- As Senate fears they may get stringent bail conditions
There was palpable fear among Senators weekend that the president, Bukola Saraki and deputy, Ike Ekweremadu may go to jail should the court place stringent conditions on them following their scheduled arraignment for alleged forgery of senate standing rules in 2015. Former clerk of the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa and one other are among those to be docked today for the same offence.
The federal government has listed 14 witnesses against the defendants.
Others to be docked alongside the senators today are the immediate past clerk to the National Assembly, Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa, and the deputy clerk to the National Assembly, Benedict Efeture.
Following a police report which indicated that the seventh Senate leadership headed by Senator David Mark was also culpable on the amendments to the Senate Standing Rules 2015, Efeture told the police that the seventh Senate leadership ordered the 2015 Standing Rules was amended by their convention and practice.
The federal government witnesses include the special adviser to the president on National Assembly Matters, Sen. Ita Enang, and the special adviser to the president on Political Matters, Sen. Babafemi Ojudu.
Other prosecution witnesses are Sen. Suleiman Othman Hunkuyi, Sen. Solomon Ewuga, Sen. Ahmed L. Lawan, Sen. Abdullahi Gumel, Sen Kabiru Garba Marafa, Sen. Gbenga Ashafa, Sen. Robert Boroffice, Sen. Abu Ibrahim, Dr. Ogozy Nma, Adem D.J, former Deputy Inspector- General of Police Dan’Azumi J Doma and ACP David Igbodo.
The police report signed by Doma, however, gave insights into the alleged forgery scandal.
The police report, which was dated July 14, 2015, with reference CR: 3000/X/FHQ/ABJ/VOL.186/88, established the following:
Senate Standing Order 2015 as amended was given to senators on June 9, 2015.
The contents of the Senate Standing Oder 2015 as amended are substantially different from the Senate Standing Order 2011 as amended.
The Senate Standing Orders 2015 which was used to inaugurate the eighth Senate on June 9, 2015, was ordered by the leadership of the seventh Senate without following Section 110 of the Senate Rules 2011 as amended.
The practice where some group of senators amend the Rules of the Senate without following legal procedures is criminal.
The report said: “That on the 9th of June, 2015, a document titled ‘the Senate Standing Order 2015 as amended’ was distributed to Senators of the eighth Senate for their inauguration as members.
“…that the contents of the Senate Standing Order 2015 as amended are substantially different from the Senate Standing Order 2011 as amended. Sections 2 (IV), 3(3) E, I, ii, iii, G AND H, 5 and 7 of the Rules are different in the two Orders.
“…that the Senate Standing Order 2015 as amended was used by the clerks of the National Assembly and the Senate as the Senate Standing Orders to inaugurate and conduct elections into the offices of the presiding officials of the Senate viz the Senate President, the deputy Senate president, etc.
“The testimonies of some members of the seventh Senate, including that of the chairman of the Business and Rules Committee and Senators of the seventh Senate indicate that the Senate Standing Order 2011 was not amended during the tenure of the seventh Senate which ended on the 8th of June, 2015.
“That the procedure for the amendment of the Senate Standing Order as contained in Section 110 of the Senate Standing Order 2011 as amended stipulates that any amendment to the Senate Standing Orders should be in line with the following procedures: Any Senator desiring to amend any part of the Rules or adding any new clause shall give notice of such amendments in writing to the President of the Senate giving details of proposed amendment.
“The president shall within seven working days cause the amendment to be printed and circulated to members. Thereafter, it shall be printed in the Order Paper.
“The mover or movers of the amendment shall be allowed to explain in details the proposed amendments, thereafter in details the proposed amendments, thereafter the Senate shall decide by majority votes whether the amendment should be considered.
“If the decision is to consider the amendments, then another date shall be set aside by the Rules and Business Committee, whereby opportunity would be given to Senators to further propose amendments but must strictly be confined to the original amendments.
“Two- third majority shall decide the amendments but must
strictly be confined to the original amendments. Two third majorities shall decide the amendments and such amendments shall form part of the Rules of the Senate.
