Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The trial of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, and two others for alleged forgery of Senate Standing Rules has been adjourned to September 28.
Since the court begins its annual vacation today, the trial will now comence in September when the court resumes from vacation.
The accused persons were already in court for their trial when they were told that the court had begun its vacation.
Although the court did not sit, the accused were already in court with their counsel and sympathisers.
Meanwhile, the federal government has appointed a new counsel, Aliyu Umar, to prosecute the criminal charge.
Umar is taking over from the Director of Public Prosecution, Mohammed Diri, who on June 27 led the federal government’s legal team for the arraignment of the four who are standing trial on a two-count charge of forgery and conspiracy before Justice Alilu Yusuf.
Saraki, Ekwerenmadu and the immediate past Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa, and the acting Clerk, Mr. Benedict Efeturi, were charged with forging Senate Standing Rules.
They pleaded not guilty and were granted bail by Justice Yusuf Halilu of an Abuja High Court.
They were arraigned on a two-count charge of forgery and conspiracy to commit forgery. All the accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charges and we’re consequently admitted to bail while trial was adjourned to of July 11.
The four defendants were put on trial by the federal government on the allegation of forging the Senate Standing Rules used on June 9, last year to conduct the election that brought Saraki and Ekwerenmadu to office as principal officers of the Senate.
Shortly after the charge was read to them, they pleaded not guilty to the charges prompting their lawyers Mr. Ikechukwu Ezechukwu (SAN) for Maikasuwa, Mahmud Magaji (SAN) for Efeturi, Paul Erokoro (SAN) for Saraki and Joseph Daudu (SAN) for Ekwerenmadu, to move the applications for bail for the defendants.
Justice Halilu, after taking arguments from the counsel, admitted all of them to bail with two sureties each who must be Nigerians, male or female and who must have landed properties either in Maitama, Asokoro, Wuse or Apo Legislative Quarters to be able to qualify to stand as sureties in the matter.
The judge in his ruling held that Sections 35 and 36 of the 1999 Constitution as amended presumed the defendants innocent of the charges against them and that it was normal and natural for them to be allowed on bail so as to prepare for their defence.
The judge took judicial notice of the positions of the defendants adding that there was nothing by way of evidence to suggest that they would jump bail if allowed to go home.
Justice Halilu further said that the essence of bail was for the defendants, who were presumed innocent by law, was to ensure their attendance in court throughout the trial and that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 also lent support for bail for any Nigerian accused of bailable offences as in the instant case.