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The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, and others accused of forgery of the Standing Rule of the Senate 2015, are to be arraigned before a Federal Capital Territory High Court on Tuesday (today) barring any last-minute change of plans.
Officials of the Ministry of Justice told one of our correspondents that they had got notice that the arraignment would take place on Tuesday even when reminded that Saraki would be appearing before the Code of Conduct Tribunal for his ongoing trial on the same day.
“I can only tell you about the case I’m involved in. I don’t know about the CCT trial. But I can tell you that we have tomorrow (Tuesday) as the date of arraignment in respect of the forgery case,” a top ministry official told The PUNCH.
It was learnt that the case was assigned to Justice Yusuf Halilu of the Jabi Division of the FCT High Court last Friday.
Uncertainty, however, appears to be trailing the planned arraignment as court officials, where Saraki, Ekweremadu and others are expected to appear, said on Monday that the accused persons had not been formally served with the charges preferred against them by the Federal Government.
Officials of the High Court of the FCT in Jabi, Abuja, where the accused persons are to be arraigned, confirmed to one of our correspondents on Monday morning that they had not been served.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak on the case, said they were preparing to serve the accused persons later on Monday.
“We have not served the charges on the accused persons, but we will serve them before the end of today (Monday),” one of the sources said.
Though other sources in the Federal Ministry of Justice told The PUNCH that the court had given Tuesday as the date for the arraignment, the court officials said they could not confirm the information.
Also, Saraki and Ekweremadu, on Monday, said they had yet to be served the court process concerning the suit instituted against them by the Federal Government.
Saraki, who spoke through his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said, “Up till now, we have not been served.”
Also, Ekweremadu, who equally spoke through his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Uche Anichukwu, said, “We have not received any court papers.”
Saraki, Ekweremadu, a former Clerk to the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa, and his then deputy, Benedict Efeturi, were on June 10, charged with two counts of criminal conspiracy and forgery of the Standing Rules used for the leadership election of the presiding officers of the Senate in June, 2015.
The Federal Government stated that the offence of conspiracy was punishable under Section 97 (1) of the Penal Code Act; and offence of forgery with “fraudulent intent” punishable under Section 364 of the same law.
It was alleged that the 2011 version of the Senate Orders was secretly altered by some individuals to produce the 2015 edition.
It was alleged that Rules 3 (3) (e) and (k) in the 2015 edition of the orders were not amended in accordance with the provisions of Rule 110 (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) of the 2011 Orders.
While the 2011 Order Rule 3 (3) (e) provides for manual voting and open ballot in the election of the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President, the 2015 Orders allow electronic and secret ballot voting in the said elections.
Also, while Rule 3 (3) (k) of the 2011 Order makes it mandatory for all members to participate in the process of electing the Senate President and Deputy Senate President, the reverse is the case in the 2015 Orders.
The 2011 Orders, Rule 3 (3) (k) reads, “All Senators-elect shall participate in the nomination and voting for President and Deputy President of the Senate.”
But a similar provision in Rule 3 (3) (i) in the 2015 Orders reads, “All Senator-elect are entitled to participate in the voting for Senate President and Deputy Senate President.”
Meanwhile, the Code of Conduct Tribunal had, on June 15, adjourned the trial of Saraki till June 21 (Tuesday).
Both the FCT High Court, where Saraki and others will be appearing for the forgery case, and the CCT, where the Senate President is already undergoing trial, share a boundary in the Jabi area of Abuja.
The CCT had adjourned for hearing a fresh motion filed by Saraki, seeking an order to disqualify the CCT chairman, Danladi Umar, from further presiding over the case.
Saraki filed his fresh application, accusing Umar of bias based on the remark made by the tribunal chairman at the last proceedings on June 7, 2016, while warning the defence against delay tactics.
Umar made the statement that was picked up while warning the defence that the alleged delay tactics would not “reduce the consequences the defendant will meet in this tribunal at the end of the trial”.
Saraki, in his fresh application, filed by his lawyer, Kanu Agabi (SAN), alleged that Umar’s statement would prejudice the outcome of the trial.
Saraki is being prosecuted by the Federal Government before the CCT on 16 counts, including false and anticipatory asset declaration, which he allegedly made between 2003 and 2011, when he served as the Governor of Kwara State.
He is also accused of operating foreign accounts as a public officer and of receiving governor’s salary or emoluments in addition to his salary as a senator for some periods after completing his two terms as governor and got elected as a Senator.
We don’t dabble into legal matters –APC
Meanwhile, the leadership of the All Progressives Congress has absolved itself of complicity in the travails of the Senate leadership over an alleged forgery of Senate Rules.
The party said it was not part of its functions to interfere with court issues especially a matter it had not investigated.
The National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, said this in an interview with reporters in Abuja on Monday
He was reacting to allegations by the Senate that the executive was working with the party leadership to put Saraki and Ekweremadu on trial over the alleged forgery of Senate rules, which were used for their election in June, 2015.
Odigie-Oyegun said, “At this stage, l don’t think there is anything to say. In fact, everything is still guesswork. Nobody has said they have been arrested or asked to make statement or whatever.
“As a party, we do not think it is part of party business to interfere in judicial matters of that nature. We will just wait and see as we are even making investigations to be sure that is the situation.”
In response to the Senate allegation that the party leadership wanted the Senate leadership sacked, the party chairman said, “No, no, no. I don’t know; this is the kind of problem that the press always causes. You are now taking the sensational aspect. You are forgetting the nitty-gritty. Did what they say happened really happened? That is what you should look at.
“Take the two copies (the new copy and the old copy) of the Senate Rules and see if there is a difference. If there is a difference, at what formal meeting was it approved and adopted?
“You should start from this so that when you are commenting, it would not be sensational; it would be based on fact and reality. You see, we have to change the way we do things in this country. We have to start telling people what is right and what is wrong and to choose what is right as against what is wrong.”