A Federal High Court in Abuja has granted bail to the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, his Deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and the fourth defendant over charges of alleged forgery of the Nigerian Senate Standing Rules.
The decision was made on Monday when they appeared before the court.
The court asked the accused to produce two reasonable sureties who must be Nigerian men or women.
It stated that the sureties must own properties in Asokoro, Maitama, Wuse II or Garki areas in the Federal Capital Territory.
The trial judge, Justice Yusuf Halilu, said that the accused would be remanded in Kuje Prison, if they fail to meet the bail conditions.
The court has adjourned the proceedings till July 11 for commencement of trial.
The two Senate leaders were arraigned before the Federal High Court along with a former Clerk of the National Assembly, Mr Salisu Maikasuwa and his deputy, Mr Benedict Efeturi.
Earlier, after the counsels to the accused had announced their appearances and told the court that they had filed bail applications, the trial judge asked them to put them forward.
Presenting a bail application, the lawyer to the first accused person, Mr Maikasuwa, said that the application was supported by a written address which formed his argument in the application and a two-paragraph affidavit sworn to by the accused person.
He argued that the accused person would not interfere with investigation, insisting that there were no facts to back the claim that he would jump bail.
Mr Maikasuwa’s counsel also reminded the court that the prosecution had said in his affidavit before the court that investigations had been concluded.
The counsel to Mr Efeturi also brought forward a six-paragraph affidavit and urged the court to grant the accused bail.
He also said he had filed a written address, requesting that the court should grant bail in the most liberal terms.
On his part, the counsel to the Senate President, Mr Paul Erukoro, said his application was supported by a 28-paragraph affidavit.
He also said he had a further affidavit sworn by the 3rd accused person.
“The entire proof of service does not contain a single reference to the Senate President in connection with the charges. He was never invited during investigation. So, saying he will interfere with the investigation is unfounded especially as the prosecuting says investigations have been concluded.
“It is a notorious fact that the Senate President has been standing trial at the CCT (Code of Conduct Tribunal) and has been consistent in his attendance there, so there is no way he will not attend the trial,” he told the court.
He also pointed out that Senator Saraki is the Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and that there was no way he would jump bail.
He requested that bail should be granted on self-recognisance.
Counsel to the deputy Senate President, Mr Jacobs Daudu, also said his client was not mentioned anywhere in the proof of evidence and that he should be granted bail on self-recognisance.
He stressed that the spirit of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) was that bail would be such that the accused persons could be able to attend trial.
The counsel to the Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly said he had also submitted a six-paragraph affidavit, urging the court to grant his client bail.
He also told the court that he had filed a written address, urging the court to grant bail in the most liberal terms.
The accused persons claimed that they were ready for the trial. They asked the court to start the hearing and take as many as they could of the prosecution witness.
On his part, the prosecutor, Mr Mohammed Diri, however, said he would not oppose the bail of the Senate President on whatever terms the court deemed fit, because he is the number three citizen, and opposing bail may disrupt the business of the Senate.
He, however, said that in respect of the other three accused – one, two and four – the prosecution would vehemently oppose bail.
According to him, the two-count charge brought against the three defendants was very serious, something that required caution in handling of bails.
The charge attracts a 14-year jail term.
He also said that the three defendant’s evaded service of processes until the court granted an order of substituted service.
“This means that if they are granted bail the three defendant’s will attempt to evade trial,” he stressed.
He further referred to section 162 subsection of the Administration Of Criminal Justice Act and told the court that the charges were the same for all the accused persons, but stated that he understood the political undertone of omitting the Senate President.
Innocent Until Proven Guilty
After listening to both parties, the judge stated that he had considered the applications and counter affidavits, soldering on the written addresses.
He told the court that the essence of bail was to ensure the “liberty of an accused person who is considered innocent until proven guilty and ensure his attendance to trial”.
“The decision to grant bail is at the discretion of the court which should be granted judicially and judiciously, following laid down constitution in respect of the nature of offence.
“Indeed I have considered and soldered the applications and counters filed.
“The provisions of the ACJA lends support that an accused person shall be granted bail to enable him attend trial.
“I have listened to the position of the prosecution on the third defendant – Senator Saraki – and it is only fair and natural that an accused person, who is contoured innocent, shall be given opportunity to prepare for their trial.
“I shall not unnecessarily over flog the position they occupy,” he said, once again listing their positions at the National Assembly.
Justice Halilu further stressed that the applications for bail conditions sideline the arguments of their lawyers for all the defendants regardless of the swaying positions of the prosecution.
“I shall allow the one, two and four accused to go home on bail on the conditions that two reasonable sureties who must be Nigerians – men or women – who must own properties in Asokoro Maitama Wuse two or Garki.
“Failure to fulfil the bail conditions, they shall be remanded in Kuje Prison,” he stressed.
The judge then adjourned the proceedings till July 11 for commencement of trial.