The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami has described as baseless the Senate claims that the arraignment of its leadership for forgery was an abused of the doctrine of separation of power.
Malami in reaction to the torrents of missiles from the Upper Chamber since it become known that the Fedetal Government was to arraign Senate President, Bukola Saraki, his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, former Clerk of the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa and Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly, Bernard Efeturi, for forging Standing Rule of the House by which Saraki and Ekweremadu came to power, said the Senate was only crying wolf were there was none.
Saraki, Ekweremadu are facing charges of alleged criminal conspiracy and forgery of the Senate Standing Rules, 2015, brought against them by the Federal Government.
The charge reads: “That you Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa, Benedict Efeturi, Dr. Olubukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu on or about the 9th of June, 2015, at the National Assembly Complex, Three Arm Zone, Abuja within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, conspired amongst yourselves, to forge the Senate Standing Order, 2011 (as amended) and you thereby committed the offence of Conspiracy, punishable under Section 97 (1) of the Penal Code Law.
“That you Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa, Benedict Efeturi, Dr. Olubukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu on or about the 9th of June, 2015, at the National Assembly Complex, Three Arm Zone, Abuja within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, with fraudulent intent forged the Senate Standing Order 2011 (as amended) causing it to be believed as the genuine Standing Order, 2015 and circulated same for use during the inauguration of the 8th Senate of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, when you knew that the said Order was not made in compliance the procedure for amendment of the Senate Order, you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 364 of the Penal Code Law.”
In a statement by his media aide, Malami said he acted within the powers of his office.
The statement reads: “RE: Forgery Case, An Unconstitutional Violation of Principles of Separation of Powers, Checksand Balances.‘The Senate Allegations as Mere Falsehood to Whip Up Sentiments of Nigerians’
“Our attention has been drawn to a press statement by the Senate and signed by Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Affairs and dated June 19, 2016 titled, ‘Forgery Case, An Unconstitutional Violation of Principles of Separation of Powers, Checks and Balances’, and published in some national dailies and social media platforms and wish to respond as follows, that:
“The position of the Senate alleging that the move to arraign the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, former Clerk of the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa and Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly, Bernard Efeturi before the court last Monday (20thJune, 2016 to be precise) for forgery initiated by the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice portends danger and indeed, a coup against the legislature with a view to cause a leadership change in the National Assembly is quite unfortunate.
“That the Senate went on to describe it as wanton abuse of judicial processes and insinuating that the action of the Attorney General of the Federation who is the Chief Law Officer of the country is an interference on the legislature by the executive arm on the affairs of the Red Chambers of the National Assembly; and therefore a violation of the principles of separation of powers as enshrined in the Constitution is also regrettable.
“These allegations are totally untrue and baseless. We are not unaware of the doctrine of separation of powers. And it is not in doubt that each arm of government is constitutionally vested with distinct powers. Looking critically at the doctrine of the separation of powers, it is a practice that exist on a tripod viz, the executive, legislature and judiciary with clearly distinctive functions and responsibilities as captured under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). So, by virtue of this, we are committed to the rule of law and will thus keep to the tenets of the rule of law as enshrined in a constitutional democracy like ours.
“The Office of the Attorney General of the Federation is empowered under Section 174 (1) of the Constitution and vested with the power to undertake and initiate criminal proceedings in any court of law in Nigeria. By virtue of this power as the Chief Law Officer of the nation, he has simply initiated criminal proceedings for forgery against the affected principal officers in the Senate for altering the Senate Standing Rules in the Federal High Court.
“It is worthy to note here that the action of the Attorney General of the Federation can stand the test of any law since he did not act on a vacuum. He acted based on a recommendation by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) who having fully satisfied investigative procedure arising from the petition sent to the Nigerian Police by some aggrieved members of the Red Chambers of the National Assembly alleging that the affected officers altered the rules of the Senate for Dr. Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu to emerge leaders of the Eighth Senate of the National Assembly. And under the 1999 Constitution, only the Attorney General of the Federation has the powers to institute criminal proceedings.
“For the benefit of doubt, as stated above, there was a petition bordering on allegations of forgery against the defendants, the petition was investigated by the police and the police recommended the case for prosecution. At this point, the question is how initiation of criminal proceedings against Dr Bukola Saraki, Ike Ekweremadu, Salisu Maikasuwa and Bernard Efeturi violated the principle of separation of powers as contained in the Constitution? The action of the Attorney General of the Federation cannot obviously be said to be a coup against the National Assembly as the Senate has claimed.
“By preferring the charge, the accused persons are entitled to fair hearing under the law while the prosecution is obligated to prove its case against them beyond reasonable doubts. Therefore, the Attorney General of the Federation has not violated any known law in the land. Or is the Senate suggesting that its principal officers, members and staff of the National Assembly are above the law or enjoy same immunity as do the nation’s President and Governors? It is common knowledge over the years since the nation embraced democratic system of governance and backed by the current Constitution those elected officers of government who are exempted from legal encumbrances whether it is civil or criminal are known to all.
“It is pertinent to be reminded too, that forgery of the Senate Standing Rules cannot be described as the internal business of the National Assembly that is exclusively only in its purview. The Attorney General of the Federation cannot therefore be faulted for his decision to initiate legal actions against the accused for alleged forgery after a thorough police investigation of the issue whether there was an amendment of the Senate Standing Rules in 2015 or not.
“The case of Adesanya vs Senate which has been seriously touted in its press statement does not support them and they should rather take their plea and defend the action accordingly.
“We assure Nigerians that the Attorney General of the Federation will continue to be committed to the rule of law at all times. On this particular forgery case, we believe he should rather be commended for his foresight and political will to carry out his constitutional role to the letter and not to be vilified under any guise.”
The statement was signed by Salihu Othman Isah, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Minister.