Bailiffs paste Saraki, deputy’s summons to N’Assembly board

Some persons, suspected to be bailiffs from the FCT High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, pasted to the Senate board the court summons, inviting the Presiding Officers of the Senate and two top management staff of the National Assembly, to appear before the court for the alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Order 2015.

The summons specifically directed the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu; the outgoing Clerk to the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa; and  the Deputy Clerk, Benedict Efeturi, to make themselves available for the case, coming up on Monday next week.

The court order, sighted by one of our correspondents, read, “By oral application, dated June 21, 2016, moved by D. E. Kaswe, Principal State Counsel, Federal Ministry of Justice, in this case praying the court for:

“An order of this Honourable Court granting leave to the complainant/applicant to serve the criminal summons on the defendants by substituted means to wit by pasting it at the Notice Board of the National Assembly, Three Arms Zone, Abuja.

“And after hearing D. E. Kaswe with A. A. Kaltingo Esq, counsel for the complainant/applicant moved the court orally for the above relief.”

It was also observed that the handwritten statements of Maikasuwa and Efeturi as well as that of 13 other former senators, interrogated by the police, were also pasted along with the court summons.

In their own submissions to the police as contained in the document pasted to the board at the National Assembly, Maikasuwa and Efeturi denied being part of the alleged forgery of the document.

Maikashuwa said, “The Senate Standing Order used in Seventh Senate was not known to me. The Clerk of the Senate (Efeturi) is in position to know. I was not aware of the amendment that was made to the Standing rules.”

Efeturi said, “The Senate Leadership handled the 2015 Standing Rules as amended by their convention and practice. Standing Orders 2003, 2007 and 2011 followed similar practice.”

Our correspondent further noted that a Deputy Inspector-General of Police interrogated and obtained statements from 15 witnesses, including Senators Suleiman Hunkunyi, Solomon Enang, Solomon Ewuga, Ahmad Lawan, Abu Ibrahim and Babafemi Ojudu, on the issue.

Some Sergeant-at-Arms, however, besieged the notice board and removed all the court summons even when many people were still reading the documents.

Meanwhile, the Senate at plenary on Tuesday, after a two-hour closed session, summoned the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, over the planned prosecution of Saraki and Ekweremadu, for alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Order 2015.

The Senate took the decision following a motion moved by the Senator, representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye, who relied on Orders 14 and 52, to demand the approval of his colleagues for his two prayers for the invitation of the AGF and the genuineness of the rule book.

The senate therefore, approved the two prayers through voice vote while Ekweremadu, who presided over the session, asked the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, to summon Malami within 48 hours and interrogate him on the issue.

The red chamber mandated the committee to within two days summon the AGF to explain and justify with evidence the basis for his action.

The senators also directed the committee to find out from Malami whether his action did not constitute gross misconduct, incompetence, contempt of court and abuse of office.

Ekweremadu, after the resolution, said, “I don’t intend to say much because I’m involved. I just want to add that those who use their public office today to persecute others must realise that no condition is permanent.”

Melaye had, in the motion, said there was an imminent threat to the nation’s democracy relating to the alleged invitation of the principal officers by the court in Abuja.

He said, “I want to bring to the memory of this Senate and remind the executive arm of government that anything that is fake must have an original.

“We therefore begin to ask ourselves ‘where is the original of this counterfeit’ as suggested by this illegal persecution, because what is being done is not prosecution but persecution.

“If the rule is fake, then the budget we have received is also fake and illegal. I want to also remind the executive that this same rule is what we quoted when we responded to a communication from Mr President to have a joint session with the President of South Africa.

“This same rule is what we used in the screening of all the ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, including the Attorney General of the Federation. This same rule, if it is fake, the position of the Attorney General, as the minister of justice, is also illegal.

“This same rule is what we used in passing that same budget that is now an Act of this parliament. If this rule, put together, we have considered it in receiving Mr. President on two different occasions, and Mr. President responded accordingly.

