Following a forgery suit filed by the Federal Government against the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, his deputy, Ike Ekwerenmadu and other clerical staff of the National Assembly, at the Federal High Court, Abuja, the Senate yesterday spat fire, warning that the FG should not dare the senior legislative arm
The Senate warned against mistaking its maturity and hand of co-operation being extended to the Presidency as a sign of weakness.
The FG, through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), on June 10, 2016, slammed a two-count charge bordering on criminal conspiracy and forgery against Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa, Benedict Efeturi, Saraki and Ekweremadu.
In the suit, Saraki, Ekweremadu and others allegedly “caused the Standing Order to be believed as the genuine Standing Orders, 2015 and circulated same for use during the inauguration of the 8th Senate of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 364 of the Penal Code Law.”
But the Senate, through its spokesman, Abdullahi Sabi described the suit as unconstitutional, violation of the principles of separation of powers as enshrined in the constitution and danger to Nigeria’s democracy.
Senate accused the executive of plotting to muzzle the legislature and criminalise legislative process in order to force a leadership change, “or, in the extreme case, ground the Red Chamber of the National Assembly. Or how does one interpret a move in which the two presiding officers are being set up to be remanded in Kuje Prison or incapacitated from sitting at plenary through a day-to-day trial on a matter that is purely an internal affair of the Senate.”
The senate spokesman also alleged that the presidency was desperate to return to the era of impunity and lack of respect for due process.
“We urge President Muhammadu Buhari to call his Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, to order. The Senate of the Federal Republic voted freely to elect its leadership into office and continuing attempts to change that leadership through the wanton abuse of judicial processes cannot stand in the eyes of the world.”
This is even as Ekweremadu said he was not scared of the fresh suit filed against him.
Speaking through his media aide, Mr. Uche Anichukwu, Ekweremadu noted that the media reports on his purported invitation by the Nigeria Police and the charges reportedly preferred against him before the FCT High Court, Abuja, in connection with the alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Orders 2011 was a fresh attempt to witchhunt him.
“The hands of Senator Ike Ekweremadu are clean because he has no business whatsoever with the production of Senate Standing Orders. This latest attempt to try and convict him in the court of public opinion notwithstanding, we do not want to mount a public defence. We would rather meet them in court if they so wish,” the aide said.
The crisis rocking the Red Chamber started last year following the emergence of Saraki as Senate President against the wishes of some powerful interests in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Dissatisfied with the Saraki’s “coup”, some senators under the aegis of the Unity Forum approached an Abuja Federal High Court, seeking the nullification of the election based on claims that the Senate Standing Rules were forged.
But the Senate spokesman said the Attorney General and party leaders behind the latest court action either lacked the understanding of the underlining principles of constitutional democracy, the concept of separation of powers, checks and balances and parliamentary convention or they do not care if the present democracy survived or collapsed “in their blinded determination to get Saraki and Ekweremadu by all means necessary, including abuse of office and sacking the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The Nigerian people have enough economic hardship at this time requiring the full attention and cooperation of the three arms of government, instead of these attempts to distract and politicise governance. We are in a state of economic emergency such that what the National Assembly needs at this time are executive bills and proposals aimed at resolving the crises of unemployment, currency depreciation, inflation, crime and insecurity.
“What the National Assembly needs now are executive bills to build and strengthen institutions to earn revenues, fight corruption and eliminate waste. Instead, we are getting hostile actions aimed at destabilising the National Assembly, distracting Senators from their oversight functions and ensuring good and accountable governance.”
The Senate further maintained: “We must make it clear here to the individuals in the Executive arm and party leadership behind these plots not to mistake the maturity and hand of co-operation being extended to the Presidency by the legislature as a sign of weakness.
“The National Assembly bent backwards to accommodate various infractions and inefficiencies in pursuit of inter-arms co-operation and national interest. We did not follow up the various infractions because we believe there are bigger issues which the government has to attend to in order to ensure that every Nigerian have food on his table and live comfortably in a secure environment. We know that the country is actually in a state of economic emergency and all hands must be on deck.”