By Nsikan Ikpe
Fresh pressure is coming on Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari to halt the ongoing trial of the Senate President Bukola Saraki and his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, The Difference has learnt.
While Saraki is facing two trials, his deputy is enmeshed in one.
Saraki’s first lawsuit originates from petitions filed before the Code of Conduct Tribunal alleging that the embattled Senate President had failed to declare some of his assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau in relation to his tenure as Governor of Kwara State. The second one, which he is sharing with his deputy relates to allegations that they had illegally altered the Senate rules book to enable them secure easy passage into their present positions.
At the weekend, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, made a reference to the trials, pleading that it was time for the ruling All progressives Congress, APC to put aside its internal political bickerings and proceed more aggresively to tackle the urgent desire and wish of Nigerians that it seriously engage with the task of delivering on its ‘Change’ mandate.
And contributing to the growing debate, the Senate itself on Sunday, stated that it has been vindicated by the Thursday ruling of a Federal High Court sitting 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.
In a statement by its spokesman, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, the Senate said the ruling by Justice Kolawole further confirmed that Mr. Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) was acting personal and partisan script in filing the charges while simply abusing his position as the nation’s chief law officer.
The Senate also called on Malami to address the issue of his personal and pecuniary interest in the case as he was a counsel to the aggrieved Senators who decided to externalise the issue of election of the leadership of the upper chamber of the National Assembly after they failed in their bid to get their preferred candidate elected.
It noted that as it has now become obvious from the ruling of Justice Kolawole and in the facts of the matter before the Federal High Court, Malami was the one who advised his clients to report the matter to the Police and now that he has become AGF, he decided to use his constitutional powers to pursue private interest by filing a criminal case in the FCT High Court against the subsisting ruling of a court of co-ordinate jurisdiction.
The statement said: “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 our position that an Attorney General and indeed any public officer for whose office public funds are appropriated 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 the one who appointed him.
“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 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.”