AGF to senators: Your rules illegally amended
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.