From GODWIN TSA and Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
It was jubilation galore yesterday at the premises of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory [FCT], Abuja where Justice Yusuf Halilu struck out the forgery charge brought against the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu and two others by the Federal Government.
The court, which consequently discharged and released all the defendants; Saraki, Ekweremadu, Abubakar Maikasua and Benedict Efedure took the decision following the formal withdrawal of the criminal charge against them by the Government.
An indication that the defendants would be set free emerged when counsel to the Federal Government Alhaji Aliyu Umar applies to the judge for withdrawal of the case instituted in June this year.
Explaining the reasons for the withdrawal of the charge, Umar said it was because the current government has respect for the rule of law, it was withdrawing the charge on the premise that another case of similar nature is pending before a Federal High Court, Abuja.
He submitted that it is trite law that two court of coordinate jurisdiction cannot sit on same issue at the same time and period. The prosecution counsel therefore urged the court to strike out the charge and release all the defendants.
Justice Halilu accordingly struck out the charge and discharged the defendants after the application for the withdrawal of the charge was not opposed to by counsel to Saraki, Paul Erokoro [SAN], Joseph Daudu [SAN] for Ekweremadu and other defence lawyers in the case.
In his ruling, the judge struck out the charge and discharged all four defendants and praised the prosecution counsel for bringing his wealth of experience into the matter, which led to the striking out of the case.
Justice Halilu stated: “It takes courage for somebody that is backing the government to have shown great courage displayed by Aliyu Umar. By this courage you have chosen the path of honour and good professionalism. As Nigerians we have a duty especially the bar and bench to make it better than we met it in the past.”
He also praised counsel to the defendants for their cooperation and the way they conducted themselves during proceedings, while equally pleading with the defendants not to feel witch hunted and that the police have their duty to carry out, but whatever they do should be in the interest of the nation.
Immediately after the court session, supporters of the defendants who had invaded the court broke into wild jubilation showering praises on their political leaders for overcoming their travails.
The Deputy Senate President, Ekweremadu held Saraki’s left hand to the air as they both emerged from the courtroom, to the admiration of their supporters.
The Federal Government had arraigned the defendants on June 20, 2016 on charges of forgery of the senate standing rules during the senate leadership election held in June last year.