“Can this fake rule give birth to illegality of all we have done with it? I want to say we have no fake rule and I want to say that without fear of favour that what we used on June 9, 2015 was regularised on June 10, 2015, by the hazard of the 10th that was adopted as votes and proceedings.

“The people voted without any objection and that rule was adopted on the 10th of June by the resolution of this Senate in approving the votes and proceedings of this on June 9, 2015.

“This is to correct the very parochial and myopic and porous perception of those who want to divide this senate.

“May we never see that day when the legislature will become an appendage or department of the executive.”

Our correspondent also learnt that the PDP caucus in the upper chamber, after a 30-minute crucial closed-door meeting on Tuesday, resolved to withdraw their support for the Buhari administration if the alleged war against the legislature continued.

A member of the caucus, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, however, told journalists on Tuesday that the meeting would continue today (Wednesday) and that the group would address a news conference after.

 I have not received Senate summons

–AGF

But the AGF, Malami, said on Tuesday that he had yet to receive the summons of the Senate, inviting him over the forgery charges being preferred against Saraki, Ekweremadu and two others.

Justice Yusuf Halilu of a  High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Jabi, Abuja, had, earlier on Tuesday, fixed June 27 for the arraignment of the accused persons, after ordering that the charges preferred against them be pasted to the notice board of the National Assembly as a means of service on them.

Speaking on behalf of the minister, the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Salihu Isah, said such summons of the Senate had not been served on the minister as of the close of work while responding to one of our correspondents’ enquiry at about 5.12pm on Tuesday.

When asked what the minister’s response would be if he received the Senate’s invitation on Wednesday or anytime thereafter, Isah said his boss would need to study it.

“We have not received any invitation by the Senate as of this moment and official activities have already closed for the day.

“The minister will study the invitation when he receives it and take appropriate decision when the time comes,” he stated.

FCT court fixes Saraki, Ekweremadu’s arraignment for Monday

Meanwhile, a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Jabi, Abuja, on Tuesday, fixed June 21 (Monday next week) for the arraignment of Saraki, Ekweremadu and their co-defendants on two counts of criminal conspiracy and forgery.

Justice Halilu fixed the date after ordering substituted service of the charges on the defendants.

The court order followed futile efforts made by the court bailiffs to serve the defendants personally since last Friday.

The judge, in ordering the substituted service on the defendants on Tuesday, directed that the charges preferred against the Senate President and his co-accused persons be pasted to the notice board of the National Assembly.

He made the order after listening to the prosecuting counsel, Mr. David Kaswe, who made the request for substituted service orally on Tuesday.

Kaswe told the judge that several attempts of personal service on the defendants had failed.

The judge, in a short ruling, acceded to the request of the prosecution, reiterating that nothing could be done in a criminal trial except the defendants were first served.

He noted that the application for substituted service should have been made ex parte, which he said would have required the prosecution to file processes.

But he said he would allow Kaswe’s oral application “to fly” because even if an ex parte application had been filed by the prosecution, other parties would not have had the opportunity to make any contribution.

The judge said, “Where service is not effected on the accused persons charged with a particular offence, nothing can be done, realising the fact that it is the constitutional right of such an accused person to equally ventilate his grievances.

“Consequently, after hearing learned counsel, Mr. Kaswe, who made an oral application based on provisions of Section 123 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, which ordinarily would have been made ex parte, whereby processes would have been filed.

“Accordingly, the application is hereby granted. Consequently, the defendants are to be served by fixing the said charge on the notice board of the National Assembly at the National Assembly Complex, Three Arms Zone, Abuja. I find solace for this under Section 123 of ACJA, 2015.”

Earlier before the proceedings, court sources had confirmed to one of our correspondents that non-service of the charges on the defendants would make it impossible for the arraignment to go ahead on Tuesday.

Court officials, who spoke with The PUNCH on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak on the case, confirmed that at about 8am on Tuesday, the charges had yet to be served on the defendants.

One of the court officials said, “Our bailiffs went to the National Assembly on Friday but because there was no sitting, the defendants were not found to be served.

“On Monday, the bailiffs tried again but there was no sitting in the National Assembly, so the defendants could not be served.

