Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
The forgery suit initiated by the Federal Government against Senate President, Bukola Saraki and his Deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu has described as a witch-hunt with the intention of not only embarrassing the National Assembly leaders but to also silence the opposition, and cripple the institution of the Senate.
A pro-democracy group, Centre for the Advancement of Literacy and Leadership (CALL) in a statement signed by its Executive Director, Mazi Bismarck Oji and made available to newsmen in Enugu also described the recently reported letter by the Police inviting Ekweremadu and some leaders of the Senate for interrogation over alleged forgery of Senate Standing Orders 2011 as mischievous.
The group recalled that the Assistant Force Public Relations Officer (AFPRO), Mr. Abayomi Shogunle, told newsmen at the Force Headquarters on July 6, 2015 that although the police team met with the ex-Clerk to the National Assembly, Mr. Salisu Maikasuwa, they neither invited nor interrogated Ekweremadu.
It therefore noted that since the police had earlier denied inviting or interrogating Ekweremadu, while the federal government also backed its charges against the duo with an Affidavit of Completion of Investigation deposed to at the Federal High Court Registry, Abuja and dated June 10, 2016, it was “a clear case of witch-hunt, mischief, and a legal contradiction” to want to purport to invite Ekweremadu and other persons for interrogation when the Federal Government had already filed charges based on the Police Report.
“The most annoying part of the whole thing is the reported recent letter to the CNA tagged ‘reminder’ and also referring to a purported letter of July 2015. You can only remind what has been earlier attempted or requested; and if you said you did not invite them, what then are you reminding?” the Centre queried.
Wondering the difficulty in sending an invitation to Saraki, Ekweremadu, Senator David Mark and others directly instead of pretending to invite them through the Clerk, the Centre contended that it was untoward to file criminal charges against people on serious allegation as forgery without any active attempt to extract statements from them.
“It is even worse to try to obtain from the back door a statement after you have filed charges, because it shows somebody is desperate to nail somebody”, Oji further said.
“From what they have filed at the court and the police report, there is no statement that Saraki or Ekweremadu made on the alleged forgery; there is no particular role those interrogated accused Saraki or Ekweremadu of playing in the alleged forgery. Even the Senate unity Forum did not mention them in their petition. So, how did the Office of the Attorney-General of the zero in on Saraki and Ekweremadu?
“And if you are talking about the leadership of the 7th Senate, Ekweremadu was not the Senate President or the Senate Majority Leader or Chairman of the Committee on Business and Rules. So, why is every other member of the leadership of the 7th Senate missing? Again, was Saraki a member of the leadership of the 7th Senate?” the Centre queried.
Mazi insisted that it was evident the Federal Government was desperate to put Ekweremadu in the dock in order to cripple the senate, noting that “each time Saraki goes to attend to his case at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Ekweremadu presides. Now there is no way Ekweremadu will be facing trial alongside Saraki that the Senate will function.
“It is therefore a ploy to destabilize the Senate and compel Senators to do away with Saraki and Ekweremadu to avoid a vacuum or shut down. But, as a matter of common sense, if Senators feel their Standing Rules were amended irregularly or that its current leadership was fraudulently elected, it is up to them to impeach their leaders, not for the executive or the courts to meddle in Senate’s internal affairs.
“Funny enough, members of the Senate Unity Forum not only submitted themselves to be inaugurated, with Saraki presiding, they also accepted appointments into juicy Committees under the same leadership. They use and quote from the purported forged Standing Orders every day”, he reasoned.
The group stated that there were fears that Senator Ekweremadu was also being persecuted for condemning the alleged massacre of pro-Biafra demonstrators by Nigerian security forces, whereas Ekweremadu had always condemned such killings in other parts of the country.
Recalling the detention of Femi Fani-Kayode and alleged harassment of Governor Ayodele Fayose, he cautioned the federal government to desist from further clamp down on the leading voices of the opposition.
The Executive Director called on the federal government to focus on the many challenges facing the nation rather than engage in “useless with-hunt”.