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The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, were on Monday, docked before an Abuja High Court at Jabi over their alleged complicity in forgery of the Senate Standing Rules, 2015.
The two lawmakers took turns and pleaded not guilty to the two-count charge preferred against them by the federal government. They were arraigned alongside former Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa and his deputy, Mr. Benedict Efeturi.
Shortly after the defendants entered their plea to the charge marked CR/219/16, the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, Mr. Mohammed Diri, notified the court of FG’s counter-affidavit opposing release of the accused persons on bail. Diri told the court that the counter-affidavit which was filed Monday morning, was still pending before the court’s registry.
He therefore persuaded trial Justice Yusuf Halilu to stand-down the matter for an hour to enable the registry to transmit the process to the court for hearing. Vanguard investigations revealed that FG, in its counter-affidavit, is seeking remand of both Saraki and Ekweremadu in custody.
Meantime, there is heavy security presence within perimeters of the court which shares boundary with the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, where Saraki is also answering to another 16-count charge bordering on his alleged false/anticipatory declaration of assets. Supporters of the embattled lawmakers thronged the court premises in their numbers to observe the proceeding.
Earlier, armed security operatives barred photo-journalists from gaining entrance into the court premises, a development that led to protest by the journalists. It took the intervention of lawyers to persuade the mobile police men to grant the camera men entry into the premises. Specifically, the four defendants were alleged to have masterminded the usage of a bogus Senate Standing Rules, for the July 9, 2015, election through which both Saraki and Ekweremadu took over the leadership of the Senate.
FG maintained that the defendants had by their conduct, committed an offence punishable under Section 97 (1) and 364 of the Penal Code Act. The two-count charge which was okayed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, read: “That you, Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa, Benedict Efeturi, Dr. Olubukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu, on or about, the 9th of June, 2015, at the National Assembly complex, Three Arms Zone, Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this court, conspired amongst yourselves to forge the Senate Standing Order, 2011 (as amended) and you thereby committed the offence of conspiracy, punishable under Section 97 (1) of the Penal Code Law.
“That you, Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa, Benedict Efeturi, Dr. Olubukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu, on or about the 9th of June, 2015, at the National Assembly complex, Three Arms Zone, Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this court, with fraudulent intent, forged the Senate Standing Order 2011 (as amended), causing it to be believed as the genuine Standing Order, 2015 and circulated same for use during the inauguration of the 8th Senate of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria when you knew that the said Order was not made in compliance with the procedure for amendment of the Senate Order. You thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 364 of the Penal Code Law.”