A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory High Court in Jabi, Abuja, on Tuesday fixed June 27 for the arraignment of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, and other defendants, on two counts of criminal conspiracy and forgery.
Justice Yusuf Halilu fixed the date after ordering substituted service of the charges on the defendants.
The order made by the court followed the complaint by the prosecution that several attempts of personal service on the defendants had failed.
‘Orders pasting of charges on N’Assembly notice board’
Justice Halilu granting prosecution’s request for substituted service on the defendants on Tuesday, ordered that the charges be pasted on the notice board of the National Assembly.
Prosecuting counsel, Mr. David Kaswe, made the request for substituted service orally on Tuesday.
He told the judge that the prosecution had deposed to affidavits showing the difficulty of the prosecution to serve the defendants personally.
He done urged the court to activate the provisions of section 123 and 124 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, which permits the court to order other means of service apart from personal service.
The judge, in a short ruling, agreed with the prosecution.
He said although the application for substituted service should have been made ex parte, he would allow Kaswe’s oral application “to fly” considering the need for the defendants to be aware of charges.
He then fixed June 27 for arraignment.
Court sources had earlier confirmed that non-service of the charges on the defendants would make it impossible for the trial to go on today.
Court officials who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak on the case, confirmed to our correspondent at about 8am on Tuesday that the charges had yet to be served on the defendants.
One of court of officials said, “The case was assiged to the judge on Thursday. We tried to serve the defendants on Friday.
“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).
“The hearing notice that was meant to be served along with the charges carried today’s date for arraignment.”
But the the Senate President will today appear before the Code of Conduct Tribunal for his ongoing trial on charges of false and anticipatory asset declaration.
The CCT shares a boundary with the FCT High Court in Jabi area of Abuja.
Saraki, Ekweremadu, a former Clerk to the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasu, and his 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 last year.
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 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 allows 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 under 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 the Senate President, Bukola 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 Jabi area of Abuja.
The CCT had adjourned for the hearing of a fresh motion filed by Saraki seeking an order of the CCT disqualifying its Chairman, Danladi Umar, from further presiding over the case.