SGF slams senators over Saraki, Ekweremadu’s arraignment for forgery

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The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir David Lawal, has chided some lawmakers in the National Assembly over the arraignment of Senate President, Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu over forgery.
Lawal, in a press statement made available to The Point, said contrary to insinuation by some of the senators, the Presidency had no interest in the ordeal of the two Senate principal officers.
He alleged that both Saraki and Ekweremadu had been insulting the person of President Muhammadu Buhari over the issue.
According to the SGF, “Since the arraignment of the President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki and, his Deputy Senator Ike Ekweremadu, before the Federal High Court on Monday, June 27, 2016, the two leaders of the Senate have issued two separate press statements conveying messages that are far from being complementary to the person and government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Senator Saraki in his statement clearly insinuated that Mr. President is not in control of his administration and that a cabal now runs the Federal administration. On the part of Senator Ekweremadu, he insists that President Buhari is exhibiting dictatorial tendencies that can derail our democracy.

Uba Group

“From their statements, the two leaders of the Senate also gave this erroneous impression that by their arraignment, it is the entire Senate and indeed, the legislative arm of government that is on trial. They want the public to believe that their prosecution is utter disregard by the Executive arm of government for the constitutional provisions of separation of powers and that preferring the forgery case against them is a vendetta.”
The SSG however urged the two Senate principal officers to stop making prejudiced comments about a matter that was already before a competent court of law.
“Since this case is in court, the Judiciary should be allowed to do its job. However, it is important to emphasize that this case involves only the four accused persons and should not be presented to the unsuspecting public as involving the entire Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The complaint leading to the forgery investigation was reported to the Police by some aggrieved Senators who specifically accused certain persons. It is not the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that is involved and definitely not the House of Representatives. To bring the National Assembly as a body into this court case is totally unwarranted. It can only be for other purposes and reasons outside the investigation and legal proceedings.

“A case of forgery is usually preferred against individuals. This is not different. As was the case with a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, who was accused of certificate forgery, what he did was to resign, honourably. The matter did not even go to court. In that particular case, it was never orchestrated as a matter for the National Assembly. The individual involved did not drag the entire Legislature into the matter,” the SGF said.

Lawal therefore concluded that, “Our democracy is still evolving and being deepened. The provisions of the separation of powers are entrenched in our Constitution and should guide everyone in our conduct. The rule of law is indeed supreme. This particular case is before the judiciary and is not being decided by the Executive Arm of Government. All that has transpired is still within the confines of our laws. These are the rights to accuse, to be investigated and be arraigned before the court. To impute other considerations to the process is unfortunate. We should allow the process to take its course, in consonance with the dictates of the law and total obeisance to the cardinal democratic principle of the separation of powers.”
Gov. Ikpeazu’s removal, illegality of highest order – Adegboruwa
Adeleke Adesanya
An activist and lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, has condemned the sacking of the Governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu by the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.
Adegboruwa described the court’s verdict removing Governor Ikpeazu as a misconduct on the part of judiciary.
The lawyer in a statement made available to The Point, argued that the judgment said to have been predicated on section 24 (1) (f) of the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act, was totally out of conduct.
Contesting the verdict of the court, he said, “With all due respect to the court, this judgment is wrong, both in law and morality. Straightaway, it should not be difficult to know that the qualifications for candidates seeking the office of governor of a state are as stipulated under section 182 (1) of the 1999 Constitution as follows: Dual Citizenship; Two previous terms in office; A person adjudged to be a lunatic or of unsound mind; Conviction by court or tribunal for death or an offence involving dishonesty or fraud; Conviction within ten years of contest for dishonesty or contravention of the Code of Conduct; Failure to retire from public service; Membership of a secret society; Indictment for embezzlement or fraud; or Has presented a forged certificate to INEC.

“In respect of section 182 (1) (i) relating to forged certificate, it must be that the alleged forgery must have been authenticated by the relevant hand writing analysis experts of the Nigeria Police Force and must be shown to have been masterminded by the governor himself.

“Clearly therefore, the issue of payment or non-payment of tax, cannot invalidate an otherwise valid election. Furthermore, the consequences of a failure, by any public officer, to pay tax, are well articulated in the various tax statutes. In this case, it is said that one of the documents furnished by the governor was said to have been forged because it was issued on a Saturday. Under the Public Holidays Act, all days are working days except the ones specifically declared as public holiday. Indeed section 1 of the said Act states public holidays as New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Workers’ Day, National Day, Christmas Day, Id el Fitr, Id el Kabir, Id el Maulud or any other day so declared by the President or Governor. So, Saturday and Sunday are not public holidays to nullify official acts done on those days.
This was why the former governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, signed the appropriation bill of Lagos State on a Sunday. So the fact that a document is signed and dated on a Saturday or Sunday, does not of itself alone, render it invalid. In any case, any mistake occurring upon a document issued by the Abia State Government cannot be blamed on the beneficiary of the document itself.

“The issue of tax evasion or tax default is a matter to be resolved between the citizen and the government, being one affecting revenue. I cannot see how that can lead to the annulment of the votes lawfully cast by the people of Abia State, for their choice of governor.”

Arguing further, he said, “The other point that makes the judgment totally unacceptable is that it is totally against the tenets of democracy and the rule of choice, for courts to be supplanting pubic office holders that have been conferred with a sacred mandate by the people. This is why matters relating to elections have been limited to election petitions, so that it is only those who canvassed for the votes of the people that should expect to enjoy their mandate. The courts should not be imposing leaders on the people, to annul their mandate, through judgments that have no bearing with and cannot be traced to the votes cast.

“Furthermore, this is a case that has been fought and won, even up to the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court. So if one may ask, where was Mr. Ogah, in all of the time that the governorship election of Abia State was in the tribunal, in the Court of Appeal and in the Supreme Court? Was it today that he got to know of the forged certificate? How will a High Court turn around to annul a mandate already confirmed by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, the latter being the highest court of the land?”