A section of the 8th Senate since inauguration on June 9 has been up in arms alleging forgery of Senate Order 2015. Was there a forgery or an in house amendment of the Senate rules as is the usual practice asks EMMA ALOZIE?
In a bid to muddle the waters of the 8th Senate and get the leadership unseated, a group known as the Senate Unity Group led by Senator Kabir Marafa, (APC, Zamfara Central) has been shouting even from the rooftops that the Senate’s rule book 2015 was forged so as to allow the election of Senator Bukola Saraki as the senate president and Senator Ike Ekweremadu as the deputy senate president.
Since the allegation was raised, a section of the media has been shouting forgery and Senator Hunkuyi petitioned the Inspector General of Police alleging that the rule book was forged.
Was there a case of forgery? According to Senator Marafa who has been in the forefront of establishing a case of fraud in order to move against the duo of Saraki and Ekweremadu, “the problem is that the Senate was inaugurated using a forged document. Who forged that document? We can’t gloss over or sweep that criminality under the carpet; Nigeria is not a Banana Republic. The insertion of order 3 (2 iv) & 3 (3e i-iiii) in the 2015 edition is a deliberate act perpetrated by fifth columnists operating within the National Assembly to sabotage the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.”
The point of contention here is that there was no time the Senate sat to effect these changes. To them this amounts to forgery and those responsible must be punished and this explained why the police was petitioned.
However, those who are not seeing any forgery at all argue that it was a mere amendment of the Senate rules, which according them is an internal matter of the Senate. Senator Shehu Sani, (APC Kaduna) said that the so called forgery should not have even involved the police in the first place. “The forgery problem is not the issue of police but the issue of the senate. I got elected on the 8th senate. I was provided with document that I used; whether that document was forged, I cannot affirm,” he said.
The question being raised by the opponents of the word forgery is who then forged the document? Whose responsibility is it to amend the rules? The argument of this group is that, the Senate Rule book used in 1999, who amended it? Who wrote it?According to Mr. Ben Efeturi, the Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly, who doubles as the Clerk of the Senate in the course of police investigation, told the police that the production of the 2015 Standing Rules was in line with convention as he said that the same procedure was used in the production of the standing rules in 2003, 2007 and 2011.
He was said to have told the police investigators that the Senate Standing Orders 2003, 2007 and 2011 followed the same procedure as that of the 2015. He emphasised that in the parliament, amendment of Standing Orders is by practice and not necessarily by procedure. He further stated that the ruling of the Senate President on the June 24, 2015 that the Senate Standing Orders of the Senate 2015 is authentic is final, relevant and cannot be challenged. He attached a copy of the debates of the Senate on Wednesday, June 24 where the Senate President ruled that the Senate Standing Order 2015 was the authentic Standing Orders of the 8th Senate.
Also Senator, Abiodun Olujimi ( PDP Ekiti-South) said the amendments made in the 2015 Senate standing orders being referred to as forgery by the Senator Ahmad Lawan group in the Senate, was carried out by the management of the National Assembly for the inauguration of the 8th Senate.
“As far as majority of the senators are concerned, the alleged forgeries being bandied about by Ahmad Lawan and his group, is a ruse, because for every new senate, a new standing order must be provided which was what was given to senators at the inauguration of the 8th Senate on the 9th of last month.
“Lawan and the other senators are crying wolf where there is none. Were not the only senators who were in the 7th senate and besides, the 7th senate ended with its standing order of 2011 on the 4th of June 2015.
“The 2015 senate standing order is a fresh document meant for the 8th senate and not 7th senate, so where lies the forgery they are talking about?” she asked.
She is not alone in puncturing the forgery story being peddled by some interest groups. Even a senator of the All Progressives Congress, Senator David Umoru from Niger State explained in greater detail why there may not be a case of forgery as bandied by many. According to him, “while the 2011 Standing Rules provides for the procedure for amendment of the 2011 Standing Order, it is silent on the revision of the new standing order for the incoming Legislature. That is to say that any procedure of amendment stated in the 2011 standing order is limited to the life span of that Legislature and does not in any way affect the regulation of activities for the incoming Legislature.
“Common reasoning required that where there is a lacuna, the management of the National Assembly under the chairmanship of the Clerk takes responsibility constitutionally to provide new rules in the absence of a Senate President to avoid any vacuum.
“In consequence, it behooves on the clerk to provide the rules and regulations that would govern the incoming Legislature which may be subject to amendment as provided in Rule 110 of the 2015 Senate Standing Orders.
“From the foregoing, it could be validly concluded that a case of forgery cannot stand in the circumstance. This is because the facts in this matter cannot sustain an offence of forgery under Section 362 of the Penal Code Act quoted above. All the essential elements required to prove the offence are absent.”
Despite trying to stampede the police into indicting any of those questioned, the police report was silent in incriminating anybody, rather referred the report to the office of the Attorney General of the federation to establish whether a case of forgery should be preferred against any of those questioned.
“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,” the report said.
The recommendation of the police is not far from the position of the court. Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High court Abuja in summoning the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase to come and explain why the prayers sought by Senator Gilbert Nnaji (PDP Enugu-East) should not be granted, said what took place in the Senate may have been the internal affairs of the Senate. Senator Nnaji had approached the court seeking to restrain the IGP and the Attorney-General of the Federation from taking further steps on the investigation of alleged forgery in the Senate’s rules.
Justice Kolawole while dishing out the summons said, “the court is a bit wary on an ex parte proceeding to allow the plaintiff (Nnaji) to have his day in court because the courts are not created or established to supervise the National Assembly in the way and manner it will run its own constitutional duties, except where its acts border on a substantial infraction of the constitution, which goes beyond its own internal rules or procedure, or the application of its standing order. To do otherwise is to work to subvert the hallowed constitutional principles of separation of powers upon which the machinery of government is proposed to be run and to be operated.”
This goes to show that despite the trumpeting of forgery by a section of the 8th Senate, what might have taken place was simply an in house procedure by the Senate.