The scheduled commencement of trial in the alleged forgery case against Senate President Bukola Saraki and three others was yesterday stalled. Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami was yet to make available the documents needed for the prosecution.
Leader of the prosecution team, Aliyu Umar (SAN), told a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Jabi, Abuja, that over a month after the AGF constituted his team to prosecute the case, it was yet to be furnished with necessary materials for its prosecution.
Umar said, while the AGF was yet to avail his team with the case file, some of the motions filed by the defendants, particularly the one filed by Saraki since June, challenging his trial, was only brought to his (Umar’s) attention on September 26.
He sought for an adjournment to enable him “put his house in order” and prepare his reactions to the series of motions filed by the four defendants in their opposition to their trial.
Umar’s revelation and his subsequent application angered everyone in court including the judge and lawyers to the defendants.
The trial judge, Justice Yusuf Halilu, expressed reservations over the prosecution’s request for adjournment and its inability to respond to the motions filed by three of the four defendants over 90 days ago.
Defence lawyers – senior advocates Paul Erokoro, Joseph Daudu, Ikechukwu Ezechukwu and Mahmud Magaji – frowned at the development, describing it as a ploy by the prosecution to frustrate the trial, having realised that it has no case against the defendants.
Saraki, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, a former Clerk of the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasu, and his deputy, Benedict Efeture were arraigned on June 27 on a two-count charge of criminal conspiracy and forgery of the Standing Rules used for the election that produced the current leadership of the Senate.
According to the prosecution, the offence of conspiracy is punishable under Section 97 (1) of the Penal Code Act, while the offence of forgery with “fraudulent intent” is punishable under Section 364 of the same law.
Shortly after their arraignment on June 27, the court fixed July 11 for the commencement of trial, but had to reschedule it for September 28 when the earlier date fell within the court’s annual long vacation.
The prosecution was expected to call its first set of witnesses yesterday when Umar disclosed that the prosecution was unprepared.
Erokoro (lawyer to Saraki) objected to Umar’s request for adjournment. He noted that the case had been salted for trial since June.
Erokoro contended that if the AGF found it difficult to handover the case file to the lawyer he freely appointed, the better option was for the court to terminate the case and allow the defendants to go home.
He noted that his client had filed a motion since June 22, which has been served on the AGF. He said the motion was questioning the competence of the charge on the grounds that it constituted an abuse of court process because a similar case involving the AGF was pending before a Federal High Court in Abuja.
Daudu (representing Ekweremadu) faulted the prosecution’s request for an adjournment