The Senate on Friday described the forgery case against the President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, and his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, as a distraction to the lawmaking body.
It said the withdrawal of the case against them by the Federal Government confirmed its position that the nation could not afford any sharp division among the various arms of the government.
The Federal Government had arraigned Saraki, Ekweremadu, and two other officials of the National Assembly for alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Rules used in electing leaders in the Senate on June 9, 2015.
However, the Federal Government withdrew the charges preferred against them on Friday.
The Senate, in a statement by its Chairman, Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, on Friday, said the decision to withdraw the case and its subsequent dismissal, as well as the discharge of the defendants, had confirmed its earlier position that the case was an abuse of court process, having been dismissed earlier by the court.
The Senate said, “We have always said that that case was politically motivated. The executive cannot decide for the legislature the genuineness or otherwise of the Senate Standing Rules.
“However, where there is a crack in the wall, it is easy for others to capitalise on our differences. Now that senators have closed their ranks, the executive is only taking the right cue. We are happy with this development.
“We believe it is a sign of good things to come. It is a victory for democracy; a victory for separation of powers, checks and balances and constitutionalism. We commend the judiciary for its continuous dedication and commitment to the rule of law in our democracy.
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“We restate our confidence in the ability of the judiciary to adjudicate and dispense justice in all matters in the polity which, no doubt, greatly contributes to national productivity. Our commendation also goes to the Federal Ministry of Justice for being courageous enough to do the right thing.”
The Upper Chamber of the National Assembly also called on the executive to withdraw other cases with political colouration.
The Senate said, “There is an emergency in the country. The economy is in crisis. This has resulted in escalating and excruciating poverty among our people. Social problems are on the rise. There are conflicts across the country. National values are being eroded. Crucial infrastructure and social services are collapsing. These are the things that should pre-occupy our minds, especially now that our economy is in recession.
“The international community will take us more seriously when they see that everybody in the national leadership is speaking along the same line to solve the economic problem, encourage productivity, create employment, promote discipline and work to make our country great.”
In a related development, Ekweremadu has said he had forgiven those behind his trial for the alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Rules upon which he got into office.
Ekweremadu, in a statement he personally signed and issued on Friday, said, “Today, time has indeed vindicated the just and it is a victory for democracy. This day, my trust in God, the court and the overwhelming solidarity of the good people of Nigeria is justified.
“As a Christian, I have forgiven all those behind this, for ultimately, God is the driver of the destinies of men. I believe that, going forward, we must also learn to be just to all, in accordance with our Oath of Office.”
The Federal Government had on Friday withdrawn the forgery charges it instituted in June 2016 against Saraki, Ekweremadu, and two others.
The lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Aliyu Umar (SAN), told the trial judge, Justice Yusuf Halilu, of the Jabi Division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory that the charges were withdrawn because of a pending case related to the charges before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
He said, “This government respects the rule of law and hierarchy of the judiciary. It is obvious from these two applications (filed by Saraki and Ekweremadu) and the similar case before your learned brother, Justice Kolawole, at the Federal High Court, who is dealing with the issue that we are withdrawing the charges.
“It is trite that two matters on the same subject matter cannot be before different courts of coordinate jurisdiction at the same time. Therefore, the amended charge, dated October 5, 2016 and also the original charge, dated June 10, 2016 and filed the same date (should) be struck out and all the four defendants be discharged.”
The case before Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which was referred to by the prosecutor was a civil case filed by a serving Senator, Gilbert Nnaji, to challenge the then ongoing investigation into the forgery of the Senate rule, which Saraki and others were accused of.
The application by Umar for the withdrawal of the charges was not opposed by the defence lawyers, comprising of Messrs Ikechukwu Ezechukwu (SAN), Mahmud Magaji (SAN), Paul Erokoro (SAN) and Joseph Daudu (SAN).
Both Erokoro (Ekweremadu’s lawyer) and Daudu (Saraki’s lawyer) described Umar as a “courageous” lawyer for his decision to withdraw the case after his assessment of the available evidence.