JUSTICE Yusuf Halilu of the Abuja High Court yesterday fixed September 28 for the federal government to open its case against the Senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu. The duo is facing trial over their alleged involvement in the forgery of Senate Standing Rules 2015. Also charged before the court over the alleged forgery were the former clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa, and his deputy, Mr. Benedict Efeturi. The defendants were alleged to have masterminded the usage of the said bogus standing rules for the June 9, 2015, election, through which both Saraki and Ekweremadu took over the leadership of the Senate. The federal government in a two-count charge marked CR/219/16, maintained that the defendants, by their conduct, committed an offence punishable under Section 97 (1) and 364 of the Penal Code Act. Trial judge had on June 27 released the defendants on bail, even as he okayed full- blown hearing into the matter. However, the case could not proceed as scheduled yesterday owing to the commencement of the court’s vacation. Consequently, trial of the defendants was differed till September 28 this year. Meanwhile, the federal government has engaged a private prosecutor to prosecute the case on its behalf. The case, which was hitherto handled by the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, Mr. Mohammed Diri, has now been assigned to the former Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice of Kano State, Aliyu Umar (SAN). Diri had on the day the defendants were arraigned told the court that he would not oppose Saraki’s bail request. He, however, urged the court to deny the trio of Ekweremadu, Maikasuwa and Efeturi bail on the premise that they attempted to evade service of the charge on them. Diri said his decision not to challenge Saraki’s bail application was to ensure that legislative business in the Senate was not hampered in any way. In a bench ruling, Justice Halilu allowed the defendants to go home after they produced two “reasonable” sureties each. The court, however, stressed that the sureties must be owners of landed properties in the highbrow areas of Asokoro, Maitama, Wuse II or Garki in Abuja.

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