The Buhari presidency has freshed moves to criminalise the leadership of the Nigerian Senate, Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu, in what appears to be connected by the recent rejection of the president’s request to borrow $30 billion from foreign sources.
The National Prosecution Coordination Committee, NPCC, has reportedly received a fresh police report on the investigations into the alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Orders, 2015 and in the report indicts Senate President Saraki and Dr. Ekweremadu, the deputy senate president.
The two Senate leaders were charged for forgery in June, 2016 and Justice Yusuf Halilu dismissed the charges before the main trial began after the prosecution withdrew the charges before the Abuja high court against the legislative officials in October 2016.
Following the dismissal of the charges against Saraki and Ekweremadu, Abubakar Malami, the minister of justice and federal attorney general, ordered the amendment of the charges for Salisu Maikasuwa, former clerk of the national assembly, and Ben Efeturi, his deputy who were charged alongside the senators.
Malami, a senior advocate of Nigeria, also directed the police to conduct fresh investigations into the case.
The government, it was reported, had found out that the investigation was inconclusive and the evidence was not strong enough to sustain a diligent prosecution of the accused persons.
It was gathered that the special investigation panel, headed by the retired assistant inspector-general of police, Ali Amodu, explained that a former clerk to the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa, could not have committed the alleged offence without the connivance of the two principal officers.
The SIP was set up by the new inspector general of police, Ibrahim Idris, to investigate high-profile cases soon after he was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in September 2016.
Saraki, Ekweremadu To Be Charged Again
A top police operative, told Punch, on Saturday, November 19, 2016 that the SIP committee had “addressed the loopholes” identified by Malami in the first report. This simply means that the presidency ordered for a new report that would indict Saraki and Ekweremadu.
“The police have concluded investigations into the case and submitted the report to the NPCC. This was done about a month ago,” the anonymous source told the newspaper.
“Conspiracy is a very wide offence and Maikasuwa couldn’t have done what he did without the connivance of Saraki and Ekweremadu.
“There is no doubt about it; they were the beneficiaries and they have to be joined in the case,” the source is quoted as saying.
When asked if the panel made any recommendation for the prosecution of the beneficiaries of the forgery, he stated, “There is no need to make any recommendation to prosecute them because the investigation did not exonerate them.”
When confronted with the fact that the police investigation committee never invited the senate president or his deputy for questioning, the source, obviously aligned with the government narrative on this case said, “It is not totally out of point. It is for Saraki, Ekweremadu and others to defend themselves in court. The fact that they were not questioned did not mean they didn’t commit the offence as alleged. The circumstances were that the investigators could not reach them just like the way the House of Representatives leadership was dodging police summons on the budget padding probe.”
He added that the evidence and corrections made on the report had been sent to the AGF by the police.
“There were certain documents and evidence they asked us to fine-tune, which we did. We got all the necessary documents, including the Hansard, where publications were made and notices were given. We looked at the Hansard. Was there any amendment during the 7th Senate? There were no amendments; nothing was adopted during the 7th Senate. We got the papers and there was nothing like that,” the source told Punch.
“So, where did Ekweremadu and Maikasuwa derive their authority from when no amendment was done on the floor of the Senate?”
Another highly-placed source, who was familiar with the police probe, informed one of our correspondents on Saturday that the SIP was able to gather the necessary evidence about how the alleged forgery at the Senate was carried out.
The source said it was now up to the AGF and the NPCC to decide whether to re-arraign Saraki, Ekweremadu and others or not.
It was gathered that the detectives were able to verify the extent of amendment to the Senate Standing Orders 2011, the individuals who authorised it, and the official who ordered the printing of the Senate Standing Orders, 2015.
The source added, “The SIP, through painstaking efforts, was able to identify who distributed the printed copies of the Senate Standing Orders, 2015, to senators-elect and it also obtained the complete Hansard of June 9 and 24, 2015, which indicated what transpired on the floor of the Senate as well as other relevant evidence. These were issues the former probe did not resolve.
“It is now up to the government to decide whether Saraki and Ekweremadu should be re-arraigned or only Maikasuwa and Efeturi would carry the can.”
One of our correspondents gathered that the SIP had to bypass the Clerk, National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, to get the necessary evidence and documents relating to the case.
When contacted on Saturday, the spokesperson for the AGF and the NPCC, Mr. Salisu Isah, said he was not aware of any fresh development in the case.
“Just give me some time to find out and revert to you,” he said.
The federal attorney general is the chairperson of the NPCC which consists of 19 members.
When contacted on Saturday, Saraki decline to comment on the matter, while Ekweremadu said he was not aware of the new development in the forgery case.
Another aide to Ekweremadu, who spoke on condition of anonymity, wondered why the police would file another report from a fresh investigation when the security agency had sworn to an affidavit that it had concluded its investigations into the case and presented it before a court.
Additional report by Punch