A four-man team will today take over the prosecution of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, and two others on charges of forgery of the Senate Standing Orders used for the presiding officers’ elections of the 8th Senate in June 2015.
The Federal Government, through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, had, on June 10, preferred the charges against Saraki, Ekweremadu and a former Clerk to the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa, and his then deputy, Benedict Efeturi.
The accused persons were subsequently, on June 27, arraigned on two counts of criminal conspiracy and forgery before Justice Yusuf Halilu of a Federal Capital Territory High Court in Jabi, Abuja.
The Federal Government stated that the offence of conspiracy is 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.
The court had, after the accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charges on June 27, fixed Monday (today) for the commencement of trial.
But sources in the Federal Ministry of Justice in Abuja confirmed to our correspondent on Sunday that a four-man team would take over the prosecution of the accused persons from the Director, Public Prosecutions of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Diri, as the case comes up today.
Punch correspondent confirmed that the new prosecution team was led by a former Attorney General of Kano State, Mr. Aliyu Umar (SAN).
Born on June 16, 1952, Aliyu was a Director, Public Prosecutions in the Ministry of Justice of Kano State between 1986 and 1988.
The 64-year-old lawyer later served as the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of the state between 2003 and 2011.
Other members of the team are a Lagos-based public interest litigation lawyer, Jiti Ogunye; Raphael Origo, and a state counsel from the Federal Ministry of Justice, Yetunde Adeola-Cole.
The case, scheduled for commencement of trial today, may be stalled by logistics of handing over of the case by the DPPF to the new set of prosecutors.
“I have no information about whether or not the handover has taken place. But from experience, since the case is coming up for the first time after the case was assigned to the new team of prosecutors, it is not likely that any serious thing will take place tomorrow (Monday),” a lawyer in the Federal Ministry of Justice told Punch News on condition of anonymity on Sunday.
The PUNCH had exclusively reported on July 8, that a four-man team, whose members’ identities had not been known, would take over the case today.
The Prof. Itse Sagay-led Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption was involved in their training for over one month in Abuja.
It was learnt on Sunday that at least a lawyer from the Justice ministry was among the four lawyers in each of the teams while the rest are private legal practitioners.
The PUNCH had reported that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, deliberately assigned the forgery case to the special prosecution team for “efficient prosecution and management of the case”.
It was learnt that the team was given the liberty by the AGF to review the case-file “and make necessary adjustment or amendments” where necessary to enhance the prospect of a successful prosecution of the case.
According to sources, the Aliyu-led team was also given the fiat by the AGF to handle any civil case that might arise from the forgery of the Senate Standing Rules.
When asked by Punch correspondent, one of the sources could not confirm whether the fiat given to the team covered an ongoing civil case relating to the forgery of the Senate Standing Orders before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The AGF is one of the defendants in the case which was filed by a serving Senator, Gilbert Nnaji, who is seeking an order of the court quashing the police report issued on the forgery case.
There is another case relating to it that was filed by five All Progressives Congress senators – Abu Ibrahim, Kabir Marafa, Ajayi Boroffice, Olugbenga Ashafa and Suleiman Hunkuyi.
The AGF is not a party to the senators’ suit.
“I cannot confirm to you if the fiat given to the prosecutors covers the pending civil case, but I can confirm to you that they are asked to handle civil cases that may likely arise from the case,” a source told our correspondent on Sunday.
None of the four prosecutors could be reached for their comments on Sunday.
Ogunye was unreachable when our correspondent tried to reach him through his telephone on Sunday.
When contacted on Sunday, Isah said he could not disclose the names of the prosecutors to whom the forgery case was assigned.
“Since the case is coming up in court tomorrow (Monday, today), I can only advise you to wait till tomorrow,” Isah said.