The Federal Government on Wednesday advised the Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, to stop blaming President Muhammadu Buhari for their arraignment for alleged forgery of Senate Order 2015, used to conduct the chamber’s leadership election in June, 2015.
It advised the Senate leaders to allow the court to decide their fate.
A statement by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, in Abuja, said the comments of Saraki and Ekweremadu, conveyed “messages that are far from being complementary to the person and government of President Muhammadu Buhari.”
The Federal Government wondered why an issue, involving only two main actors, should be classified by the accused persons as the trial of the entire National Assembly members.
Saraki and Ekweremadu have consistently accused Buhari, a certain cabal in his government and the All Progressives Congress for their arraignment before a Federal Capital Territory High Court in Abuja as the brains behind their trial.
While Saraki clearly insinuated that Buhari was “not in control” of his administration, alleging that “a cabal” was in charge of Buhari’s government, Ekweremadu claimed that the President was exhibiting “dictatorial tendencies” that could derail the nation’s democracy.
From their statements, according to the SGF, the two leaders of the Senate have given the “erroneous impression” that with their arraignment, the entire Senate, and indeed, the legislative arm of government was on trial.
The SGF stated, “They want the public to believe that their prosecution is utter disregard by the executive arm of government for the constitutional provisions of separation of powers, and that preferring the forgery case against them is a vendetta.
“To impute other considerations to the process is unfortunate. We should allow the process to take its course in consonance with the dictates of the law and total obeisance to the cardinal democratic principle of the separation of powers.
“Since this case is in court, the judiciary should be allowed to do its job. However, it is important to emphasise that this case involves only the four accused persons and should not be presented to the unsuspecting public as involving the entire Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The complaint leading to the forgery investigation was reported to the police by some aggrieved senators, who specifically accused certain persons. It is not the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that is involved and definitely not the House of Representatives.
“To bring the National Assembly as a body into this court case is totally unwarranted. It can only be for other purposes and reasons outside the investigation and legal proceedings.”
While insisting that a case of forgery is usually preferred against individuals and “this is not different,” Lawal recalled that when such a case was brought against “a former Speaker of the House of Representatives (Alhaji Salisu Buhari), who was accused of certificate forgery, what he did was to resign, honourably.”
He added, “The matter did not even go to court. In that particular case, it was never orchestrated as a matter for the National Assembly. The individual involved did not drag the entire legislature into the matter.
“Our democracy is still evolving and being deepened. The provisions of the separation of powers are entrenched in our constitution and should guide everyone in our conduct. The rule of law is indeed supreme.
“This particular case is before the judiciary and is not being decided by the executive arm of government. All that has transpired is still within the confines of our laws. These are the rights to accuse, to be investigated and be arraigned before the court.”
In its reaction, however, the Senate, disagreed with Lawal that the upper chamber was not facing trial in the forgery case instituted by the AGF against Saraki and Ekweremadu.
The red chamber, in a statement by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, insisted that the Senate was the target of the suit.
The statement partly read, “We disagree with him (Lawal) on this position and we maintain our earlier stand that it is the Senate that is the target of the present attempt to intimidate the legislature to force a leadership change in the Senate.
“Mr. Babachir Lawal should tell us how reasonable it is to conclude that when the President of Nigeria and the Vice-President are being jointly tried in a suit, whose outcome can remove them from office, it is not the Buhari government that is being targeted.
“It is also imperative to clearly state that contrary to the claim by the SGF, neither the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, nor was Senator Ike Ekweremadu mentioned by the petitioners, the statements by those interviewed by the police or even the police report.
“Meanwhile, let us refresh Mr. Lawal’s memory about the facts of the 1999 case.
“It is obvious that the Senate President and his deputy are not being accused of certificate forgery as it happened in ex-Speaker Salisu Buhari’s case. Therefore, nobody should compare an apple with an orange.
“Also, neither Saraki nor Ekweremadu is below the age requirement for their present position as it was alleged in the Buhari case.
“The executive is in no position to determine what is the correct Standing Orders of the Senate.
“The Senate President and his deputy were as of the morning of the June 9, 2015 inauguration of the Senate, mere senators-elect and could therefore not have been in a position to influence any alteration in the rule book.
“The Senate, as an institution, and indeed the National Assembly, has spoken about its understanding of the present assault on their independence by the executive.
“We maintain that this trial is a design by the executive to criminalise the internal affairs of the Senate to create a distraction for the leadership of the Senate, force a leadership change and cow the legislators.”