The Federal Government on Friday withdrew the forgery charges it instituted against the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, and two others.
The Federal Government, through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) had, in June this year, filed a two-count charge of criminal conspiracy and forgery of the Senate Standing Rules 2015 against Saraki, Ekweremadu, the immediate past clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa and the acting clerk, Benedict Efeturi.
When the matter came up on Friday, the lead prosecuting counsel, Aliyu Umar, told the trial judge, Justice Yusuf Halilu of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting in Jabi, Abuja, that the charges were being withdrawn following a pending case related to the charges before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
He said, “This government respects the rule of law, and hierarchy of the judiciary. It is obvious from these two applications (filed by Saraki and Ekweremadu) and the similar case before your learned brother, Justice Kolawole, at the Federal High Court who is dealing with the issue that we are withdrawing the charges against the defendants.
“It is trite that two matters of the same subject matter cannot be before different courts of coordinate jurisdiction, that will amount to an abuse of court process.
“I therefore prayed the court that the amended charge dated October 5, 2016 and also the original charge dated June 10, 2016 and filed the same date be struck out and all the four defendants be discharged.
All the counsel representing the defendants, Ikechukwu Ezechukwu, Mahmud Magaji, Paul Erokoro and Joseph Daudu, all Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), raised no objection to the application by the Federal Government to withdraw the charges.
All the counsel to the defendants commended the prosecution counsel for the initiative he took in withdrawing the charges.
The trial judge, Justice Yusuf Halilu after listening to all the submissions by counsel, struck out the charges and further discharged the defendants.
He said, “I have listened to the submissions of prosecution counsel, my responsibility as a judge is to do what the law requires. For whatever reason, the prosecution has a duty to do his work.
“As an experience lawyer, the prosecution has displayed his professionalism. It will indeed amount to an abuse of court process if cases of two subject matter are before two courts of coordinate jurisdiction.
“This application is hereby struck out and the defendants are hereby set free” the judge held.
Justice Halilu subsequently struck out the case and discharged all the four defendants in the matter and advised Saraki and others not to see themselves as been witch-hunted, adding that as leaders of the institutions they represent, they should look at the country as one and to also work in unity and in the interest of Nigerians.
Meanwhile, the case before Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court in Abuja which was referred to by the prosecutor was a civil case filed by a serving Senator, Gilbert Nnaji, to challenge the then ongoing investigation into the alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Rules by Saraki and others.
It would be recalled that the defendants were accused of masterminding the forgery of the Senate Standing Rules for the July 9, 2015, election, through which both Saraki and Ekweremadu took over the leadership of the Senate.
The court had on June 27, 2016 granted the defendants bail after they pleaded not guilty to the forgery charge against them. Whereas the court gave Saraki bail on self-recognition, it ordered the other defendants to produce two reasonable sureties each.