•Admits investigation into forgery of Senate Standing Rules inconclusive • Police write clerk of N’Assembly for additional information
By Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
Three months after it charged Senate President Bukola Saraki, his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, and two others with forging the Senate Standing Rules, the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice has declared the investigation into the alleged offence inconclusive, THISDAY has learnt.
The AGF, Abubakar Malami, is now desperately seeking fresh investigations that will enable him convict the accused persons, even though he has not withdrawn the pending charges against them.
To get the court to accept the charges, the AGF had told the court that investigations into the alleged forgery had been concluded.
In June, when the case was first filed in court and before the arraignment of Saraki and other co-accused persons, the federal government deposed to an affidavit, which was attached to the case file at the time, attesting that investigations into the matter had been concluded.
In the charge sheet dated June 10, 2016 and signed by D.E Kaswe Esq., Principal State Counsel on behalf of the AGF, and which was backed by an Affidavit of Completion of Investigation deposed to at the Federal High Court Registry, Abuja, on the same date by Okara Neji Jonah, a litigation officer in the Federal Ministry of Justice, Abuja, attested that the police had concluded its investigations.
Okara swore that “the FCIID (Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department) has concluded investigation of the case and has forwarded the file to the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation for Prosecution”.
However, three days to the adjourned date on the matter, THISDAY gathered from highly reliable sources and sighted various documents from both the office of the AGF and that of the Inspector General of Police (IG) that the prosecution was making frantic efforts to reopen what it termed “inconclusive investigations”.
A letter from the office of the AGF to the IG 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 was seeking fresh investigations into the case.
The AGF noted that after reviewing the case, he had since realised that the investigations were “inconclusive”, and therefore was seeking to reopen it.
The letter reopening the investigation, addressed to the current IG, Ibrahim Idris, was received in his office on Saturday, August 20, 2016, but which was mistakenly dated Friday, August 19, 2015, read 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 Seventh Senate at any time amend the Senate Standing Orders 2011? If yes, what was 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 September 7, 2016 for further necessary action.”
Acting on the letter, the IG, in a letter dated August 25, 2016, asked the clerk of the National Assembly to furnish his office with additional information on the forgery case.
The IG’s letter was signed by the Chairman, Special Investigation Panel (SIP), Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of Police Ali Amodu (rtd), a copy of which was also sighted by THISDAY.
The police requested the clerk to furnish them with “the date Senator Ike Ekweremadu presided over the House in 2015”, just as it demanded the “Hansard (votes and proceedings of the plenary session) for the date” in question.
Curiously, in a reminder titled “First Reminder” by the police dated August 31, 2016, the paragraph requesting that “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” was removed.
As at the time of filing this report, it was not clear if the clerk of the National Assembly had furnished the police with the required information.
What was clear, however, was that the prosecution was desperately searching for information to nail the accused persons.
This latest move confirmed the initial perception that the federal government had filed the forgery charge to humiliate Saraki and Ekweremadu and force them to step down as principal officers of the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, Justice Yusuf Halilu of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Jabi, Abuja, will on Wednesdayrequest that the federal government reopens its case against the accused persons.
Both senators are facing trial over their alleged involvement in the forgery of the Senate Standing Rules, 2015.
Also charged before the court over the alleged forgery were the former clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa, and his deputy, Mr. Benedict Efeturi.
The judge on June 27 admitted the defendants to bail and adjourned the matter for trial. All the accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them.
However, the case could not proceed as scheduled on the next adjourned date of June 27, 2016, owing to the fact that the court had commenced its annual vacation.
Consequently, the trial of the defendants was differed tillWednesday, September 28, 2016.
Ekweremadu had in a letter to the international community complained of the trumped-up charges against him and his boss, the Senate President, as well as the retired and then serving senior bureaucrats of the National Assembly.
He said: “I also wish to appeal to you to kindly find time to read through the annexures – petition by members of the Senate Unity Forum, statements by persons interrogated, and the police report – to see if our names appeared anywhere in these documents.
“You may, thereafter, judge for yourself whether the federal government, acting through the Attorney General of the Federation, has any justification whatsoever to generate our names for trial.
“The list of the accused persons appears to have been politically generated, because you cannot by the documents attached relate any of our names to the offence for which we are now being charged.
“Moreover, the rules and principles of fair hearing have not been adhered to because the police have not interacted with me or the President of the Senate as at the time of writing this letter.
“You may also wish to judge for yourself whether this trial orchestrated against me is not a political trial, calculated witch-hunt, barefaced intimidation, and a clear attempt to emasculate the parliament and silence me as the leader and highest ranking member of the opposition in Nigeria.”
Interestingly, a Federal High Court in Abuja presided over by Justice Gabriel Kolawole had also ruled on June 28, 2016 that the trial of the duo, while the suit challenging the constitutionality of the police investigation of the internal affairs of the Senate upon which the case was based was still pending in his court, was a “gross abuse of legal process”.
He, however, declined to stop the trial, because according to him, that power resided in the court of coordinate jurisdiction already hearing the case.