Saraki, Ekweremadu Plead Not Guilty To Alleged Senate Rules Forgery Charges
The two Senate leaders are being arraigned before the Federal High Court along with a former Clerk of the National Assembly, Mr Salisu Maikasuwa and his deputy, Mr Benedict Efeturi.
All four accused persons pleaded not guilty to the two-count charge.
After their pleas, the prosecutor asked for a date to open his case.
However, the counsel to the first accused person and all other accused persons have made an application for bail.
The prosecutor said he had been served with the applications, but stressed that he had filed an affidavit in respect of that. However his clerk is still trying to file the counter affidavit.
He asked for a one hour stand down to be able to collect the documents.
The parties said they were reluctantly conceding to a stand down for one hour.
Earlier, before the proceeding started, the trial judge, Justice Yusuf Halilu, tried to organise the court, by asking supporters of the accused persons to vacate their seats so that lawyers could seat.
Justice Halilu also asked journalists and lawyers to leave the court.
He said names of persons that would be allowed in would be called.
Lawmakers supporting the Senate President are also locked outside the court.
The judge, however, said he was not asking anyone to leave but was just trying to organise his court.
He further appealed to everyone to do their best to represent themselves and the law well and asked journalists to ensure that they record exactly what the court said.
Minutes after his statements, the court opened and the lawyers started announcing their appearances.
Mahmud Magaji said he was counsel to the first and second defendants – the former clerk of the National Assembly and the current clerk of the National Assembly.
Another lawyer, Ikechukwu Ezechukwu, however, claimed he was counsel to the first defendant.
After he made the claim, Mr Magaji withdrew his appearance for the first defendant, a decision that the trial judge said was contrary to what was in the document before him.
Mr Magaji, however, insisted that he could withdraw his representation for the first defendant and allow the new lawyer take over.
Mr Paul Erukoro is counsel to the Senate President, while Mr Joseph Daudu is counsel to the deputy Senate President.
After their announcements, the prosecutor, Mohammed Diri, told the court that the case was for arraignment on a two-count charge of forgery filed on 10 June.
He reminded the court that a sworn affidavit and the list of witnesses and summary of statements of the accused persons had been submitted.
Mr Diri asked the court to deem the case as filed.
He also urged the court to order that the two-count charge be read to the accused persons for the purposes of taking their plea.
All counsels, however, made a no objection plea.
In the affidavit filed on June 10, the Investigative Police Officer (IPO), swore that the investigation into the case had been concluded.
The affidavit read: “The charges filed through the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, by the Federal Government, against the senators reads 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”.
It also accused them of allegedly forging the Order, 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.
Senator Saraki has maintained that he knows nothing about how the rules adopted in the inauguration of the Eighth Senate on June 9, 2015 was formulated.
He said the on-going efforts to drag him into a case of forgery before the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, was just another phase in the orchestrated persecution he has faced since he emerged as Senate President a little over a year ago.
Saraki, in a statement by his spokesman, Mr Yusuph Olaniyonu, stated that he was not a part of the leadership of the 7th Senate that made the rules in question and prior to his unanimous election as Senate President on June 9, 2015, he was merely a Senator-elect like all his colleagues and therefore was not in a position to influence the rules that were to be used in the conduct of the election.