The Federal Government offered reasons on Friday why it withdrew the charge of forgery against the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu and others.
Lead prosecuting counsel, Aliyu Umar (SAN), explained before an Abuja High Court presided over by Justice Yusuf that he applied for the withdrawal of the initial and amended charge due to the fact that a similar case involving the accused was before a Federal High Court, Abuja.
“I filed a motion in response to the first and second defendants. I have been served with another motion by the third defendant dated 30th September 2016,” Umar told the court.
“I was served a notice by the fourth defendant on 1st October 2016, I have not responded but I have studied them. In view of the fact that this government respects the rule of law and judicial hierarchy and it is obvious that that your learned brother is dealing with similar issues at the federal high court, I am humbly applying that the amended charged I filed dated 5th October 2016, and original dated 3rd June be withdrawn. I urge my lord to strike them out.”
According to him, 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 of the same subject matter cannot be before different courts of coordinate jurisdiction.
“Therefore, the amended charge dated October 5, 2016 and also the original dated June 10, 2016 and filed the same date be struck out and all the four defendants be discharged.”
The case before Justice Gabriel Kolawole of a 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 alleged forgery of the Senate rule by Saraki and others.
The application by Umar for the withdrawal of the charges was not opposed by the defence lawyers comprising, Messrs Ikechukwu Ezechukwu (SAN), Mahmud Magaji (SAN), Paul Erokoro (SAN) and Joseph Daudu (SAN).
Halilu, thereafter, struck out the entire suit against the duo, alongside Salisu Maikasuwa, former Clerk of the National Assembly, and Ben Efeturi, his Deputy.
In a short ruling, Justice Halilu, granted the application by the Federal Government, saying: “Having heard his submission, I have no other option but to strike out the entire suit.”
The Federal Government filed a motion Thursday to withdraw the charge of criminal conspiracy against Saraki and Ekweremadu.
An affidavit in support of the motion was filed before the High Court of Federal Capital Territory by a litigation officer from the Federal Ministry of Justice, Odubu Loveme.
In the motion, Loveme said counsel to the Federal Government on the matter, Umar 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.
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.”