AGF to sen­a­tors: Your rules il­le­gally amended

Daily Trust - - FRONT PAGE - By Is­mail Mu­dashir

The At­tor­ney Gen­eral of the Fed­er­a­tion and Min­is­ter of Jus­tice Abubakar Malami has said the changes made to Se­nate Rules 2015 did not fol­low valid pro­ce­dures.

“A Stand­ing Rule that has not been de­lib­er­ated and voted on by the Se­nate, can­not be the Stand­ing Rule,” he said when he ap­peared be­fore the Se­nate Com­mit­tee on Ju­di­ciary, Hu­man Rights and Le­gal Mat­ters yes­ter­day.

The min­is­ter said an of­fence was com­mit­ted in the process which was why the Se­nate Pres­i­dent, Bukola Saraki, his Deputy, Ike Ek­w­ere­madu and two oth­ers have been charged with forgery.

He was sum­moned by the Se­nate on June 21, to jus­tify the ba­sis for the charges against the two se­nate lead­ers but he de­layed his ap­pear­ance un­til yes­ter­day.

On June 30, the Sen­a­tors walked out Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari’s ad­viser on pros­e­cu­tion (at­tached to Min­istry of Jus­tice), Chief Okoi Obono-Obla who rep­re­sented the AGF.

Some com­mit­tee mem­bers also felt there was con­flict of in­ter­est as Malami was once the lawyer rep­re­sent­ing sen­a­tors who sued the se­nate lead­ers for il­le­gally al­ter­ing the stand­ing rules

He said his of­fice in­sti­tuted the suit based on Po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion done be­fore his ap­point­ment as AGF adding that he acted in the pub­lic in­ter­est.

He de­clined to an­swer ques­tion on why Saraki and Ek­w­ere­madu were in­cluded in the suit, even when they were not men­tioned in the po­lice re­port.

“The proof of ev­i­dence is be­fore the court. I am a party in the suit be­ing the pros­e­cu­tor. I can’t com­ment on the ques­tion you asked be­cause do­ing so would be sub­ju­dice.”

“I was in­vited to ap­pear be­fore the com­mit­tee based on a let­ter which reads ‘Im­mi­nent threat to Nige­ria democ­racy’. I have a clear obli­ga­tion to do what­ever should be done within the con­text of the con­sti­tu­tion to sus­tain the demo­cratic process.

“The is­sue that con­sti­tute the ba­sis of this in­vi­ta­tion is a crim­i­nal case in­sti­tuted against cer­tain mem­bers of the Se­nate. It is an act that pre­dates my ap­point­ment. There are se­ries of suits.

“The ac­tion was not taken to trun­cate any demo­cratic process, but was taken to pro­tect the democ­racy. There are now two pend­ing cases in court. One is a civil case in­sti­tuted by some Sen­a­tors. The other is a crim­i­nal case in­sti­tuted by the of­fice of the AGF.

“The ini­ti­a­tion be­hind the forgery case was taken in the in­ter­est of the pub­lic and in the in­ter­est of democ­racy. I want to state clearly that my de­ci­sion was based on pub­lic in­ter­est and the aim to pre­vent abuse of pub­lic of­fices.

“The Na­tional Assem­bly has the pow­ers to reg­u­late its own pro­ce­dure. But the ba­sis for fil­ing my case was that the po­si­tion taken was not that of the Se­nate. The Se­nate Stand­ing Rules al­legedly amended in 2015 did not fol­low the tra­di­tional way of amend­ment,” he said.

Malami added: “That is where my quar­rel comes in. If there are cer­tain per­sons that did not allow the process of amend­ing the Se­nate Stand­ing Rules go through the con­sti­tu­tional process, we have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to act by way of ini­ti­at­ing a crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ing against those in­volved.

“The pub­lic in­ter­est and the need to en­sure that no abuse is al­lowed, I have to take the step to pre­vent that.”

While quot­ing from the votes and pro­ceed­ings of the May 18, 2011, the min­is­ter said the 2007 Se­nate Stand­ing rules were amended, fol­low­ing the pro­ce­dures stip­u­lated in the doc­u­ment.

Com­mit­tee chair­man, David Umaru said the AGF was in­vited to find out whether he in­sti­tuted the case in pub­lic in­ter­est.

“We are not go­ing into the is­sue of forgery. It is not our man­date. We feel that the AGF owes a duty to the Se­nate and cit­i­zens of Nige­ria to know if that power was ex­er­cised in pub­lic in­ter­est with­out any abuse.

“The AGF has the pow­ers to in­sti­tute or dis­con­tinue any crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings. We want to know if the AGF con­sid­ered pub­lic in­ter­est. This is why we are here,” he said.

The pro­ceed­ing did not go with­out al­ter­ca­tions be­tween com­mit­tee mem­bers and the min­is­ter. Chair­man Com­mit­tee on Rules and Busi­ness, Se­na­tor Baba­jide Omoworare (APC, Osun East) who is also a mem­ber of the ju­di­ciary com­mit­tee at a stage said: “My ad­mo­ni­tion is that the mat­ter is sub­ju­dice and we should not be here wast­ing our time over a mat­ter that is pend­ing in court.”

His state­ment an­gered Se­na­tor Chukuwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu North) who said Omoworare was an­swer­ing the ques­tions asked of the AGF.

“You are an­swer­ing his ques­tions for him, Mr. Chair­man; please call him to or­der,” he said.

Mr. Umaru ex­cused the min­is­ter and said the find­ings of his com­mit­tee would be re­ported back to the Se­nate dur­ing ple­nary.

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