“That the clerk of the Senate, Mr. Benedict Efeturi, who doubles as the deputy clerk of the National Assembly, confirmed in his statement that the Senate Standing Order 2015 as amended was produced on the orders of the Senate Leadership without following the amendment procedures as contained in the Senate Standing Orders 2011 as amended.
“That the allusion by the clerk of the Senate to the procedure of amending the Standing Orders of Parliament through practice and not necessarily by procedure is a misplaced analogy and undemocratic because the Nigerian Senate has clearly laid down without a proviso, the procedure to be adopted in amending its standing orders as contained in section 110 of 2011 Senate Standing Orders.
“From the findings, especially from the statement of the clerk of the Senate who doubles as the deputy clerk of the National Assembly, the Senate Standing Orders 2015 which was used to inaugurate the 8th Senate on the 9th of June 2015 was ordered by the leadership of the 7th Senate without following Section 110 of the Senate Rules 2011 as amended which requires that any amendment to the Senate Standing Rules must be debated and approved by the Senators on the floor of the Senate.
“This practice where some group of senators amend the Rules of the Senate without following legal procedures is not only criminal but portends danger for our growing democracy and should be discouraged.
“However, it is recommended that the file be sent to the Attorney-General of the Federation for vetting to determine if this conduct constitutes crime or should be treated as an internal affair of the Senate.”
It was not immediately clear on what will be the fate of the seventh Senate leadership, which was headed by former President of the Senate David Mark.
But in the statement of the deputy clerk of the National Assembly, he insisted that the seventh Senate leadership ordered the amendment of the Standing Rules.
Efeture said: “I am the deputy clerk of the NASS. The Senate leadership ordered the 2015 Standing Rules as amended by their convention and practice. Standing orders 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 follow similar practice.”
But some legal luminaries across the country are of the opinion that Senate President Bukola Saraki was never a principal officer during the seventh Senate and there could be no way he would have participated in the alleged forging of the Senate rules as alleged by the federal government.
As Senate fears they may get stringent bail conditions
National Assembly has expressed fears over the possibility of the court imposing stringent bail conditions on Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, when they are arraigned today, June 27, over alleged forgery.
A source at the National Assembly told our correspondent in Abuja that the Federal Ministry of Justice planned to put pressure on the trial judge, Justice Yusuf Halilu of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory to impose stringent conditions on the accused persons.
Saraki, Ekweremadu and two others have been imposed with a two-count charge of forgery and conspiracy to commit forgery.
The source said that the two men being number three and five respectively in the national hierarchy ought to get bail on personal recognition.
The source said: “The plan is to ensure they are presented with conditions which they cannot meet immediately. The conditions will be such that they will struggle with them for some days before they could wriggle out of the court dragnet.
“The case has political undertone and the ministry will not allow them ride rough-shod on it or enjoy a free ride. They will have to struggle for some time before they can benefit from any concession they may eventually get from the courts.”
The charge against Saraki and others 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.”
They were also accused of fraudulently forging 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 eighth Senate when they knew that the said order was not made in compliance with the procedure for amendment of the Senate Order.
Already, the trial judge had ordered that the accused persons be served with the charges by pasting the notice of summons on the notice board of the National Assembly in Abuja.
The trial is now fixed for June 27, 2016.
The court order follows complaints by the prosecutor, Mr David Kaswe, that he had difficulties serving by the leaders of the Senate with the charges.
He therefore applied for substituted service which was granted by the court while arraignment was adjourned to June 27.
The order is in line with the provisions of Sections 123 and 124 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
The arraignment of Saraki and others could not go on simply because they had not been served with the charges.
The court bailiff was said to have taken the charge to the National Assembly complex on Friday evening, but did not meet the defendants in their offices.
Some lawmakers, on behalf of the Senate, petitioned the police, alleging forgery of the Senate Standing Rules 2015 that produced Saraki and his deputy, Ekweremadu, following election of principal officers for the Senate.