Fresh trouble for Senate President Bukola Saraki is on the way with the resolve of the Federal Government to press forgery charges against him and his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu.
The suit against the two presiding officers of the Senate, which flow from last year’s Senate leadership election, is coming more than a year after police investigations into the alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Rules 2015. The move was, however, being interpreted in quarters as another dimension in the quasi-battle between the presidency and the legislature directed at paralysing the Senate with the simultaneous prosecution of the two presiding officers.
Also charged with the two presiding officers are the immediate former Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa and his deputy, Mr. Bennedict Efeturi.
The police report on the issue exclusively reported by Vanguard on July 27, 2015, had referred the case to the Attorney General of the Federation for further advice whether the case should be treated as a criminal case or part of the internal affairs of the Senate.
The case against the quartet marked CR/219/16 between the Federal Government of Nigeria (Complainant) and Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa, Benedict Efeturi, Dr. Olubukola Saraki, and Ike Ekweremadu (Defendants), has been assigned to Justice Yusuf Haliru of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
It was further gathered that the suit borders on a two-count charge of “Criminal Conspiracy, contrary to Section 97 of the Penal Code Law” and “Forgery contrary to 362 of the Penal Code Law,” against Ekweremadu and others.
Yesterday aides of Senator Saraki and Ekweremadu denied formal knowledge of their principals being under investigation even if they claimed to have sensed the impending case against them. Specifically, an aide of Senator Saraki said yesterday: “We are aware of the new case, but he (Saraki) has neither been invited nor questioned on the case.”
In the affidavit attached to the case file, which was filed on June 10, 2016, the investigative police officer swore that the investigation into the case had been concluded, a development associates of the two presiding officer queried asserting shock that the two presiding officers were not questioned before the conclusion of the investigation.
An invitation letter dated June 6, 2016, said to have been written to the two men was as at yesterday yet to be delivered, Ekweremadu, his special adviser on media, Uche Anichukwu said yesterday. The case followed a petition written to the police by Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi, APC, Kaduna North, on behalf of the Senate Unity Forum, SUF in which he alleged that the Senate Standing Rule, 2015 used in the election of Senators Saraki and Ekweremadu as presiding officers was forged.
The petition prompted police investigations led by Deputy Inspector General of Police, DIG Dan‘Azumi Doma. In the course of the investigation, the police team quizzed several senators all of them associates of Senator Hunkuyi and some Senate bureaucrats, however, neither Saraki, nor Ekweremadu were questioned on the issue. Those questioned were Senators Suleiman Hunkuyi, Secretary of the Senate Unity Forum who wrote the petition to the police, Ahmad Lawan, Abdullahi Gumel, Kabiru Marafa, Gbenga Ashafa, Robert Boroffice and Abu Ibrahim.
Also questioned were Senator Ita Enang, who served as chairman of the Business and Rules Committee in the 7th and is presently special assistant to the president, Senate, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, who is now a Political Adviser to the President, and Solomon Ewuga, all of whom are members of the APC. No member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP or member of the Likemind Group associated with the Senate President were questioned according to the police report.
The report on the investigations obtained by Vanguard and exclusively published on July 27 did not mention Saraki or Ekweremadu or their offices or being among those that the police spoke to in the course of the investigation.
Maikasuwa, who was the CNA at the time of the election and who presided over the election, was quoted in the report to have said that “he did not refer to any Senate Standing Order/Rules but used the normal procedures for the opening of a new parliament.”
Efeturi, his deputy had said that the production of the 2015 Standing Rules was in line with convention, saying that the same procedure was used in the production of the Standing Rules in 2003, 2007 and 2011. In the suit against the quartet marked CR/219/16 between the Federal Government of Nigeria (Complainant) and Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa, Benedict Efeturi, Dr. Olubukola Saraki, and Ike Ekweremadu (Defendants), the Federal Government charges them of “Criminal Conspiracy, contrary to Section 97 of the Penal Code Law” and “Forgery contrary to 362 of the Penal Code Law.”
The two count charges read thus: Count One reads: “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 Arm Zone, Abuja within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable 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.
Count Two reads: “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 Arm Zone, Abuja within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable 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 the procedure for amendment of the Senate Order, you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 364 of the Penal Code Law”.
The fresh trouble for the Senate President is coming against the background of his ongoing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal over allegations of false declaration of assets when he was governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.