“Had they been served before now, the matter would have come up for arraignment today (Tuesday).

Saraki, Ekweremadu, Maikasuwa  and 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 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.

It was alleged that the 2011 version of the Senate Order 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 Order.

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 Order allows electronic and secret ballot voting in the said elections.

The 2011 Order, 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 Order reads, “All Senators-elect are entitled to participate in the voting for Senate President and Deputy Senate President.”

 

Reps condemn bid to prosecute senate officers

Also, the House of Representatives on Tuesday rose in defence of Saraki and Ekweremadu, saying the Federal Government should “desist” from its bid to prosecute them for alleged forgery.

It noted that dragging Saraki and Ekweremadu to court did not only amount to interfering with the “internal affairs” of the Senate, but was also part of a plot to cripple the institution of the National Assembly.

In a resolution in Abuja, the House specifically urged President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene by cautioning top officials of his administration and stop them from “progressing in error.”

A member from Kogi State, Mr. Tajudeen Yusuf, who brought up the issue under matters of urgent public importance, recalled that the lack of respect for the National Assembly was exemplified in the non-implementation of the resolution passed since March, taking over the Kogi State House of Assembly.

Calling on the executive to abide by the principle of separation of powers and independence of the legislature as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the resolution read further, “The House strongly urge Mr. President, who has sworn to an oath to defend and protect the constitution, to prevail on the members of the executive council to desist from further steps that will cripple the National Assembly.

“These include prosecuting the presiding officers of the Senate over alleged forgery of Senate Rules, which a  competent court of law has also recognised as strictly the ‘internal affair of the National Assembly’, and which judgment has not been set aside by any superior court.

“It is now commonplace that ministers and heads of parastatals ignore invitations by handing committees and adhoc committees at will.

“The House committees have therefore been rendered toothless because no consequences attach to such wanton refusal of ministers to attend sessions.”

The session was presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara.

Dogara did not allow the motion to be debated on the grounds that it was “straightforward.”

The matter was referred to the joint committees on Justice and Legislative Compliance after lawmakers endorsed it in a majority voice vote.

Some persons, suspected to be bailiffs from the FCT High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, pasted to the Senate board the court summons, inviting the Presiding Officers of the Senate and two top management staff of the National Assembly, to appear before the court for the alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Order 2015.

The summons specifically directed the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu; the outgoing Clerk to the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa; and  the Deputy Clerk, Benedict Efeturi, to make themselves available for the case, coming up on Monday next week.

The court order, sighted by one of our correspondents, read, “By oral application, dated June 21, 2016, moved by D. E. Kaswe, Principal State Counsel, Federal Ministry of Justice, in this case praying the court for:

“An order of this Honourable Court granting leave to the complainant/applicant to serve the criminal summons on the defendants by substituted means to wit by pasting it at the Notice Board of the National Assembly, Three Arms Zone, Abuja.

“And after hearing D. E. Kaswe with A. A. Kaltingo Esq, counsel for the complainant/applicant moved the court orally for the above relief.”

It was also observed that the handwritten statements of Maikasuwa and Efeturi as well as that of 13 other former senators, interrogated by the police, were also pasted along with the court summons.

In their own submissions to the police as contained in the document pasted to the board at the National Assembly, Maikasuwa and Efeturi denied being part of the alleged forgery of the document.

Maikashuwa said, “The Senate Standing Order used in Seventh Senate was not known to me. The Clerk of the Senate (Efeturi) is in position to know. I was not aware of the amendment that was made to the Standing rules.”

Efeturi said, “The Senate Leadership handled the 2015 Standing Rules as amended by their convention and practice. Standing Orders 2003, 2007 and 2011 followed similar practice.”

Our correspondent further noted that a Deputy Inspector-General of Police interrogated and obtained statements from 15 witnesses, including Senators Suleiman Hunkunyi, Solomon Enang, Solomon Ewuga, Ahmad Lawan, Abu Ibrahim and Babafemi Ojudu, on the issue.

Some Sergeant-at-Arms, however, besieged the notice board and removed all the court summons even when many people were still reading the documents.

