The Federal Government of Nigeria has filed a motion to withdraw the charge of criminal conspiracy against Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu.
Four months ago, government, through the Ministry of Justice, arraigned Saraki, Ekweremadu, alongside former Clerk to the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasu, and his deputy, Benedict Efeturi.
The four were accused of conspiracy and forgery of Senate Standing Rules which brought Saraki and Ekweremadu to office in 2015.
The suit was filed in June, almost a year after Secretary of Senate Unity Forum, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi petitioned the Inspector General of Police where he demanded criminal investigation into allegation of forgery of Senate Rules used for the elections of presiding officers on June 9, 2015.
They were brought before Justice Yusuf Halilu.
In a new twist, an affidavit in support of the motion was filed before the High Court of Federal Capital Territory, yesterday, by a litigation officer from the Federal Ministry of Justice, Odubu Loveme.
Saraki and Ekweremadu, as well as Maikasuwa, and Efeturi, were first arraigned before Justice Yusuf Halilu on June 10, 2016 via charge No. CR/219/16.
They all pleaded not guilty on July 27, 2016.
In the motion, Loveme said counsel to the federal government on the matter, Aliyu Umar, a senior advocate of Nigeria, on September 30, in the office of the Director of Public Prosecution told him that he had studied the case diary and “ had decided to amend the charge in the manner stated on the face of the motion paper.” Loveme added that he has, consequently, filed an amended charge.
“That I depose to this affidavit in good faith believing same to be correct to the best of my knowledge and information and in accordance with the Oaths Act Cap 01 laws of the Federation of Nigeria,” he said.
Based on the amended charge, only Messrs. Maikasuwa and Efeturi would face prosecution.
The two officials are accused of fraudulently amending the 2015 Senate Standing Orders without the authority of the 7th Senate “ with intention that the Senators elect of the 8th Senate would believe that the said Senate Standing Orders 2015 ( as amended) was made by the authority of the 7th Senate of the Federal republic of Nigeria.”
They are also accused of forging a document punishable under section 366 of the Penal Code Act ( Northern States) Federal Provisions Act, 1960, Cap 345, Laws of the Federation 1990 ( as amended). The Nigerian Government also accused them of giving false information with the intention to mislead the public. The court had, on September 28 adjourned the matter to Friday, October 7 for commencement of hearing.
Umar, in his written address in support of the motion to amend the charge on Thursday, stated that the sole issue for determination is “ whether the Court can permit the amendment of the charge in terms of the amended charge”.
He said the Court has the powers to permit the amendment based on the provisions of Section 216 (1) of the Administration o Criminal Justice Act.
The Section stated that “ A Court may permit an alteration or an amendment to a charge or framing of a new charge at any time before judgment is pronounced.”
He also quoted Section 216 (3) which states that “ Where a Defendant is arraigned for trial on an imperfect or erroneous charge ,the Court may permit or direct the framing of a new charge, or any amendment to, or the alteration of the original charge.”