Alleged Forgery Charges: Unity Forum Senators Refuse to Withdraw Petition, I Acted in Public Interest, Says AGF
Indications emerged on Wednesday that plots by the leadership of the Senate to get the Unity Forum Senators to withdraw the petition they wrote to the Police alleging the forgery of the Senate Rule Book 2011 might have hit the rocks.
TheGlobe.ng reliably gathered that one of the resolutions reached at the rancorous closed session held on Tuesday was that Unity Forum Senators, who signed the petition upon which the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, had arraigned Senate President Bukola Saraki, his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and two others, should withdraw those petitions.
Senator Dino Melaye, who made the presentation on the floor during the closed session, was said to have argued that the Senate had already resolved that its Rule Book was not forged and further stressed that any of the petitioners who refused to withdraw the charges should be made to face the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges and suspended from the floor.
But a Senator, who spoke on condition that he will not be named, told TheGlobe.ng that they will not withdraw the petition from the Police "no matter the consequences.
"Why should we withdraw the petition? What will be our ground? Are we expected to say that we misled Nigerians and the Federal Government? If the courts say the Rule Book was not a forgery, we will rather accept that," he said.
Also in the Senate on Wednesday, Malami, the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, told the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters,that he acted in defence of the rule of law, justice and public interest by charging the presiding officers and the two bureaucrats to the Federal High Court, Abuja over alleged forgery
The Minister told the Committee that instituting criminal charges against the presiding officers of the Senate for forgery of the Senate Standing Rules 2015 was constitutional and should therefore not be misconstrued as dabbling into what is purely the domestic affairs of the Senate.
He explained that his action was not only done in good faith but in the interest of the public, justice and to further strengthen the nation’s nascent democracy.
“The criminal case my office instituted against the principal officers of the Senate and two other officers of the legislature was to sustain the rule of law, justice and public interest, not to truncate democracy,’’ he stressed.
According to him, "there are two suits against the culprits; the civil case instituted by the serving senators themselves and the criminal aspect instituted by the Office of the Attorney General following from the outcome of police investigations on the matter’’, stressing that his action was guided in his submission to court by the Senate Rule Chapter 8, Lines 3.
He also submitted that since he has made his submission to the court, it shall therefore be over reaching on his part to comment on it in this circumstance so as not to be subjudiced.
Malami in his reaction to questions on why he failed to appear before the Senate previously, but waited up to the time pressure was mounting, said; “I have the tradition of honouring social invitations much more state or institutional invitation. It is a misconception putting it that I neglected your invitation. Frankly, I was out of the country for urgent national assignment at the time the two invitations were extended to my office. I regretted my unavailability; please accept my apologies once again.”
Malami agreed with the Senate committee that the Senate had every right to regulate its procedures, but succinctly put it to the committee members that the alleged amendment of the 2015 Senate Rule did not pass through the Senate procedure and that prompted the arraignment of Saraki, Ekweremadu and two other officers of the legislative house.
“The alleged amended 2015 Senate rule did not pass through the Senate Procedure and that is where my quarrel lies and that fall within purview of criminality”, he explained.
Malami further said, ‘’the need to protect and promote public interest, justice and rule of law necessitated me to charge the principal officers and other officers of the legislative house”.
The Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters under the Chairmanship of Senator David Umaru, unanimously said that the reason the AGF was invited was actually not in relation to the forgery case preferred against the Senate principal officers and the two others.
They explained that what they wanted to know was what informed the Minister’s decision to take what had happened at the floor of the Senate to court, emphasizing that his action was ultra vile and not in public interest and interest of justice.