The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, on Wednesday finally honoured the invitation of the Senate to come in and explain why the forgery suit was brought up against the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu.
The senate had on Tuesday passed a resolution directing Malami to appear before its committee on judiciary, human rights and legal matters even as it threatened to invoke Sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution to compel Malami to appear.
During his meeting with the members of the committee, Malami maintained that he was within the ambit of the law to prosecute Saraki and Ekweremadu but the committee members reckoned that since the legislature was an independent arm of government, the trial was formed in error.
Chairman of the Committee, David Umaru, told Malami, “On Tuesday, the 21st day of June, 2016, the Senate rising from its plenary, considered a matter of public national importance which is of immense threat to our democracy. The mover of the motion, Dino Melaye, alleged that the charges against the presiding officers of the Senate portended grave danger to our democracy. That is why we have invited the AGF to have this interaction.
“The Senate has insisted that the Senate Standing Rules (document) was not forged. We received a letter from you asking for an adjournment in order to enable you prepare. At the last meeting, you were not here.
“I would like to state that the purpose of our inquiry is neither to look at the criminal case of forgery, nor are we looking at the civil matter which is pending in a Federal High Court.
‘‘Our concern is with Section 174 of the 1999 Constitution. The powers conferred on this committee by Section 88 and 89 of the Constitution and Order 97, Rule 37, read together with Section 62 give the Senate the powers to make rules to govern its own proceedings.
“These are the powers given to the committee to look at the way and powers you gave effects to Section 173. We have two situations. The first one is the time before the action was preferred. We are not going into the issue of forgery. It is not our mandate. We feel that the AGF owes a duty to the Senate and citizens of Nigeria to know if that power was exercised in public interest without any abuse.
“The AGF has the powers to institute or discontinue any criminal proceedings. We want to know if the AGF considered public interest.”
In his response, Malami said, “I am in receipt of a letter dated 21st of June, 2016, titled: ‘Imminent threat to Nigeria democracy’ inviting me to appear before the committee.
‘‘I have a clear obligation to do whatever should be done within the context of the constitution to sustain the democratic process.
“The issue that constitutes the basis of this invitation is a criminal case instituted against certain members of the Senate. It is an act that predates my appointment. There are series of suits. The date of interest is 23rd of July, 2015.
“I was appointed on the 12th of November 2015. That is four months after the investigation was concluded by the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).
“The action was not taken to truncate any democratic process, but was taken to protect democracy. There are now two pending cases in court. One is a civil case instituted by some, the other a criminal case instituted by the office of the AGF. These two matters are subjudice. When a matter is before a court of law, nobody is entitled to look into it.
“I am guided by the Senate Standing Rules 53. One of the cases was instituted by the office of the AGF. It will be wrong to make any comments on a case still in court. The two matters are pending. Based on that, I will not say more. My inability to come was not out of arrogance or anything. I was out of the country when the invitations were sent.
“The National Assembly has powers to regulate its own procedure. But the basis for filing my case was that the position taken was not that of the Senate.
“The Senate Standing Rules allegedly amended in 2015 did not follow the traditional way of amendment. It can, therefore, not be the position of the Senate. That is where my quarrel comes in.
“If there are certain persons that did not allow the process of amending the Senate Standing Rules go through the constitutional process, we have a responsibility to act by way of initiating a criminal proceeding against those involved. In the public interest and the need to ensure that no abuse is allowed, I have to take the step to prevent that.”
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