The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, on Wednesday, appeared before the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, to defend the government’s forgery charges against the senate president, Bukola Saraki, and deputy, Ike Ekweremadu.
Mr. Malami was summoned by the Senate on June 21, to “explain and justify with evidence” the basis for the charges against Messrs. Saraki and Ekweremadu. The two lawmakers are accused of conspiring with two National Assembly to forge the Senate’s rules.
Mr. Malami appeared after repeatedly failing to honour the senate’s summons.
At the hearing, the chairman of the Senate committee, David Umaru, and other members, asked Mr. Malami if he acted in the public interest and without abuse of his office.
A member of the committee, Joshua Lidani, said there was an issue of conflict of interest as Mr. Malami was the lawyer representing senators who were aggrieved with Mr. Saraki’s election. Those senators filed the complaint accusing Mr. Saraki and his deputy of falsifying the senate rule.
Mr. Malami denied bias, and said the case predated his appointment as minister on November 12, 2015.
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The minister said the investigation was concluded four months before his appointment, and that he was duty bound to continue with the matter.
“I only inherited a concluded investigative report,” said Mr. Malami.
Quoting the Senate Order, Mr. Malami reminded the Senators that a matter in court should not be entertained by the legislative body.
Asked why Messrs. Saraki and Ekweremadu were not questioned during investigations before the matter went to court, and why the two senators were charged when their names were not mentioned in the proof of evidence, the attorney general said he could not comment as he was a party in a case.
The Senators said the Constitution empowers the Senate to regulate its internal affairs, including the matters arising from the controversial Senate Rules.
Defending the “amendment” of the 2015 Rules, a committee member, Chukwuma Utazi, said “I wish to refer the AGF to Section 64 (1)”which dissolves the Parliament after 4 years”.
He said Rules stood invalid at the end of the session and the Senate could amend the document handed to them by the bureaucracy.
But Mr. Malami said the alteration of Senate Rules, 2015 did not conform to valid procedures, insisting and that an offence was committed in the process.
In the police report exclusively published by PREMIUM TIMES, the Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department, found that the Senate Rules used to inaugurate the Senate did follow the procedures stipulated in the Section 110 of the 2011 Rules, “the extant Standing Rules”.
Without direct reference to the CIID report, Mr. Malami told the Senators the “amendment” of the 2015 Senate Order did not follow the legally valid procedure.
The minister of Justice said that “a Standing Rule that has not been deliberated and voted on by the Senate, cannot be the Standing Rule”.
He said the criminal case was filed to curb “abuse institutional governing documents”.
Drawing from antecedents, he noted that when there was a need to amend the Senate Rules in May 2011, there was a process of deliberation that followed the stipulated procedure.
Babajide Omoworare (APC-Osun) made comment that caused division at the hearing.
“This session is an entire waste of our time,” Mr. Omoworare said, opposing his colleagues’ emphasis on the forgery suit against Messrs Saraki and Ekweremadu. “I am not bothered about the matter in court.”
He said the law should take its course.
However, like Ovie Omo-Agege (LP-Delta), Mr. Omoworare said the Senate expected apology from Mr. Malami for shunning the Senate’s summon earlier.
The minister refused to apologize.
He however said he had regard for the senate and he was known for honouring institutional invitations.
Earlier in his remark, Mr. Umaru said the hearing was convened not because of the matter in court but to ensure there was no abuse of office.
“We are only concerned with how the AGF exercises his powers,” he said. “Did he take into account public interest?”