From: Godwin Tsa, Abuja and Petrus Obi, Enugu
ANXIETY has gripped members of the National Assembly, as Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, today appear before the High Court, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja for allegedly forging Senate Rules in 2015.
The arraignment was botched last week following the inability of the court bailiff to effect summons on them.
The duo alongside Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa and Benedict Efeturi were dragged to court in charge number CR/219/16 by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice for allegedly tampering with the standing rules to conduct election that brought them into office.
Ever since the case was filed againt Saraki and Ekweremadu, there have been anxiety about their fate. Some lawmakers fear that if they are not granted bail, there will be vacuum in leadership when the Senate reconvenes.
Trouble started when aggrieved senators, belonging to the Unity Forum, headed by Barnabas Gemade petitioned the police alleging forgery following the election of principal officers for the Senate.
Following a request for substituted service by the prosecution counsel, David Kaswe, the trial judge had ordered that the accused persons be served with the charges by pasting the notice on the board of the National Assembly in line with the provisions of Sections 123 and 124 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
Meanwhile, fears are mounting that when Saraki and Ekweremadu appear in court, they might be remanded in custody pending when they would perfect their bail conditions.
In the event that happens, Order 27 of the Senate Standing Rules, which makes provision for a temporary Senate president would be activated.
According to it: “In the absence of the president of the Senate and the deputy president, such Senator as the Senate may elect for the purpose, shall be known as president pro-tempore.”
It was gathered that the Like Minds faction of the All Progressives Congress (APC) loyal to Saraki with support from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which controls a sizeable number in the Red Chamber, might produce the president pro-tempore. Shaaba Lafiaji (Kwara North) and Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa West) are being touted as likely temporary replacements.
Members of the Unity Forum are also said to be plotting to produce a president pro-tempore. Sources said Ahmad Lawan who was hitherto penciled down to emerge, as Senate President in June 2015, would likely be nominated.
There have been insinuations that the presidency was desperate to oust the Senate leadership and install a candidate anointed by the APC.
In fact, the Senate, last week accused President Muhammadu Buhari of plotting to muzzle the legislature and criminalize legislative process in the country.
Also, 30 Senators on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by Deputy Senate Minority Leader, Emmanuel Bwacha, who addressed the press in Abuja, vowed not to cooperate with Buhari-led administration over what they called “unwarranted threats to the legislative arm of government, particularly to the Senate leadership by the executive arm, as well as the on-going intimidation and persecution of the opposition party PDP by the ruling party APC.”
They accused the president of persecuting their party members in the guise of fighting corruption, while pampering his party members who have corruption allegations hanging on their necks.
The lawmakers made good their threat when they declined to consider the list of ambassadorial nominees sent to it by the president.
The frosty relationship has continued.
Buhari has remained silent since the drama between the presidency and the Senate began.
Group faults AGF
However, a civil society group, Centre for the Advancement of Literacy and Leadership, faulted the Attorney General of the Federation, on the arraignment of the presiding officers and for refusing to appear before the Senate on Thursday.
The group, which spoke in Abuja through its Executive Director, Mazi Bismarck Oji, described the AGF as “a serial abuser of the rule of law and the principle of separation of power”.
Mazi Oji wondered why an AGF who sues people and expects them to appear in court, would himself “serially defy the invitation by the National Assembly, while also undermining resolutions of the National Assembly.
“We read the statement by the Office of the Secretary General of the Federation on the arraignment of Saraki and Ekweremadu with serious worry for the Nigerian democracy. It is sad that the Attorney-General who sues people to court would not himself honour parliamentary summons, thereby constituting himself an untouchable institution.”
Oji called on well-meaning Nigerians and the international community to rise up to save Nigeria’s democracy from impunity and executive highhandedness before it is too late.
Igbo monarch alleges witch-hunt
Similarly, a traditional ruler in Enugu State, Igwe Hafford Agana alleged hatred and with-hunt as the main reasons behind the trial of Ekweremadu.
Addressing a press conference in Enugu yesterday, Agana warned that the development posed serious threat to the largest democracy in Africa.
Igwe Agana said the international community should, as a matter of urgency, call on Buhari to refrain from actions capable of derailing Nigeria’s democracy.
He identified the Niger Delta militancy, Biafra resurgence, harsh economy as issues that should occupy the President instead of pursuing those that did not vote for him in 2015.