The Senate yesterday insisted that the trial of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, for alleged forgery, was a ploy by the Federal Government to force a leadership change in the upper chamber.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Publicity, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, made the comment in response to a memo by Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Engr. Babachir David Lawal, that Saraki and Ekweremadu should not create the erroneous impression that the entire Senate is on trial.
Mr. Lawal, who issued the memo in reaction to separate statements issued by the Senate president and his deputy, which he described as unfortunate and uncomplimentary to the person and government of President Muhammadu Buhari, said “from their statements, the two leaders of the Senate also gave this erroneous impression that by their arraignment, it is the entire Senate and indeed, the Legislative Arm of Government that is on trial”.
Abdullahi in his response said: “We note the statement issued by the Secretary to the Federal Government, Mr. David Babachir Lawal, that the Senate is not the one on trial in the forgery case instituted by the Attorney General of the Federation against the Senate President and his Deputy.
“We disagree with him on this position and we maintain our earlier stand that it is the Senate that is the target of the present attempt to intimidate the legislature to force a leadership change in the Senate.
“Mr. Babachir Lawal should tell us how reasonable it is to conclude that when the President of Nigeria and the Vice President are being jointly tried in a suit whose outcome can remove them from office, it is not the Buhari Government that is being targeted.
“It is also imperative to clearly state that contrary to the claim by the SGF, neither the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki or Senator Ike Ekweremadu was mentioned by the petitioners, the statements by those interviewed by the police or even the police report.
“Meanwhile, let us refresh Mr. Lawal’s memory about the facts of the 1999 case.
“It is obvious that the Senate President and his deputy are not being accused of certificate forgery as it happened in ex-Speaker Salisu Buhari’s case.
“Therefore, nobody should compare an apple with an orange. Also, neither Saraki nor Ekweremadu is below the age requirement for their present positions as it was alleged in the Buhari case.
“Attempts to make the two situations look similar is to present all Nigerians as having no sense of history.
“We also know that nobody can be accused of forging his own signature. The executive is in no position to determine what is the correct Standing Orders of the Senate.
“The Senate President and his deputy were as at the morning of the June 9, 2015 inauguration of the Senate mere senators-elect and could therefore not have been in a position to influence any alteration in the rule book.
“The Senate as an institution, and indeed the National Assembly, has spoken about their understanding of the present assault on their independence by the executive’.
“We maintain that this trial is a design by the Executive to criminalise the internal affairs of the Senate to create a distraction for the leadership of the Senate, force a leadership change and cow the legislators.
“Those behind this plot find this trial more expedient and important than finding tangible solutions to the multi-various socio-economic problems bedeviling the country.
“However, we are sure they will fail in this attempt. We only hope they will allow the judiciary to truly and creditably perform its duties and give independent verdict on the case”.