Alleged Forgery: Again, AGF shuns Senate summon, Presidency accuses Senate of usurping court authority
For the second time in one week, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) Thursday failed to turn up at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Law and Human Rights probing the decision of the Federal Government to arraign Senate President Bukola Saraki and Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.
Meanwhile, the presidency has accused the Senate of usurping the power of the Court by going ahead with its hearing and declared that it has no confidence on the Committee as far as the matter of forgery of Senate Standing Orders is concerned.
When Chairman of the Senate Committee, David Umaru and some members showed up at the venue of the hearing, they met Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla, Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution, seated and the following conversation ensued.
Senator Umaru: Our invitation was to the Honourable Attorney General and I am sure you are not Hon. Attorney General. So we cannot hear you, I am sorry. Are you the SA to the Minister or to the President?
Obono-Obla: I am the SA to the President on prosecution, Federal Ministry of Justice. I am attached to the office of the President.
Senator Umaru: Please take your leave. There is no invitation for the President to appear before this committee. The person we invited is the Attorney General of the Federation. Since he is not here that means he did not respond to our invitation.
Sen. Abdullahi Sabi: We take it that the Attorney General has not honoured our invitation despite the fact that we had written him. Initially, he had responded by asking for time to articulate his position and come back. We had equally written him again on his request and today he is not here so we take it that he has not respected the Senate because we are acting as the Senate.
Sen. Chukwuka Utazi: This is a slap in the face of the senate as the AGF has refused to appear before the committee after being summoned. We just want to ask the AGF a few questions to clarify all these issues, but he has failed to respond to our invitation.
But when the SA to the President moved out of the venue, he told journalists that the AGF did nothing wrong by not appearing, although according to him, Malami was outside the country on official assignment.
He said by taking the Senate presiding officers to court, the AGF acted pursuant to powers vested on him by the Constitution, Section 174 (1) which stipulates that he can prosecute anybody.
He said: “The Senate is not on trial. He has not taken the Senate to court. He has taken four persons to court. They are not the Senate. Being President of the Senate does not make you the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The matter was investigated by the police and a prima facie case was established and the AG invoked his powers under Section 174 (1) to initiate criminal proceedings against those persons.
“And this matter is now before a court of law. There is separation of powers in Nigeria. It is not position of the Senate to constitute themselves into a court of law.
“If I go to the chambers of the National Assembly to shoot you, would it be an internal affair? The Senate Rule is a law and somebody allegedly forged the rules.”
The presidency official advised Saraki and others to prove their innocence of the charges preferred against them, saying “at the end of the day if it is established that this charge is frivolous, the court will discharge him but not to take the position that the AG has committed any crime.”
According to him, Malami is not answerable to the Senate officials, stressing that “by virtue of the principle of Separation of Powers, he is answerable to the President who appointed him. And he has not done anything wrong. You cannot be a judge in your own case. We don’t have confidence in the committee.
When journalists asked Obono-Obla is he was qualified to represent the President, he said: “I’m qualified. Why not? I’m working in the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation as an SA to the President.”
The Senate Committee chairman said the Senate would take the next line of action after his report is submitted to plenary.