Meanwhile, the Senate at plenary on Tuesday, after a two-hour closed session, summoned the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, over the planned prosecution of Saraki and Ekweremadu, for alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Order 2015.

The Senate took the decision following a motion moved by the Senator, representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye, who relied on Orders 14 and 52, to demand the approval of his colleagues for his two prayers for the invitation of the AGF and the genuineness of the rule book.

The senate therefore, approved the two prayers through voice vote while Ekweremadu, who presided over the session, asked the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, to summon Malami within 48 hours and interrogate him on the issue.

The red chamber mandated the committee to within two days summon the AGF to explain and justify with evidence the basis for his action.

The senators also directed the committee to find out from Malami whether his action did not constitute gross misconduct, incompetence, contempt of court and abuse of office.

Ekweremadu, after the resolution, said, “I don’t intend to say much because I’m involved. I just want to add that those who use their public office today to persecute others must realise that no condition is permanent.”

Melaye had, in the motion, said there was an imminent threat to the nation’s democracy relating to the alleged invitation of the principal officers by the court in Abuja.

He said, “I want to bring to the memory of this Senate and remind the executive arm of government that anything that is fake must have an original.

“We therefore begin to ask ourselves ‘where is the original of this counterfeit’ as suggested by this illegal persecution, because what is being done is not prosecution but persecution.

“If the rule is fake, then the budget we have received is also fake and illegal. I want to also remind the executive that this same rule is what we quoted when we responded to a communication from Mr President to have a joint session with the President of South Africa.

“This same rule is what we used in the screening of all the ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, including the Attorney General of the Federation. This same rule, if it is fake, the position of the Attorney General, as the minister of justice, is also illegal.

“This same rule is what we used in passing that same budget that is now an Act of this parliament. If this rule, put together, we have considered it in receiving Mr. President on two different occasions, and Mr. President responded accordingly.

“Can this fake rule give birth to illegality of all we have done with it? I want to say we have no fake rule and I want to say that without fear of favour that what we used on June 9, 2015 was regularised on June 10, 2015, by the hazard of the 10th that was adopted as votes and proceedings.

“The people voted without any objection and that rule was adopted on the 10th of June by the resolution of this Senate in approving the votes and proceedings of this on June 9, 2015.

“This is to correct the very parochial and myopic and porous perception of those who want to divide this senate.

“May we never see that day when the legislature will become an appendage or department of the executive.”

Our correspondent also learnt that the PDP caucus in the upper chamber, after a 30-minute crucial closed-door meeting on Tuesday, resolved to withdraw their support for the Buhari administration if the alleged war against the legislature continued.

A member of the caucus, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, however, told journalists on Tuesday that the meeting would continue today (Wednesday) and that the group would address a news conference after.

 I have not received Senate summons

–AGF

But the AGF, Malami, said on Tuesday that he had yet to receive the summons of the Senate, inviting him over the forgery charges being preferred against Saraki, Ekweremadu and two others.

Justice Yusuf Halilu of a  High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Jabi, Abuja, had, earlier on Tuesday, fixed June 27 for the arraignment of the accused persons, after ordering that the charges preferred against them be pasted to the notice board of the National Assembly as a means of service on them.

Speaking on behalf of the minister, the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Salihu Isah, said such summons of the Senate had not been served on the minister as of the close of work while responding to one of our correspondents’ enquiry at about 5.12pm on Tuesday.

When asked what the minister’s response would be if he received the Senate’s invitation on Wednesday or anytime thereafter, Isah said his boss would need to study it.

“We have not received any invitation by the Senate as of this moment and official activities have already closed for the day.

“The minister will study the invitation when he receives it and take appropriate decision when the time comes,” he stated.

FCT court fixes Saraki, Ekweremadu’s arraignment for Monday

Meanwhile, a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Jabi, Abuja, on Tuesday, fixed June 21 (Monday next week) for the arraignment of Saraki, Ekweremadu and their co-defendants on two counts of criminal conspiracy and forgery.

Justice Halilu fixed the date after ordering substituted service of the charges on the defendants.

