The Federal Government has started searching for more facts that can further prove the involvement of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, in the alleged forgery of Senate Standing Rules, 2015.
Saturday PUNCH learnt on Friday that the Police Special Investigation Panel had written the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, to demand for the records of the proceedings where the Senate rules were amended.
Following the realisation that the evidence against the men was not enough to secure their conviction in court, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, had directed the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to dig further and get more evidence against the two senators.
Apart from Saraki and Ekweremadu, others facing trial over their alleged involvement in the forgery of the senate rules, include the former Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa, and his deputy, Mr. Benedict Efeturi.
The trial judge on June 27, 2016, admitted the defendants to bail and adjourned the matter for trial.
The accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them.
Saturday PUNCH learnt on Friday that the IGP had directed the SIP handling the investigation to get more evidence that could sustain the conviction of the accused persons for forgery.
It was learnt that the panel, led by Ali Amodu, a retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police, wrote a letter to the National Assembly Clerk in August, 2016 and demanded the record of proceedings of the last Senate.
The police also requested the clerk to clarify if the 7th Senate at any time amended the Senate Standing Orders 2011 and the extent of the amendment, if any.
Sources stated that the panel also requested for copies of the Senate Standing Orders, 2015, as well as the Hansard (official record of debates) of June 9 and 24, 2015 to know what transpired on the floor of the Senate.
It was learnt that the panel, had in its letter, asked that the information should be dispatched before September 7.
A source, who was familiar with the investigation, said that the clerk had yet to respond to the request, prompting the SIP to send a reminder about two weeks ago.
The source said, “The SIP was expecting the clerk to send the copies of the senate standing rules, 2011 and 2015 to know if there was an amendment and the extent of such amendment. The police also demanded the record of the last proceeding of the 7th senate, but up till now, the clerk has not responded.
“The SIP has again sent a reminder to the clerk to fast-track its request. All these records are needed by the police to carry out a thorough probe into the case and ensure that the probe is rested once and for all.”
Efforts made to get the Clerk to the National Assembly proved abortive as calls to his telephone did not go through. He also did not reply a text message sent to him as of the time of filing this report on Friday evening.
In June, when the case was first filed in court before Saraki and other co-accused persons were arraigned, the Federal Government had deposed to an affidavit, 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, which was supported 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.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that the police failed to carry out a thorough investigation into the forgery case because the leadership of the Force was in a hurry to conclude the probe to please the Presidency.
The inconclusive investigation was carried out by detectives from the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department.
Renewed investigation abuse of judicial process—Saraki
Saraki, in his reaction, described the renewal of the investigation as an abuse of judicial process when the prosecutor had already dragged the suspects to court.
The Special Adviser to the Senate President on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, told one of our correspondents on Friday that only Saraki’s lawyers would continue to speak for him on the matter.
He said, “I would have preferred that our lawyers speak on the matter; they would have been able to spell out the legal implication of going to court, swearing to an affidavit that the investigation had been concluded, which is the fulcrum of taking the matter to court. To now say there will be a fresh investigation is like leaving the case in court, while looking for an evidence to justify your position. That will be a clear abuse of court process, just like our lawyers submitted on Wednesday. It is a clear case of abuse of court process.”
Ekweremadu, who spoke through his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Uche Anichukwu, said his lawyers would speak on the matter.
He referred our correspondent to a statement by the Civil Liberties Organisation, which, according to him, strongly criticised how court processes were being abused in the forgery case.
The Special Adviser to the Attorney-General of the Federation on Media and Publicity, Mr. Salisu Isah, could not be reached through his telephone on Friday as repeated calls made to the telephone line indicated that it was not available.
It’s all drama—Afenifere
But the National Publicity Secretary of the Yoruba socio-political group, Yinka Odumakin, described the suit as a drama.
He stated, “I think it is all drama and we have better things to face. We have had enough of these shows. Our anti-corruption war has yet to secure one conviction in 16 months now and I don’t think Saraki would be the first causality.
“What we want to see is concrete actions to halt the dangerous slide that we are in as a country.”
On his part, the Executive Director of a faction of the Civil Liberties Organisation, Ohabuenyi Ezike, described the issue as a rude shock.
According to him, the reopening of investigation by the AGF and IGP appears to corroborate “the position of the Senate that the names of the accused persons were politically generated as names of the Senate President, Dr. Olusola Saraki, and Senator Ike Ekweremadu could not in any way be related to the Proof of Evidence.”
The President of the Nigeria Voters’ Assembly, Mashood Erubami, said that the matter should be thoroughly investigated.
Erubami stated that sweeping the matter under the carpet would not conform with the spirit of the moment. This is the time that the President should send a strong signal to the world that he and his government believe in the fight against anything unethical.
“It is a pity that the police have been reluctant to let Nigerians know what their findings are on the alleged forgery case and nobody is sure of whose doorsteps the guilt over the matter is to be laid.
“It is not enough to make an allegation against a person; what is important is being able to prove the case against the person to secure conviction.”