Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Senate Forgery: Court shifts Saraki, Ekweremadu’s trial to June 27

Justice Yusuf Halilu of an Abuja High Court sitting in Jabi, on Tuesday, deferred the arraignment of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, on a two-count charge bordering on conspiracy and forgery, till June 27. Senate President Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu, the Deputy President of the Senate The court also ordered substituted service of the charge on the defendants by pasting it at the notice board of the National Assembly. The order followed an oral application by the prosecuting counsel, Mr. David Kaswe, who told the court that effecting personal service of the charge on the defendants proved “very difficult”. Kaswe said the prosecution had also deposed an affidavit to show efforts it made to furnish the defendants with copies of the charge against them.




. He therefore urged the court to invoke sections 123 and 124 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, and okay that the charge be served on the defendants by substituted means. In a brief ruling, Justice Halilu acceded to the request, though he noted that the prosecution ought to have supported the application with a motion ex-parte. However, the Judge said he was minded to grant the oral request for substituted service considering the need for the defendants to be aware of the criminal charge pending against them. The case was subsequently adjourned till next week Monday for arraignment of the defendants. Other defendants in the charge marked CR/219/16, are the former Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa and his deputy, Mr. Benedict Efeturi. The four defendants were accused of complicity in alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Orders, 2015. The alleged bogus Standing Order was used to conduct the July 9, 2015, election through which both Saraki and Ekweremadu took over the leadership of the Senate. FG maintained that the defendants had by their conduct committed an offence punishable under Section 97 (1) and 364 of the Penal Code Act. The two-count charge which was okayed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, 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.”

 The charge was a fallout of investigation police conducted into a petition by a group of lawmakers under the aegis of the Senate Unity Forum, SUF, who alleged that the Standing Order used for the July 9, 2015, election of principal officers for the 8th Senate, was doctored. Earlier, five members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the Senate, Abu Ibrahim, Kabir Marafa, Ajayi Boroffice, Olugbenga Ashafa and Suleiman Hunkuyi, in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/651/2015, sought the removal of Saraki and Ekweremadu. ‎The plaintiffs prayed the court to sack the duo on the premise that the version of the Senate Standing Orders that was used for their election was forged. In their suit dated July 27, 2015, the plaintiffs, contended that ‎allowing Saraki and Ekweremadu to continue to pilot the affairs of the Senate regardless of the fact that they emerged through an act of illegality, would on itself amount to corruption. ‎Cited as defendants in the suit were Saraki, Ekweremadu, the National Assembly and Clerks of the National Assembly.


Though the court had concluded hearing on the matter, however, Ekweremadu, filed a petition before the Chief Judge of the high court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, alleging bias against the judge that handle the case, Justice Ademola Adeniyi. In his petition dated December 18, 2015, Ekweremadu, insisted that Justice Adeniyi was closely related with some chieftain‎s of the APC. He specifically identified the national leader ‎of the party and former governor of Lagos State, Ahmed Bola Tinubu as one of the people he said has personal relationship with the Judge. Ekweremadu queried the ability of Justice Adeniyi ‎to deliver an objective verdict on the matter in view of his alleged closeness with the APC- the party the plaintiffs belong to. Following Ekweremadu’s petition which was filed four days after the suit was fixed for judgment, the CJ, re-assigned the case to another Judge, Justice Evoh Chukwu. However, Justice Chukwu died earlier this month, thus leaving the case hanging, waiting to be re-assigned to another Judge.

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