The Federal Government, on Wednesday, failed to kick-start hearing on the two-count forgery charge it preferred against the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu.
The duo are facing trial alongside the former Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa and his deputy, Mr. Benedict Efeturi over allegation that they 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, through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, maintained that the defendants had by their conduct, committed an offence punishable under Section 97 (1) and 364 of the Penal Code Act.
Meanwhile, when the matter was called up for hearing on Wednesday, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Aliyu Umar, SAN, failed to produce any of his witnesses in court. Umar, a former Attorney General of Kano State who was engaged by the government to prosecute the defendants on its behalf, told the court that the AGF, Abubakar Malami, SAN, had yet to hand over the case-file to him, a situation he said made it impossible for him to commence the trial as scheduled.
Consequently, he applied for a short adjournment to enable him to put his house in order and file responses to motions pending before the court.
The request for adjournment was vehemently opposed by counsel to all the defendants who urged the court to compel the prosecution to open its case against them.
Besides, the defendants, noted that FG was yet to respond to three different motions challenging the legal competence of the charge marked CR/219/16, and dated June 10. Saraki, through his lawyer, Mr. Paul Erokoro, SAN, drew attention of the court to the fact that his own motion seeking to quash the charge, was served on the prosecution since June 22.
He decried that the AGF did not deem it fit to handover the case-file to his lawyer, over two months after the matter was adjourned for full-blown hearing.
The defendants therefore prayed the court to quash the charge and discharge them for want of diligent prosecution.
Basically, the defendants, in three preliminary objections they entered before the court, queried the propriety of the charge which they said was vague, did not disclose any offence and constituted a gross abuse of the judicial process.
While contending that FG lacked the powers to meddle into internal affairs of the Senate, the defendants, challenged jurisdiction of the court to try them on the basis of the charge. More so, they stressed that issues raised in the charge is currently a subject matter of litigation before the Federal High Court in Abuja, a proceeding the AGF was also involved in as a respondent.
After he had listened to all the parties, trial Justice Yusuf Halilu expressed his disappointment with action of the prosecution.
“I do not allow parties to stall trial before me. These motions have been there for the past 90 days, yet they were not attended to by the prosecution.
“However, for the interest of justice and circumstances the prosecution counsel found himself, I oblige to adjourn this matter”,
Justice Halilu held. He subsequently adjourned the case till October 7 for definite hearing. Moreover, Justice Halilu said he would hear all the preliminary objections along with the substantive matter.
The court had on June 27, granted the defendants bail after they pleaded not guilty to the forgery charge against them. Whereas the court gave Saraki bail on self-recognition, it ordered the other defendants to produce two reasonable sureties each.
The court stressed that the sureties must be owners of landed properties in the highbrow areas of Asokoro, Maitama, Wuse II or Garki in Abuja.Vanguard