- Condemns murder of Oyo lawmaker
By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The Senate at the weekend said it had been vindicated by last Thursday’s ruling of a Federal High Court in Abuja presided over by Justice Gabriel Kolawole which described the forgery case filed against its presiding officers as “an abuse of court process” and a “decision taken against public interest.”
The parliament in a statement by its spokesman, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, said the ruling further confirmed that the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami, by charging the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, for forgery, was only acting a personal and partisan script and also abusing his position as the nation’s chief law officer.
Abdullahi challenged Malami to address the issue of his personal and pecuniary interest in the case, arguing that the AGF was a counsel to aggrieved senators whom he said earlier took the case to court following the loss of their preferred candidate in the contest for Senate presidency in June last year.
He also alleged that the ruling of Kolawole showed that it was Malami who advised his “clients” to report the matter to the Police and having become the AGF, he chose to use his constitutional powers to pursue “private interest” by filing a criminal case in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court against the subsisting ruling of a court of co-ordinate jurisdiction.
The statement read: “When the Senate invited the AGF to come and throw light on the forgery case, it was not to challenge his right to file, take over or discontinue any criminal case but for him to explain the issues of conflict of interest, abuse of office, disrespect of a subsisting order of a court and violation of the principle of Separation of Powers which are being raised against him.
“When his supporters jumped up and started abusing the Senate over the invitation, we know that our position that an Attorney General, and indeed any public officer for whose office public funds are appropriated for can be invited by the Senate and the House of Representatives to explain certain issues, is on firm, constitutional ground. And that is in spite of the fact that the AGF is responsible to the President who appointed him. Now, the revelations from the ruling of the court of competent jurisdiction have shown that this AGF has a lot to explain to the public, if not to his appointor.
“It says a lot about an AGF who despite being aware that the court had ordered him and the Inspector of General of Police not to take any further action on the matter during the pendency of the civil suit still went ahead to initiate the criminal case based on the Police report which is the subject of the civil case. The judge rightly described Malami’s action as ‘desperate haste that was not in public interest.’
“It should be noted that Malami’s name is still on the list of lawyers defending Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi and others in the Federal High court. We invite all Nigerians, including those shouting over whether it was right for Senate to invite the AGF or not, to read the ruling of Justice Kolawole and conclude whether Malami is still fit to be AGF in a government which canvasses change and rule of law.
“Our position as a law making chamber is that the Office of AGF is a sensitive and strategic one being the only other office in the executive arm apart from that of President and Vice President to which the constitution specifically assigns some roles and powers. It must therefore be occupied by a sober, law abiding, brilliant, mature, broad-minded and less partisan lawyer. Mr. Malami is yet to convince us with his handling of this case that he possesses these attributes. We call on him to respect the ruling of the court and to redeem the integrity of his office and admit his error by invoking his power under Section 174 (1) as noted in the ruling of the honourable judge.
“In conclusion, the Senate is calling on all parties, Mr. Malami, the Attorney General inclusive, to heed the wise, timely and apt advice of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar that ‘it is time to move on.’ Truly, Nigeria needs our collective energy to address the various challenges – notably increasing poverty, hunger, youth unemployment, general insecurity and kidnapping, among others – which are time bombs that we can only ignore at our own collective peril.”
Also at the weekend, the Senate said it was angered by the murder of a member of Oyo State House of Assembly, Hon. Gideon Aremu, who was representing Orelope constituency and called on the police to thoroughly investigate the incident with a view to bringing the culprits to book.
Abdullahi said though the untimely and unfortunate death of any Nigerian should be prevented, condemned and investigated, legislators by the nature of their responsibilities ought to be free to mingle with people and move about any time as duty may call.
He added that the murder of a lawmaker sent a wrong signal to the local and international community about the state of security in the nation, noting that people will wonder that if a lawmaker can be cheaply murdered, it then means that the lives of foreigners or ordinary citizens are in danger
He said the Senate commiserated with the family of the deceased legislator, the people of Orelope constituency, his colleagues in the Oyo State House of Assembly and the entire people of Oyo State and pray to God to grant them the fortitude to bear the loss.