on a vendetta mission and governance.
Few days later, there are already feelers that the case may be revisited. In what appears like a pyrrhic victory for the Senate President and his deputy, the forgery case against them is to be filed afresh.
LEADERSHIP learnt that the government may charge the two presiding officers of the Senate separately against the previous arrangement where they were jointly arraigned.
When LEADERSHIP contacted Saraki’s over the rumoured moves to get him back to court over the same alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Orders 2015, a source told this reporter that it was a mere speculation and that even if it is true, the government will have no case to prosecute.
“Nobody forced them to withdraw the case. They did so because they had no case, so what you are hearing is a mere speculation and if it turned out to be true, we will wait and see because they don’t have a case,” the source said.