By Mayowa Okekale, Abuja on 20/06/2016
The duo of Senate President Bukola Saraki, his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, and others alleged to have been involved in forging the Senate’s Standing Order, risk 14-year jail term if found guilty.
According to the provisions of the penal code laws (Sections 97(1) on criminal conspiracy and 364 (on forgery), upon which the case is to be prosecuted, anybody convicted of the crimes is to bag two and 14-year jail term respectively for the offences.
Others accused persons include former Clerk to the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa, and outgoing Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly (DCN), Mr. Ben Efeturi.
This is a major fallout of the June 9, 2015 election of the principal officials of the Senate, which against all odds, produced Saraki of the APC as Senate President and Ekweremadu of the opposition PDP as his deputy.
But the Senate leadership in a quick reaction said it was a ploy by the Presidency to destabilise the 8th Senate, even as it reassured that there is no cause for alarm.
Last week, the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, 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 others for allegedly forging the Senate Standing Order used for the inauguration of the 8th Senate in June last year and later adopted as Senate Standing Orders 2015.
This, the OAGF said, was based on report of investigation carried out on petition forwarded to the Police to that effect by Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi (APC Kaduna North) on behalf of other senators belonging to the Senate Unity Forum (SUF).
The SUF in the petition dated 30th June 2015, alleged that “the so-called new Standing Order purports to allow for secret instead of open ballot system that has been prevalent in all Senate elections as permitted by the extant rules” but however failed to name Saraki or
Ekweremadu or anybody as suspects.
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 Order, 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.”
Reacting yesterday, the Senate accused the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari of desperation to muzzle the legislature and criminalise legislative processes, in order to cause leadership change in the National Assembly.
The Upper Chamber made the allegation through a statement signed by Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs. It lamented the “return to the era of impunity and lack of respect for due process which the Senate fought to abolish.”
Senator Abdullahi said: “After reading in the national newspapers and online platforms of the planned charges of forgery and conspiracy preferred against the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, his Deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, immediate past Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa and the Clerk of the Senate, Mr. Ben Efeturi, and reviewing the circumstances leading to the filing of these charges;
“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 Arm of the Federal Government to muzzle the legislature and criminalise legislative processes, in order to cause leadership change in the National Assembly. We regard this as return to the era of impunity and lack of respect for due process.”
The Senate urged Buhari to call his Attorney General to order, saying that the Senate voted freely to elect its leadership into office, and “continuing attempts to change that leadership through the wanton abuse of judicial processes cannot stand in the eyes of the world.”
The statement said: “It is clear that the Attorney General and party leaders behind this action either lack the understanding of the underlining principles of constitutional democracy, the concept of Separation of Powers, checks and balances and parliamentary convention, or they just simply do not care if the present democracy in the country survives or collapses in their blinded determination to get Saraki and Ekweremadu by all means necessary, including abuse of office and sacking the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
It added: “We are in a state of economic emergency such that what the National Assembly needs at this time are executive bills and proposals aimed at resolving the crises of unemployment, currency depreciation, inflation, crime and insecurity. What the National Assembly needs now are executive bills to build and strengthen institutions to earn revenues, fight corruption and eliminate waste. Instead, we are getting hostile actions aimed at destabilising the National Assembly, distracting Senators from their oversight functions and ensuring good and accountable governance.
“We must make it clear here to the individuals in the Executive arm and party leadership behind these plots not to mistake the maturity and hand of co-operation being extended to the Presidency by the legislature as a sign of weakness. The National Assembly bent backwards to accommodate various infractions and inefficiencies in pursuit of inter-arms co-operation and national interest.”
•With additional report by Blueprint. Photo shows Saraki and Ekweremadu.
Source News Express
Posted 20/06/2016 08:28:57 AM
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