The trial of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and three others, was stalled at the Federal High Court, Jabi, Abuja on Wednesday.
The two-count charge, bordering on forgery slammed against Saraki and others was stalled because of the inability of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to release the case file to the new legal team assigned to handle the case.
Co-defendants with Saraki in the case are the Senate Deputy Presdient, Ike Ekweremadu; immediate past clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa and the acting clerk, Benedict Efeturi,
When the matter came up on Wednesday, for trial, counsel to the Federal Government, Alhaji Aliyu Umar, told the trial Judge, Justice Yusuf Halilu that he was not ready to proceed with the trial because the office of the AGF had not handed over the case file to him.
Umar, who led the Federal Government’s legal team, also told the court that it would be difficult for the prosecution to kick-start the trial as the motion filed by the defendants challenging the jurisdiction of the court was served on him on September 26, 2016.
He, therefore, applied for an adjournment to enable him put his house in order and prepare his response to the motion filed by the defendants in the matter, adding also that since the matter had to do with the fundamental right of parties to fair hearing, he needed to properly prepare his response to the motion.
“I have not filed anything. It is fundamental to fair hearing. Under the circumstances, I will ask for an adjournment to enable me respond to the motion,” he said.
In his submissions, Saraki’s counsel, Paul Erokoro, opposed to the request for adjournment by the prosecution counsel, insisting that the matter was slated for trial more than two months ago.
Erokoro told Justice Halilu that if the AGF did not deem it fit to hand over the case file to the Federal Government’s counsel, then the charge against Saraki and his co-accused should be terminated.
He further informed the court that Saraki had filed a motion since June 22, 2016 before the court, which had been served on the AGF, questioning the propriety of the charge on the ground that it constituted an abuse of court process because similar matter involving the AGF was pending before a Federal High Court in Abuja.
In the same vein, counsel to the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Joseph Daudu (SAN), also faulted the Federal Government’s request for adjournment.
, adding that since June when the charge was filed and slated for hearing yesterday, the Federal Government ought to have done the needful to avoid scuttling the trial.
Daudu told the court that Ekweremadu had also filed a motion questioning the filing of the charge by the AGF on the ground that it was brought in bad fate and also not competent because it constitute a gross abuse of judicial process in the face of the law.
On his part, Ikechukwu Ezechukwu (SAN), representing the former Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa and Mahmud Magaji (SAN), who represented the deputy Clerk, Benedict Efeturi, also raised objection to the decision of the court not to commence the trial.
Justice Halilu, however, expressed reservation on the request for adjournment and the inability of the AGF to respond to the motion filed over 90 days ago by three of the four defendants.
“I don’t allow parties to stall trial before me but in the interest of justice and in the circumstances the prosecution has found himself, I oblige to adjourn this matter till Friday, October 7, 2016 as agreed by counsel to the fourth defendant,” the Judge stated and added that the bail granted the defendants in June when they were brought for trial should continue.
The AGF had, in June this year, filed a two-count charge on criminal conspiracy and forgery of the Senate Standing Rules 2015 against Saraki, Ekweremadu, Maikasuwa and Efeturi, but they all pleaded not guilty to the two count charges when read out to them and we’re consequently granted bail by the court.