Prosecution Stalls Saraki, Others' Trial, as Court Adjourns to Oct 7
Failure of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Malami Abubakar Malami SAN, to release the case file of the charge of forgery levelled against Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu and two others to the new prosecutor stalled the trial on Wednesday at an Abuja High Court.
The charge was filed last June.
The court was informed at the Wednesday session that the AGF had not released the case file to the newly appointed prosecuting team of Alhaji Aliyu Umar SAN.
Umar, who is now counsel to the federal government, told Justice Yusuf Halilu that he was not ready to proceed with the trial because the detail case file in the office of the AGF containing motions by Saraki and others asking the court not to entertain the case had not been released to him.
Umar informed the court that because the office of the AGF had not handed over the case file to him, he would rather apply for an adjournment to enable him put his house in order instead of starting the trial.
He also said that the adjournment would enable him prepare his reactions to series of motions filed by the four defendants.
The action of the AGF on the stalling of the trial however sparked off chains of reactions from counsel to Saraki, Mr. Paul Erokoro SAN and other defendants who accused the federal government of deliberately planning to frustrate the matter.
Erokoro SAN, vehemently objected to the request for adjournment, insisting that the matter was adjourned June for trial.
He added that if the AGF did not deem it fit to handover the case file to the lawyer he freely appointed, the charge should be terminated and the defendants be allowed to go home.
Erokoro further informed the court that Saraki had filed a motion since June 22 and served same on the AGF, questioning the legality of the charge on the ground that it constituted an abuse of court process because similar matter involving the AGF, was pending before a Federal high court in Abuja.
In the same vein, counsel to Ike Ekweremadu, Joseph Daudu, SAN faulted the government's request for an adjournment, claiming that since June when the charge was filed and slated for hearing, the AGF ought to have done the needful so as not to scuttle the trial.
Daudu told the court that Ekweremadu had also filed a motion since June, challenging the charge, adding that the charge was brought in bad faith and not competent to stand in the face of the law because it constituted a gross abuse of court process
Chief Ikechukwu Ezechukwu SAN, counsel to the former clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa and Mahmud Magaji SAN, counsel to the Deputy Clerk, Benedict Eferuti, also raised objection against the decision of the prosecution not to commence the trial.
The trial judge, Justice Yusuf Halilu expressed reservations on the request for adjournment and the inability of the AGF to respond to the motions filed in the past 90 days challenging the the propriety of the charge.
“But in the interest of justice and the circumstances of this case and the plight of the defence team, I oblige to adjourn this matter till Friday, October 7 as agreed to by the four defendants”.
The judge added that the bail granted the four defendants in June, when they were brought for trial, should continue.
The AGF had already been told that the proof of evidence in support of the charge could not ground a conviction.
Consequently, the investigation into the forgery was declared inconclusive.
The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubabakar Malami is now desperately seeking fresh investigation that will enable him convict the accused persons even though, he has not withdrawn the pending charge.
Documents from both the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, and that of the Inspector General of Police, IGP had shown that the prosecution was making frantic efforts to reopen what it termed "inconclusive investigation".
A letter from the Office of the AGF, to the IGP, and signed by the Special Assistant to the President on (Research and Special Projects) / Secretary, National Prosecution Coordination Committee, Sylvester Omoregie Imhanobe, a copy of which was sighted by THISDAY clearly stated that the AGF is seeking a fresh investigation of the case.
The AGF noted that after reviewing the case, he had since realized that the investigations were "inconclusive", and therefore sought to reopen it.
The letter of reopening of investigation addressed to the current IGP, Ibrahim Idris received in his office on Saturday, August 20,2016, but which was mistakenly dated Friday, August 19,2015, reads in part: "Sir, I have the instructions of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (HAGF) /Chairman, National Prosecution Coordination Committee, (NPCC) to write this letter for your kind prompt action.
"The NPCC and the new legal team engaged to take over the prosecution of the above case have reviewed the case file and found that the police investigation of the case was inconclusive. Therefore, it is necessary that you further investigate the case with particular reference to the following : Did the 7th Senate at any time amended amend the Senate Standing Orders 2011? If yes what is the extent of amendment? Further investigations should show - who authorised the amendment of Senate Standing Orders 2011? Who ordered for the printing of the Senate Standing Orders 2015? Who distributed the printed copies of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 to Senators - Elect? Obtain the complete Hansard of the 9th and 24th June 2015 to see what transpired on the floor of the Senate. What date was the induction mentioned by Senator Abdullahi Gumel, what did they do with the Senate Standing Order of 2011 at the induction? Who conducted the induction?
“The statement of Dr. Ogozy Nma should be brought to the attention of Senator Ita Enang and Senator Abu Ibrahim to corroborate or deny it.
“Find out the date Senator Ike Ekweremadu presided over the house and obtain the Hansard for the date.
“Please it is important that I receive your response to the above inquiries on or before the September 7, 2016 for further necessary action".
The AGF had in June filed a two-count charge of criminal conspiracy and forgery of the Senate Standing Rule 2015, against Saraki, Ekweremadu, Maikasuwa, and Efeture but they all denied the charge, prompting the court to admit them on bail.
Justice Halilu before adjourning the matter till October 7 said “I don’t always allow parties to stall trial, especially criminal matters before me but in this one I will allow this case to be adjourned at the instance of the prosecution”.