Forgery: Saraki, Ekweremadu, Others Plead Not Guilty, Granted Bail

...Loyalists create mild drama in court
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu and former clerk to the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasua have all pleaded not guilty to the two charges levelled against them.
Saraki alongside his deputy and the former clerk of the National Assembly took their plea at an Abuja FCT High court sitting in Jabi on Monday.
The plea followed an application by the lead prosecution counsel, M.S.Diri who told the Justice Yusuf Halilu-led court that the matter was for arraignment and urged the court to direct that the two counts be read to the accused persons. The two counts border on conspiracy and forgery of senate rule in 2015.
Justice Halilu stood down the matter to allow the prosecution file a counter affidavit against the motion for bail of the accused persons.
Prior to the stand down, Halilu denied asking reporters to vacate the courtroom.
“I will not ask journalists to leave my court room, don’t report what is not correct. I represent everybody; my work is to do the best I can,” Halilu said.
Drama in court
Meanwhile, a mild drama played out at the court as some loyalists of those standing trial attempted to prevent reporters from taking photographs of the accused persons.
The supporters used sheets of newspapers to block the front of the pressmen’s camera in an attempt to stop them from taking photographs of the accused.
This led to a heated argument between the reporters and the alleged loyalists.
The incident happened shortly after Justice Yusuf Halilu stood down the matter of alleged forgery of senate rule in 2015.
Accused persons get Bail 
The prosecutor, M.S. Diri had filed an application before the Halilu-led court seeking that the accused persons be denied bail because they may tamper with the course of investigation and may likely jump bail.
But counsel to the first accused person, Salisu Maikasuwa, Ikechukwu Ezechukwu argued that there was need to admit his client bail because his client conducted himself properly all through the investigation.
He said, “All through his investigation, he was never detained, and he also made himself available for investigation.”
Ezechukwu urged the court to dismiss the application of the prosecution and grant his client bail on self recognition.
Counsel to the 3rd defendant, who is the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Paul Erokoro, SAN, contended that the affidavits filed by the prosecution “never made mention of my client and the police in the course of its investigation.
“This is a notorious for the fact that my client who has been standing trial at the CCT for more than one year will not run away.”
Erokoro prayed the court to admit Saraki bail on the ground of self recognition as he will not run away.
Diri, however, stated that the prosecution was not opposing the bail application of Saraki because it may affect his official duties as the Senate President.
He, however opposed “vehemently” the bail application of the other accused persons because the “charges against them are devious which if they are convicted may attract a prison term of 14 years.”
Diri contended that others, apart from the Senate President if granted bail may evade trial.
On this ground, Diri urged the court to discountenance the bail application of the first, second and fourth defendant.
Justice Halilu in his ruling granted all accused persons bail.
“Considering the submission of the counsels of the accused person, I allow all the accused persons to go home.
“They shall present two reasonable surities who should be Nigerian, owned landed properties in Asokoro, maitama, Wuse 2 and Garki.
“If they fail to meet the bail condition, they shall be remanded in Kuje prison.”
The judge consequently adjourned the matter till July 11 for continuation of trial.
The three have reportedly met the bail terms.
A Government Within Buhari`s Government After Us - Saraki
In his response to the court ruling Saraki said, "Today we the leaders of the Nigerian Senate reiterate our innocence against the charges filed by the Attorney General of the Federal Government of Nigeria at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court on the allegations of forgery of the Senate Standing Rules document.
In our view, the charges filed by the Attorney General represent a violation of the principle of the Separation of Powers between the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch as enshrined in our Constitution.  Furthermore, it is farcical to allege that a criminal act occurred during Senate procedural actions and the mere suggestion demonstrates a desperate overreach by the office of the Attorney General. These trumped up charges is only another phase in the relentless persecution of the leadership of the Senate
This misguided action by the Attorney General begs the question, how does this promote the public interest and benefit the nation?  At a time when the whole of government should be working together to meet Nigeria’s many challenges, we are once again distracted by the Executive Branch’s inability to move beyond a leadership election among Senate peers. It was not an election of Senate peers and Executive Branch participants.
Over the past year the Senate has worked to foster good relations with the Executive Branch.  It is in all of our collective interests to put aside divisions and get on with the nation’s business.  We risk alienating and losing the support of the very people who have entrusted their national leaders to seek new and creative ways to promote a secure and prosperous Nigeria.  As leaders and patriots, it is time to rise above partisanship and to move forward together.
However, what has become clear is that there is now a government within the government of President Buhari who have seized the apparatus of Executive powers to pursue their nefarious agenda.
This latest onslaught on the Legislature represents a clear and present danger to the democracy Nigerians fought hard to win and preserve.  The suit filed on behalf of the Federal government suggests that perhaps some forces in the Federal Republic have not fully embraced the fact that the Senate’s rules and procedures govern how the legislative body adjudicates and resolves its own disputes.
Let it be abundantly clear, both as a citizen and as a foremost Legislator, I will continue to rise above all the persecution and distraction that have been visited on me. In the words of Martin Luther King Junior, “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at a time of challenge and controversy”.
I will remain true and committed to the responsibilities that my citizenship and my office impose on me. Without doubt, the highest of those responsibilities is the steadfast refusal to surrender to the subversion of our democracy and the desecration of the Senate. This is a cross I am prepared to carry. If yielding to the nefarious agenda of a few individuals who are bent in undermining our democracy and destabilising the Federal government to satisfy their selfish interests is the alternative to losing my personal freedom, let the doors of jails be thrown open and I shall be a happy guest."

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