The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami (SAN), has advised the embattled Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, to defend themselves before the court rather than blame the executive for their woes.
Messrs. Saraki, Ekweremadu and two others are accused of forging the Senate Standing Order 2015 that was used during the June 9, 2015 election for principal officers of the National Assembly.
They are billed to appear before a federal capital territory high court, Abuja on Monday on two-count charge bordering on conspiracy and forgery.
To stand trial alongside the two Senate leaders are former Clerk of the National Assembly Salisu Maikasuwa and Clerk of the Senate Bernard Efeturi.
The Senate, which summoned the AGF to appear before its Committee on Judiciary on Thursday over the criminal charges filed against its leadership, claimed that the planned trial was an abuse of the principle of separation of powers.
Rather than appear before the committee yesterday, Malami, in a statement on Thursday night by his media aide, Salihu Isah, said it was within his constitutional powers to initiate criminal proceedings against anybody where any of the investigating agencies has established a prima facie case against such suspect.
He also described the defense by the Senate that whether the Standing Rules are forged or not, is an internal affair of the upper legislative chamber as a misnomer, urging the defendants to go before the court and explain their role.
He also assured Saraki and others billed to stand trial next week of fair hearing.
The statement said: “It is not in doubt that each arm of government is constitutionally-vested with distinct powers. Looking critically at the doctrine of the separation of powers, it is a practice that exists on a tripod viz, the executive, legislature and judiciary with clearly distinctive functions and responsibilities as captured under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
“So, by virtue of this, we are committed to the rule of law and will thus keep to the tenets of the rule of law as enshrined in a constitutional democracy like ours.
“The Office of the Attorney General of the Federation is empowered under Section 174 (1) of the Constitution and vested with the power to undertake and initiate criminal proceedings in any court of law in Nigeria.
“By virtue of this power as the Chief Law Officer of the nation, he has simply initiated criminal proceedings for forgery against the affected principal officers in the Senate for altering the Senate Standing Rules in the Federal High Court.
“It is worthy to note here that the action of the Attorney General of the Federation can stand the test of any law since he did not act on a vacuum.
“He acted based on a recommendation by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) who having fully satisfied investigative procedure arising from the petition, sent to the Nigerian Police by some aggrieved members of the Red Chambers of the National Assembly, alleging that the affected officers altered the rules of the Senate for Dr. Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu to emerge leaders of the Eighth Senate of the National Assembly.
“Under the 1999 Constitution, only the Attorney General of the Federation has the powers to institute criminal proceedings.
“For the benefit of doubt, as stated above, there was a petition bordering on allegations of forgery against the defendants, the petition was investigated by the police and the police recommended the case for prosecution.
“At this point, the question is how initiation of criminal proceedings against Dr Bukola Saraki, Ike Ekweremadu, Salisu Maikasuwa and Bernard Efeturi violated the principle of separation of powers as contained in the Constitution?
“The action of the Attorney General of the Federation cannot obviously be said to be a coup against the National Assembly as the Senate has claimed.
“By preferring the charge, the accused persons are entitled to fair hearing under the law while the prosecution is obligated to prove its case against them beyond reasonable doubts.
“Therefore, the Attorney General of the Federation has not violated any known law in the land. Or is the Senate suggesting that its principal officers, members and staff of the National Assembly are above the law or enjoy same immunity as do the nation’s President and Governors?
“It is common knowledge over the years since the nation embraced democratic system of governance and backed by the current Constitution those elected officers of government who are exempted from legal encumbrances whether it is civil or criminal are known to all.
“It is pertinent to be reminded too, that forgery of the Senate Standing Rules cannot be described as the internal business of the National Assembly that is exclusively only in its purview.
“The Attorney General of the Federation cannot therefore be faulted for his decision to initiate legal actions against the accused for alleged forgery after a thorough police investigation of the issue whether there was an amendment of the Senate Standing Rules in 2015 or not.
“The case of Adesanya vs Senate which has been seriously touted in its press statement does not support them and they should rather take their plea and defend the action accordingly.
“We assure Nigerians that the Attorney General of the Federation will continue to be committed to the rule of law at all times.
“On this particular forgery case, we believe he should rather be commended for his foresight and political will to carry out his constitutional role to the letter and not to be vilified under any guise”.