David Lawal

SGF to Saraki, Ekweremadu: Don’t drag National Assembly into your trial

The federal government yesterday came close to asking the Senate President Bukola Saraki and his Deputy Ike Ekweremadu to resign in view of their trial over forgery allegations.

Saraki and Ekweremadu were on Monday charged to court but released on bail over forgery charges.

They were accused to have forged the Senate Standing Order, 2011 (as amended “with fraudulent intent forged the Senate Standing Order 2011 (as amended) causing it to be believed as the genuine Standing Order, 2015 and circulated same for use during the inauguration of the 8th Senate.”

But in separate statements they personally signed both accused the presidency as being behind their prosecution in order to get rid of them as senate leaders.

Yesterday the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir David Lawal in statement distanced President Muhammadu Buhari from the trial.

The SGF pointed out that a precedent had already existed for those accused of forgery to resign their positions. He made the comment in reference to the case of former speaker of the House of Representatives, Salisu Buhari, who formally resigned on July 22, 1999, following allegations of forgery and perjury.

“A case of forgery is usually preferred against individuals. This is not different.  As was the case with a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, who was accused of certificate forgery, what he did was to resign, honourably.

“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,” he said.

“From their statements, the two leaders of the Senate also gave this erroneous impression that by their arraignment, it is the entire Senate and indeed, the Legislative Arm of Government that is on trial.

“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 proferring the forgery case against them is a vendetta exercise.

“Since this case is in court, the Judiciary should be allowed to do its job.
“However, it is important to emphasize 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 SGF said.

He added that the complaint leading to the forgery investigation was reported to the police by some aggrieved Senators who specifically accused certain persons and that it is not the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that is involved and definitely not the House of Representatives.

He said to bring the National Assembly as a body into this court case is unwarranted and that it can only be for other purposes and reasons outside the investigation and legal proceedings.

Lawal who said the separate statements by the Senate President and his deputy are contradictory, added that while Saraki believes Mr. President has abdicated his powers and that a cabal is in charge of Federal Administration, Ekweremadu says President Buhari has become a dictator.

He added: “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… To impute other considerations to the process is unfortunate.”

Trial targeted at Senate – Senators insist

In its swift reactions, the Senate, insisted the trial was a plot to force leadership change at the Upper Chamber.

Senate spokesperson, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi in a statement said neither the name of the Senate President’s nor that of his Deputy were mentioned by the petitioners.

“We disagree with him (SGF) 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, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki nor Senator Ike Ekweremadu were mentioned by the petitioners, the statements by those interviewed by the police or even the police report, “the statement reads.

Disputing the claims of the SGF that a former Speaker resigned over a similar case, they said;”let us refreshen 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.

The statement said: “Therefore, nobody should compare an apple with orange. Also, neither Saraki nor Ekweremadu is below the age requirement for their present  position as it was alleged in the Salisu Buhari case. Attempts to make the two situations look similar is to present all Nigerians as having no sense of history. We also know that nobody can be accused of forging his own signature,” it stated.
They said the executive was in no position to determine what the correct Standing Orders of the Senate are.

“The Senate President and his Deputy were, as at 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 their understanding of the present assault on their independence by the executive. “We maintain that this trial is a design by the Executive to criminalize the internal affairs of the Senate to create a distraction for the leadership of the Senate, force a leadership change and cow the legislators.”

It added: “However, we are sure they will fail in this attempt. We only hope they will allow the judiciary to truly and creditably perform its duties and give an independent verdict on the case.”

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