Saraki/Ekweremadu’s Forgery Trial And Unceasing Siege On A Troubled Parliament | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Saraki/Ekweremadu’s Forgery Trial And Unceasing Siege On A Troubled Parliament

Posted: Jul 3, 2016 at 3:25 am   /   by   /   comments (0)
Saraki and Ekwueme

Saraki and Ekwueme

The arraignment of Senate President Bukola Saraki, his deputy Ike Ekweremadu and two principal officials of the National Assembly at the Federal High Court over allegation of forgery of the Senate Rules was another height in the unceasing storm that has enveloped the leadership of the Red Chamber since its controversial election of June 2015. Since Saraki turned the tide against powerful forces in his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) to seize the leadership of the National Assembly and frustrated the emergence of their anointed candidates, the former governor of Kwara State has not known peace. The unceasing siege on him and his co-travelers in the daring power struggle keeps digging deeper into their lives, and especially for Saraki, the assault has come from different angles.

Just within the period Saraki’s family business including that of his wife, Toyin, had come under the searchlight of Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Toyin was at a time a frequent visitor to EFCC but less is heard of the matter again at the moment.

And then came the probe into Saraki’s declared and undeclared assets as required in law for any Nigerian public officer, including those elected or appointed into offices. The Senate president has been going through the worst of judicial prosecution, which is unprecedented in the chequered history of Nigeria’s democracy since independence. But strange as it may seem, it is also agreed in some quarters that if the allegations of official abuse, corruption and forgery turned out to be sustained against someone occupying the high office of No.3 in the federation, it would only serve to strengthen the country’s constitution as well as deepen the democracy.

But that is so far the eyes can currently see about the two cases against Saraki; the case of false asset declaration at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, and now the forgery trial at Abuja court involving Ekweremadu, until the judges shall speak through the eyes of the law.

Whereas the storm against Saraki and Ekweremadu has pushed them into the court room, it is easy to suspect that the issues against them have their roots deeply in politics and power game.

Aside from the emergence of Saraki against the wish of the APC godfathers, the leaders of the ruling party have agonised more with having to cope with a senator of the opposition PDP as deputy, a prime position which by convention is believed to be reserved for a legislator in the majority party.

It is believed that Ekweremadu who was elected under the platform of PDP got the number two position as a result of the manipulation of the senate rules. This is the first time in the history of Nigeria’s democracy that an opposition party member would emerge as deputy senate president. Some observers believe Saraki and his deputy are victims of political witch hunt, which could set a dangerous precedent for the country’s democracy. But there are others believe there is nothing unusual in what the two leaders of the Red Chamber are going through as every Nigerian, irrespective of position, can be subjected to trial once there is an allegation against the person. Under the Nigerian constitution, only four persons are immune from trial; namely – President of the Federation, Vice President, Governor and Deputy Governor.

Goddy Uwazuruike, president of Igbo Think-Tank, Aka Ikenga, is not comfortable with the decision to begin  trial of Saraki and Ekweremadu. According to him, it is an act of executive lawlessness for Mr. President or Attorney General of the Federation (AGF)  to order for the trial of the leaders of the senate.  “The legislature is a different arm of government, which is independent from the executive because it has its own rule and need not subject it to executive scrutiny.” Uwazuruike described the ongoing trial as an aberration which is capable of destroying the existing separation of power as enshrined in the country’s constitution. Though Anthony Sani, former member of the last National Conference, did not believe it would affect the existing separation of powers as stipulated in the constitution.

The ongoing trial is an indication that APC as a party and the the present administration have many challenges on its hand. He said, “Those who think the ongoing trial of Saraki and his deputy is politically motivated may not be totally wrong because they may be informed by level of educated guess, considering that Senator Ekweremadu is of opposition party who has no business being deputy president where the ruling party has majority members in the senate.”

However, Sani explained that the government would have consider Saraki’s role in the emergence of the present administration and also his regret over the emergence of an opposition member of the senate as deputy senate president in taking action against him. “How the regime struggles out of the extenuating situation would be a test of its political skills. “But I do not believe how the destruction of the legislature could be the target of the trial, especially when regard is paid to the fact that the government is a product of democracy”. At the beginning of the trial in Abuja last Monday, the senate president accused those behind his arraignment as enemies who want to desecrate the Senate and subvert democracy.

He said, I will remain true and committed to the responsibilities that my citizenship and my office impose on me. Without doubt, the highest of those responsibilities is the steadfast refusal to surrender to the subversion of our democracy and the desecration of the Senate.

“This is a cross I am prepared to carry. If yielding to the nefarious agenda of a few individuals who are bent on undermining our democracy and destabilising the federal government to satisfy their selfish interests is the alternative to losing my personal freedom, let the doors of jails be thrown open and I shall be a happy guest.”

On his part, Ekweremadu has written to US, UK, EU among others alerting them of the ongoing situation and seeking their support as the senate is being desecrated by the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Part of the letter read,  “You may further wish to judge for yourself whether this unfolding scenario, coupled with the clampdown on the opposition, such as targeted arrests and indefinite detention of opposition figures and dissenting voices, in spite of court pronouncements and in clear violation of the Nigerian constitution, as well as the sustained marginalization of the South-East and South-South geopolitical zones of Nigeria, does not constitute a grave danger to the nation’s hard-won democracy.

“I wish to forward to you the court summons containing the trumped-up charges preferred against my person, the President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, CON; and two others.

“I also wish to appeal to you to kindly find time to read through the annexures— petition by members of the Senate Unity Forum, statements by persons interrogated, and the police report— to see if our names appeared anywhere in these documents.

The trial of the two leaders may worsen the frosty relationship between the Senate and the Presidency. Already, senators elected under the platform of PDP have indicated their intention to withdraw their support for Mr. President in some of his programmes  if the government continues to subject the hallow chamber to public ridicule. Some of their counterparts in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have also said that the executive was playing with fire.  But Senate Chief Whip, Sola Adeyeye, said the Buhari administration’s position on corruption should not be compromised. He urged the suspects to prove their innocence before an independent judiciary. Senator Adeyeye said that the APC senators will support the President’s bid to rid the nation of theft and graft.

However, the decision of the National Assembly to amend the constitution in order to insert immunity clause for some principal officials has not received support from critical sectors of the society across the country. Opposition to the move contend that the action is self serving and merely intended to provide cover for those that may be accused of wrong doing. Some Civil Society Organisations have indicated their intention to carry out peaceful protests against the plan. Obviously, this is one emotive action, and should the National Assembly insist on pushing it through under the prevailing atmosphere, that has the tendency of shifting public support and worsening for the troubled leaders of the National Assembly the cause of siege on them at the moment.