• Says lawmakers lack powers to summon him
• Senate may issue arrest warrant
From Fred Itua, Abuja
A fresh twist was introduced in the face-off between the Presidency and the Senate yesterday, when the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, told lawmakers they lacked constitutional powers to summon him.
The AGF, who was invited to appear before the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, to respond to questions on the ongoing prosecution of the two senate presiding officers, did not honour the invitation.
The two presiding officers, Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekwerenmadu, are facing criminal trial over alleged forgery of Senate Standing Rules in 2015.
The duo, alongside two others, were arraigned before a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court last Monday, but were subsequently granted bail.
The AGF, who for the second time, shunned the summons, was, however, represented by President Muhammadu Buhari’s Special Assistant on Public Prosecution, Okoi Obono-Obla.
The presidential aide was walked out by the committee on the grounds that he was not the person invited to defend his action.
But, Obla, before he was walked out, told the committee it was wrong for Senate to have invited the AGF on a matter pending in a law court.
Justifying the action of the committee in refusing to listen to the presidential aide, committee chairman, David Umar, said: “It is the AGF the committee invited. We did not invite the president. And, since the AGF is not here, it means he did not respond to our invitation.
“The AGF was only invited to provide explanations on the issue. The best we will do now is to report to plenary. And, Senate, at plenary, will take the last decision.”
However, Daily Sun gathered that core loyalists of Saraki are plotting to move a motion when the chamber resumes, to compel the AGF to appear before it through a warrant of arrest.
A source disclosed that Senate would likely invoke its powers as provided in the 1999 Constitution (as amended), to force the AGF to appear before it.
Earlier, the presidential aide told newsmen after after he had been sent out of the hearing, said the AGF is not answerable to the Senate.
“By virtue of the principle of separation of powers, he is answerable to the president, who appointed him. And, he has not done anything wrong. The AGF has not undermined democracy.
“He acted pursuant to his powers vested on him by the Constitution.
“Section 174 (1) says he can prosecute anybody. And, he has done that. The Senate is not on trial. He has not taken the Senate to court.
“He has taken four persons to court. They are not the Senate.
“Being Senate President does not make you the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The matter was investigated by the police and a prima facie case was established and the AG invoked his powers under Section 174 (1) to initiate criminal proceedings against those persons.
“And, this matter is now before a court of law. There is separation of powers in Nigeria. It is not position of the senate to constitute itself into a court of law.”
The AGF was first summoned last Tuesday, following a motion by Senator Dino Melaye wherein he maintained that Malami needed to appear before the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to explain the rationale behind the criminal trial of Saraki and Ekweremadu.
But, the AGF did not honour the invitation. Rather, he asked the committee to fix a later date. Yesterday was again fixed and a letter was sent to him to appear before the committee.
He declined for the second time, yesterday.