Who Is On Trial: The Nigeria Senate Or Saraki and Ekweremadu?
By Kenny Okolugbo
LAGOS JUNE 30TH (URHOBOTODAY)-I have spoken so much on this issue on the electronic media in a lot of forums, it beats my imagination that it is difficult for Nigerians to sift the wheat from the shaft devoid of any sentiments when it comes to issues dealing with Public Officers, in a period like this when corruption has become the main stay of mostly Public Officers and so much in billions are being refunded to the Federal government of Nigeria makes it difficult for one to be able to put up a defence no matter how tenable.
In a criminal trial it is the individual that is charged or company as the case maybe. Yet the question that bothers my mind is can we actually divorce the dramatis personae above from the institution they preside upon yet another school of thought would say we can’t afford to sweep CRIMINAL matters under the carpet or term it a family affair as it is often done in the past despite 3rd citizen of this nation and his deputy being involved
While I will not want to descend into the arena especially as the case is presently in court, without also wanting to be seen as crying more than the bereaved especially as I do not know either Saraki or Ekweremadu but as a Public affairs analysts and a Pundit whose voice maybe can help in shaping one or two public opinions I would want to review this case based on the information at the public domain.
If the information contained in the police report is anything to go by Under section 36(5) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended one will want the court to quash and strike out the charges on the ground that the proof of evidence before the court does not disclose any offence against the two defendants mentioned above as any trial will therefore constitute an abuse of court process. The entire complaint is based on the forgery of the Senate rules 2015 as complained about by the Unity Forum group of senators but nowhere in the petition is the name of the duo mentioned. The proof of evidence is therefore exculpatory as it seems.
For the charges above to be sustained and a prima facie case to be established there must be a complaint against the duo.”A complaint includes the allegation that any person has committed an offence made before a Magistrate Or Police Officer for the purpose of moving him to issue process under the law see section 371 ACJL 2011.
Is it possible for the offence of forgery and uttering to stand without a complaint from the alleged victims (in these case members of the unity forum)
The prosecution can contend that it is the prerogative constitutional purview of the Hon Attorney General to prosecute anyone for any criminal offence in the Country by filing an information and proofs of evidence available in court, while am in agreement with them on this issue it is my opinion that it is a complaint from a complainant that activates the police or prosecution to proceed to investigate or prosecute a case.
In this particular case the duo where just Senators elect and just floor members on the 9th of June 2015 when the 8th Senate was proclaimed, the Unity group in its wisdom knowing this particular information when they wrote their petition did not include them as suspects but rather are desirous to get to the bottom line of how the rules 0f 2011where amended in 2015 version had significant changes that could have aided the election of the duo when such changes where never amended by the 7th Senate.
It is interesting to note that Senator Ita Enang the Chairman rules and business in the 7th Senate is a material witness of the prosecution. This same man holds the important position of being a liaison between the Executive and the Legislature specifically the Senate. Now that salvos are being fired between the duo, President and SGF who now comes to cement the relationship?
No doubt the amendment from all Senators SHALL be present to all Senators are ENTITLED to be present is a fundamental amendment as it robs some Senators the opportunity to make their voice heard on the issue of who becomes 1st among equals in a hallowed chamber they are supposed to serve for four years. Again from OPEN balloting as a system of voting to SECRTE balloting is also fundamental and can alter the result of any contest. Nobody can say if the 2011 rules if used whether Saraki would still not have won that’s however a question for another day.
In my opinion the best people in a position to answer the poser on the change of rules without any amendment from the 7th Senate should be Senator David Mark, Maikasuwa and Efeturi both Clerks of the House. Who printed the 2015 rule? On whose instruction was it printed? There are so many questions to be answered which the court would decide.
An accused person should not be put on trial if there is no link between him and the offence even if the disposition and statements attached to the information disclose an offence see UHWOVORIOLE VS FRN (2003) 2 NWLR (PART 803) 176 also UBANATU VS C.O.P (2000) 2 NWLR (PART643)115
Suspicion no matter how well placed (like being the beneficiaries of the process of 9th June 2015) does not amount to a prime facie case, to sustain information there must be a link between the accused and the crime DONALD IKOMI VS THE STATE (1986) 3 NWLR 340. ALSO ABACHA VS THE STATE (2002) NWLR (PART 779) AT 437SC
In my opinion to proceed to trial will amount to persecution and not prosecution which will amount to oppression and abuse of court process. In my view a court must confine itself to the proof of evidence and the witness statements attached to show if indeed a prima facie case has been established. Where the proof of evidence does not disclose a prima facie case the court has no option but to quash the charges against the accused.
A criminal trial is based on evidence beyond reasonable doubt and not shadow of doubt especially where none exist. In a civil matter it is based on balance of probability where my evidence outweighs yours in a lay mans view.
I have carefully thought through this issues and came up with this view point this however should be noted is my view or my own perspective nothing more or less. I believe every criminal matter must be investigated and the culprits brought to book to serve as a deterrent to others only way we can keep the nation sane and prevent it from drifting into anarchy.
It is obvious from the process stated by the Senate on the process of amendment of its rules the 2015 rules did not comply. A senator must write first to the President of the Senate stating reasons why he would want an amendment, that letter would be distributed among the members by the rules and business committee after committing it to a process of debate if it is passed by the majority it becomes automatically the rules of the senate.
Government is a continuum and therefore cannot exist in vacuum so one must readily question how a document not approved by the 7th senate formed the fulcrum of what was used to inaugurate the 8th senate however this important question is left to the courts to determine.
When Senator Marafa raised this issue on the floor of the senate I wonder why the Senate President did not commit this very serious observations brought to its attention to be investigated by the committee on ethics and privileges, perhaps if he has done so he wouldn’t find himself in the mess he has found himself now. This singular action of ruling him out of order left a lot to be desired but I suppose I have dealt with the issue of SUSPICION no matter how highly placed.
July 11th and further will be interesting times in the history of our nation.
Sir Kenny Okolugbu is a Public Affairs Analyst, Knight of Saint Christopher and Former Commissioner in DESOPADEC Twitter @kennyokolugbo. Email. Kennyokolugbo@gmail.com