THE Federal Government on Wednesday could not commence the trial of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki; his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu and two others at a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja, over alleged forgery. The FCT High Court was informed that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), had not released the case file to the newly appointed prosecution counsel led by Aliyu Umar (SAN).
Consequently, the trial was adjourned till October 7. Saraki, who was dressed in a white flowing agbada, along with Ekweremadu and several senators, left the court when it became clear that the trial would not go ahead.
Umar informed Justice Yusuf Halilu that he was not ready to proceed with the trial because the detailed case file in the office of the AGF containing motions by Saraki and others asking the court not to entertain the case had not been released to him. Umar said that because the office of the AGF had not handed over the case file to him, he would rather apply for an adjournment to enable him do his homework, instead of beginning the trial.
He added that the adjournment would enable him to prepare his reactions to many motions filed by the four defendants in their opposition to the filing of the charge. The action of the AGF sparked spontaneous reactions from counsel to Saraki, Paul Erokoro (SAN) and other defendants.
They accused the Federal Government of deliberately planning to frustrate the matter. Saraki’s counsel objected to the request for adjournment, insisting that the matter had been slated for trial since June by the FCT High Court.
He added that if the AGF did not deem it fit to hand over the case file to the government’s prosecution counsel he appointed, the charge should be terminated and the defendants be allowed to go home. Erokoro told the court that Saraki had filed a motion since June 22 before the court and served same on the AGF.
He questioned the legality of the charge on the ground that it constituted an abuse of court process, because a similar matter involving the AGF was pending before a Federal High Court in Abuja. In his reaction, counsel to Ekweremadu and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Joseph Daudu (SAN), also faulted the government’s request for an adjournment.
He claimed that since June when the charge was filed and slated for hearing, the AGF should have done the needful so as not to scuttle the trial. Daudu told Justice Halilu that Ekweremadu had also filed a motion since June, questioning the filing of the charge by the AGF.
He added that the charge was brought in bad faith and not competent to stand before the law because it constituted an abuse of court process. Also reacting to the AGF’s action, Ikechukwu Ezechukwu (SAN), counsel to a former Clerk of the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa; and Mahmud Magaji (SAN), counsel to the Deputy Clerk, Benedict Eferuti, also objected to the decision of the prosecution not to commence the trial.
The judge expressed reservations over the request for adjournment and the inability of Malami to respond to the motions filed within 90 days by three of the four defendants challenging the AGF on the propriety of the charge.
He said, “But in the interest of justice and the circumstances of this case and the plight of the defence team, I oblige to adjourn this matter till Friday, October 7, as agreed to by the four defendants. “I don’t always allow parties to stall trials, especially criminal matters, before me; but I will allow this case to be adjourned at the instance of the prosecution.”
Justice Halilu added that the bail granted the four defendants in June when they were brought for trial should continue. – Punch
— Sep 28, 2016 @ 15:20 GMT