After several denials, the Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday officially summoned the president of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu; former clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa, and the outgoing deputy clerk, Ben Efeturi, over their alleged involvement in the forgery of the Senate Standing Orders.
On its part, the Senate has invited the attorney-general of the federation (AGF) and minister of justice, Abubakar Malami, to appear before senators to explain himself over the prosecution of the Senate president and his deputy in the alleged forgery of the upper chamber’s rulebook.
The court summon, which was effected through substituted service, was posted on the notice board at the corridor leading to the Senate president’s office at the National Assembly Complex.
Part of the summons read: “By oral application dated 21st June, 2016, moved by D.E. Kaswe, Principal State Counsel, Federal Ministry of Justice, in this case praying the court for:
“An order of this honourable court granting leave to the complainant/applicant to serve the criminal summon on the defendants by substituted means, to wit, by pasting it at the notice board of the National Assembly Three Arms Zone, Abuja.”
Also included in the summons were statements already volunteered by the former clerk to the National Assembly, Maikasuwa, and the outgoing deputy clerk, Efeturi, on their alleged involvement in the forgery.
Maikasuwa, in his statement, denied any involvement in the alleged forgery saga.
He said, “The Senate Standing Orders used in the Seventh Senate was not known to me. The clerk of the Senate is in a position to know. I was not aware of the amendment that was made to the Standing Rules.”
Also in his statement, Efeturi said it was the Senate leadership that handed him the 2015 Standing Rules as amended by their convention and practice.
“The Senate leadership handed the 2015 standing rules as amended by their convention and practice. Standing Orders 2003, 2007, and 2011 followed similar practice,” he said.
LEADERSHIP’s check at the close of work yesterday indicated that the court summons was later removed from where it was earlier posted.
The Senate, in its first reaction to the allegation, stated that amendment of the standing rules was done by the National Assembly bureaucracy.
Senate spokesman, Abdullahi Sabi, had, in a statement on Sunday, maintained that the Senate Standing Order was not forged.
But the Senate yesterday resolved to summon Malami to appear before it to explain the basis for his allegation of forgery of Senate Standing Orders against Saraki and Ekweremadu.
It also stated that there was no forgery of the Senate Standing Orders and wondered how the forgery story emanated.
The Senate specifically directed its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to summon the AGF within two days to answer for alleged abuse of office, incompetence and contempt of court.
The resolution was sequel to a motion raised by Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West) who cited Order 42 of the Senate Rules concerning matters of urgent public importance.
The Senate described the current attempt to arraign the leadership of the Senate over an internal matter of the Senate and claims of a spurious forgery that does not exist as a smokescreen for an impending attempt to overthrow the legislative arm.
LEADERSHIP recalls that aggrieved Senators of the Unity Forum, mainly of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), had last year, dragged the leadership of the Senate to court over the alleged forgery of the Senate rulebook.
A visibly angry Senator Melaye, described the purported invitation of the Senate president and his deputy to appear before a court as a degradation of the office of the Senate by the executive, saying “the motion is on the imminent threat to our democracy as it relates to the alleged invitation of our principal officers by the court in Abuja.”
He asserted that the present state of affairs posed the greatest threat to the nation’s corporate existence and a rape of its constitution.
This Senate notes with regret the deviant act of the attorney general of the federation (AGF) and his office of contentiously disregarding the binding decision of the federal high court without a pending appeal by the police and the attorney general on the same matter in which the federal high court had decided to file charges against the leadership of the National Assembly is a gross violation of the attorney general official calling and attempt to overthrow the legislative arm of government and force autocracy on our body polity,” Melaye further stated.
On the contentious Senate rulebook, Melaye argued that “this document is the same document we have used in this Senate to receive the budget of Mr President. If the rule is fake, then the budget we have received is also fake and illegal.
“I want to also remind the executive that this same rule is what we quoted when we responded to a communication from Mr President to have a joint session with the president of South Africa. This same rule is what we used in the screening of all the ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, including the attorney general of the federation.
“This same rule, if it is fake, the position of attorney general and minister of justice is also illegal.”
Melaye further pointed out that Senators had used the same rulebook in screening the service chiefs, chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service, executive vice chairman of National Communications Commissions (NCC), INEC chairman and other appointees of the president.
Supporting the motion, Senator Sam Anyanwu, decried the move to make the legislature an appendage of the executive, and advised the executive to focus on the economy.
Ekweremadu also read out a motion on the floor of the Senate.
Parts of it read: “The Nigerian Senate observed the ongoing systematic degradation and abuse of the office of the leadership of the National Assembly by the executive arm of government through intimidation and harassment.
“This Senate notes, regrettably, that the executive arm of government, as presently constituted, is still to come to terms with the constitutional tenets of separation of powers and the independence of the legislative arm of government.
“My respected colleagues, this very noble Senate observes further notwithstanding the maturity and nationalistic commitment of the National Assembly to ensure the survival of our democracy and the enthronement of order and national development through bipartisan initiatives and support for the executive, there remains a grand design not only to distract the National Assembly but to also intimidate it into silence and enthrone a one-man rule.”
The deputy Senate president further noted that the upper house had noticed the executive arm’s lack of respect for judicial decisions and the resolutions of the National Assembly, adding that the current attempt to arraign the leadership of the Senate over an internal organisational matter of the Senate and spurious claims of a forgery that does not exist was a smokescreen for an impending attempt to overthrow the legislative arm.
“This Senate notes further that the judiciary had, through several rulings in a recent case suit no AFC/ABJ/CS/646/2015 on the same issue, warned the executive arm against treading on the path of criminalising or interfering in the running of the internal affairs of the Senate,” he added.
According to the notion, the Senate is aware that the legislature is empowered to regulate its own procedures as explicitly stated in Section 60 of the Nigerian constitution.
Ekweremadu chided the executive, saying that instead of “applying itself to the myriads of problems confronting the nation, including the escalating cost of living, upsurge in environment extremism, worsening insecurity, rising ethnic divisions, sky rocketing unemployment, declining national productivity and a nose diving economy into recession, the executive continues to be hell-bent on chasing rats while the federation burns.”