FG withdraws charges against Saraki, Ekweremadu, others

The Federal Government of Nigeria yesterday withdrew the forgery charges it instituted against the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, and two others.

The FG through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation AGF, had in June this year filed a-two count charge of criminal conspiracy and forgery of the senate standing rules 2015 against Dr. Saraki, Ekweremadu, Maikasuwa and Efeturi.

At the resumed trial yesterday, the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Aliyu Umar SAN, told the trial judge, Justice Yusuf Halilu of the  High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting in Jabi, that the charges were being withdrawn following a pending case related to the charges before the Federal High Court in Abuja.

He said, “This government respects the rule of law, and hierarchy of the judiciary. It is obvious fromt these two applications (filed by Saraki and Ekweremadu) and the similar case before your learned brother, Justice Kolawole, at the Federal High Court who is dealing with the issue that we are withdrawing the charges.

“It is trite that two matters of the same subject matter cannot be before different courts of coordinate jurisdiction that will  amount to an abuse of court process.

“ I therefore prayed the court that the amended charge dated October 5, 2016 and also the original charge dated June 10, 2016 and filed  the same date be struck out and all the four defendants be discharged.

All the counsel representing the defendants, Ikechukwu Ezechukwu SAN, Mahmud Magaji SAN, Paul Erokoro SAN, and Joseph Daudu SAN, however raised no objection to the application by the FG to withdraw the charges. Joseph Daudu SAN, who represented the 4th defendant, however commended the prosecution counsel
for the initiative he took in withdrawing the charges.

The trial judge, Justice Yusuf Halilu after listening to all the submissions struck out the application and further discharged Saraki and Ekweremadu.

He said, “I have listened to the submissions of prosecution counsel, my responsibility as a judge is to do what the law requires. For whatever reason, the prosecution has a duty to so his work.

“As an experience lawyer, the prosecution has displayed his professionalism.It will  indeed amount to an abuse of court process if cases of two subject matter are before two courts of coordinate jurisdiction.

“This application is hereby struck out and the defendants are hereby set free”the  judge held. Justice Halilu subsequently struck out the case and discharged all the four accused.

He also advised Saraki and others not to see themselves as been witch hunted, adding that as leaders of the institutions they represent,they should look at the  country as one and to also work in unity and in the interest of Nigerians.

Meanwhile, the case before Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court in Abuja which was referred to by the prosecutor was a civil case filed by a serving Senator, Gilbert Nnaji, to challenge the then ongoing investigation into the alleged forgery of the Senate rule by Saraki and others.

It would be recalled that the defendants were accused of masterminding the forgery of the Senate Standing Rules for the July 9, 2015, election, through which both Saraki and Ekweremadu took over the leadership of the Senate.

The court had on June 27, granted the defendants bail after they pleaded not guilty to the forgery charge against them. Whereas the court gave Saraki bail on self-recognition, it ordered the other defendants to produce two reasonable suretieseach.

We are vindicated, Senate President, Deputy say on dismissed forgery suit

The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, have
described the dismissal of forgery suit against them by an Abuja High Court as proof of their innocence. They said in a statement by Mr. Saraki’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, in Abuja on Friday that the dropping of the case was a vindication of their positions on the matter.

The presiding officers were alleged to have forged the 2015 Senate Standing Order to pave the way for their emergence as President and Deputy President, respectively, of the red chamber.

They said that the court’s decision was consistent with their position that the case lacked merit and that the charge of forgery of the rule could not be substantiated by any fact. They described the case as “politically-induced distraction’’, and said that rather than distracting Nigerians, all hands  should be on deck to solve the economic recession problem destroying homes and creating severe social disorientation in communities.

The duo, however, acknowledged that theFederal Government displayed courage and strength of character in halting the unnecessary waste of precious time of both parties.

According to them, the Federal Government agrees with the defence team that the case lacks merit and therefore should be discontinued.

“We express appreciation to all our colleagues in the Senate for their solid support and understanding while the case lasted.

“We also thank other parliamentarians in and out of the country and the international community as a whole for the consistent solidarity and belief in our genuine cause since the commencement of the case.

“Our gratitude goes to our legal team, family members, friends, supporters and civil society organisations, members of the bar, the media and the generality of the people.

“We believe that much time has been wasted in pursuing this needless case and we hope that the same treatment will be extended to other politically- motivated cases.

…drops charges against N’Assembly Clerk, Deputy

The Nigerian Government on Friday withdrew all allegations of forgery against a former Clerk of the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa, and his deputy, Benedict Efeturi.

Messrs. Maikasuwa and Efeturi were charged alongside Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, for allegedly falsifying the Senate standing rule to help the Senate President and his deputy emerge leaders of the National  Assembly in June 2015. They were arraigned on June 10 this year and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

On Thursday, the Federal Government dropped charges against Messrs. Saraki and Ekweremadu and filed an amended charge before the High Court of the  FederalCapital Territory, Abuja, against Messrs. Maikasuwa and Efeturi.

A litigation officer with the Federal Ministry of Justice, Odubu Loveme, said that government had made fresh applications to amend the charges, so that only Messrs Maikasuwa and Efeturi wouldcontinue to face trial.

On Friday, however, counsel to the Federal Government on the matter, Aliyu Umar, said his client was withdrawing the entire charges at the Abuja High Court to allow a similar matter at the Federal High Court proceed.

Atiku, Kwara governor, others commend Buhari over withdrawal of suit 

Reactions have continued to trail Friday’s withdrawal by  the federal government of criminal charges against the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, and two former senior bureaucrats of the National Assembly. Former Vice President and a chieftain of the governing All Progressives Congress, APC, Atiku Abubakar, described the development as “a wise and timely move”; while Kwara State Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, said it was “proper, necessary and timely”.

On his part, Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Timi Frank, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for “choosing to act in national interest” instead of allowing political vendetta in the alleged forgery case.

All three chieftains of the APC spoke via statements issued by their spokespersons, shortly after the curtains fell on the suit at the Federal High Court in Jabi, Abuja.

The Kwara Governor, in a statement signed by his spokesperson, Abdulwahab Oba, said “the withdrawal provides a vista of opportunity for national cohesion and a platform for synergy between the executive and the legislative arms of government.”

Mr. Ahmed, who succeeded Mr. Saraki in 2011 as governor, is a long time ally of the senate president.