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Plan to arraign its leaders today: Senate warns Buhari

The Senate weekend described the plan by the executive arm of government to arraign the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki and his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu in court over a case of forgery levelled against them as a ‘Coup’ against the legislature, aimed towards undermining its independence while subjecting the law making institution to the whims and caprices of the executive. Saraki, Ekweremadu and two others, are expected to be arraigned on Monday (today) before a Federal High Court in Abuja, over criminal conspiracy and forgery of the Senate Standing Rules, 2015.

Others expected to be charged along with Saraki and Ekweremadu are the former Clerk of the National Assembly (CNA), Alhaji Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa and his deputy, Mr. Benedict Efeturi. Maikasuwa was the CNA when the alleged offence was committed. Reports said the case file against the four accused persons with suit No. CR/219/16 has since been assigned to Justice Yusuf Haliru of the Federal High Court, Abuja before whom they are to be arraigned today.

Saraki is already standing trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over allegations of false assets declaration levelled against him by the Code of Conduct Bureau. Reacting to the plan to arraign Saraki and Ekweremadu today, the Senate in a statement signed by its Committee Chairman on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi warned that the Presidency should not take the maturity and hands of cooperation by the Upper Chamber to the government of President Muhammadu Buhari as a sign of weakness, calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to call the Attorney General of the Federation to order. The Senate said the fresh attempt to arraign the top shots of the Senate in court has again reflected the dictatorial tendencies of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari who it stressed has rebuffed all attempt by Senators to work harmoniously with him.

The Senate, said that the move by the Attorney General of the Federation was aimed towards forcefully changing the Senate leadership through the court, averring that the move would fail since the Senate of the Federal Republic voted freely to elect its leadership into office It also averred that the Attorney General and party leaders it suspected as mastermind of the latest move by the government lack the understanding of the underlining principles of constitutional democracy, the concept of Separation of Powers, checks and balances and parliamentary convention. It said the Presidency has resolved to taunt the Senate at a time Nigeria is facing economic hardship, which according to it the law making arm has been assisting to solve. The Senate spokesman, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi reacted just as the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said he was never invited for questioning by the police over allegations of forging Senate rules and that he had nothing whatsoever to do with the alleged forgery of the Senate’s Standing Rule.

Ekweremadu said he was surprised at the lawsuit filed by the Federal Government against him and others alleged to have conspired in forging the Senate’s Standing Rules.. Ekweremadu, in a statement on Sunday by his spokesperson, Uche Anichukwu, denied complicity in the alleged forgery, and described the suit as “a form of intimidation and onslaught to rubbish him.” He said, “The hands of Senator Ike Ekweremadu are clean because he has no business whatsoever with the production of Senate Standing Orders. “This is the latest attempt to try and convict him in the court of public opinion, notwithstanding that we do not want to mount a public defence. “We would rather meet them in court if they so wish. “We plead with our supporters across the nation to maintain the peace and go about their normal businesses unperturbed by this latest act of harassment and impunity.

“We want to reassure them that no form of intimidation and onslaught to rubbish him will make him shy away from diligently carrying out the constitutional duties. “Ekweremadu will not legislate in fear, and he will certainly not fear to legislate,” The statement by Senator Abdullahi on behalf of the Senate reads, “What the National Assembly needs now are executive bills to build and strengthen institutions to earn revenues, fight corruption and eliminate waste. Instead, we are getting hostile actions aimed at destabilising the National Assembly, distracting Senators from their oversight functions and ensuring good and accountable governance.

“We must make it clear here to the individuals in the Executive arm and party leadership behind these plots not to mistake the maturity and hand of co-operation being extended to the Presidency by the legislature as a sign of weakness. “The National Assembly bent backwards to accommodate various infractions and inefficiencies in pursuit of inter-arms co-operation and national interest. We did not follow up the various infractions because we believe there are bigger issues which the government has to attend to in order to ensure that every Nigerian have food on his table and live comfortably in a secure environment. We know that the country is actually in a state of economic emergency and all hands must be on deck.

“This latest plot is directed at forcing a change of leadership in the Senate or, in the extreme case, ground the Red Chamber of the National Assembly. Or how do one interpret a move in which the two presiding officers are being set up to be remanded in Kuje Prison or incapacitated from sitting at plenary through a day-to-day trial on a matter that is purely an internal affair of the Senate. “This obviously is a dangerous case of violation of the independence of the legislature, undue and unnecessary interference in the internal affairs of the Senate and blatant abuse of the judicial process.

“The matter now being criminalised was brought to the plenary of the Senate in session, over a year ago. And because it had no support, it was overruled and roundly defeated in chambers. To now take a matter that was resolved on the floor of the Senate to the police and then make it form the subject of a criminal prosecution of freely elected legislators beats all imagination of free thinking men all over the world.

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