The court order followed futile efforts made by the court bailiffs to serve the defendants personally since last Friday.

The judge, in ordering the substituted service on the defendants on Tuesday, directed that the charges preferred against the Senate President and his co-accused persons be pasted to the notice board of the National Assembly.

He made the order after listening to the prosecuting counsel, Mr. David Kaswe, who made the request for substituted service orally on Tuesday.

Kaswe told the judge that several attempts of personal service on the defendants had failed.

The judge, in a short ruling, acceded to the request of the prosecution, reiterating that nothing could be done in a criminal trial except the defendants were first served.

He noted that the application for substituted service should have been made ex parte, which he said would have required the prosecution to file processes.

But he said he would allow Kaswe’s oral application “to fly” because even if an ex parte application had been filed by the prosecution, other parties would not have had the opportunity to make any contribution.

The judge said, “Where service is not effected on the accused persons charged with a particular offence, nothing can be done, realising the fact that it is the constitutional right of such an accused person to equally ventilate his grievances.

“Consequently, after hearing learned counsel, Mr. Kaswe, who made an oral application based on provisions of Section 123 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, which ordinarily would have been made ex parte, whereby processes would have been filed.

“Accordingly, the application is hereby granted. Consequently, the defendants are to be served by fixing the said charge on the notice board of the National Assembly at the National Assembly Complex, Three Arms Zone, Abuja. I find solace for this under Section 123 of ACJA, 2015.”

Earlier before the proceedings, court sources had confirmed to one of our correspondents that non-service of the charges on the defendants would make it impossible for the arraignment to go ahead on Tuesday.

Court officials, who spoke with The PUNCH on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak on the case, confirmed that at about 8am on Tuesday, the charges had yet to be served on the defendants.

One of the court officials said, “Our bailiffs went to the National Assembly on Friday but because there was no sitting, the defendants were not found to be served.

“On Monday, the bailiffs tried again but there was no sitting in the National Assembly, so the defendants could not be served.

“Had they been served before now, the matter would have come up for arraignment today (Tuesday).

Saraki, Ekweremadu, Maikasuwa  and 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 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.

It was alleged that the 2011 version of the Senate Order 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 Order.

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 Order allows electronic and secret ballot voting in the said elections.

The 2011 Order, 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 Order reads, “All Senators-elect are entitled to participate in the voting for Senate President and Deputy Senate President.”

Reps condemn bid to prosecute senate officers

Also, the House of Representatives on Tuesday rose in defence of Saraki and Ekweremadu, saying the Federal Government should “desist” from its bid to prosecute them for alleged forgery.

It noted that dragging Saraki and Ekweremadu to court did not only amount to interfering with the “internal affairs” of the Senate, but was also part of a plot to cripple the institution of the National Assembly.

In a resolution in Abuja, the House specifically urged President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene by cautioning top officials of his administration and stop them from “progressing in error.”

A member from Kogi State, Mr. Tajudeen Yusuf, who brought up the issue under matters of urgent public importance, recalled that the lack of respect for the National Assembly was exemplified in the non-implementation of the resolution passed since March, taking over the Kogi State House of Assembly.

Calling on the executive to abide by the principle of separation of powers and independence of the legislature as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the resolution read further, “The House strongly urge Mr. President, who has sworn to an oath to defend and protect the constitution, to prevail on the members of the executive council to desist from further steps that will cripple the National Assembly.

“These include prosecuting the presiding officers of the Senate over alleged forgery of Senate Rules, which a  competent court of law has also recognised as strictly the ‘internal affair of the National Assembly’, and which judgment has not been set aside by any superior court.

“It is now commonplace that ministers and heads of parastatals ignore invitations by handing committees and adhoc committees at will.

“The House committees have therefore been rendered toothless because no consequences attach to such wanton refusal of ministers to attend sessions.”

The session was presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara.

Dogara did not allow the motion to be debated on the grounds that it was “straightforward.”

The matter was referred to the joint committees on Justice and Legislative Compliance after lawmakers endorsed it in a majority voice vote.

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