AGF, police shun recommendations to prosecute Senate forgery suspects

By The Citizen

It emerged on Monday that the Federal Ministry of Justice had since July 29, 2015, recommended the prosecution of suspects who allegedly forged the Senate Standing Orders used for the proclamation of the current 8th Senate.

It, however, appears that the advice might have been swept under the carpet.

Our correspondent sighted the legal advice on Monday, with reference number DPPA/ADV/258/15, which recommended that some suspects, who the police had refused to unravel, should be prosecuted for criminal conspiracy, forgery, breach of official trust and unlawful assembly.

It was learnt that both the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, and the police, who both have roles to play in the implementation of the legal advice, had since not acted on it.

The legal advice was issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Diri, on July 29, 2015, following a report of an investigation into the alleged forgery submitted to him by the police.

The document, addressed to the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Criminal Investigation Department of the Force Headquarters, Dan'Azumi Doma, was received by the recipient's office on July 29, 2015, the same date it was issued by the DPPF.

It showed that it was issued in response to a report of police investigation with reference number CB: 3514/XFQ/ABJ/Vol./23/17, which was sent to the Ministry of Justice by Doma, quoting the number given to the case by the police as FHQ/X/ABJ/SEB/365/2015.

The legal opinion of the Ministry of Justice on the case had sought further police investigation to unravel who played what roles in the forgery case in order to identify who to prosecute for flouting the various provisions of the Penal Code.

Sources in the ministry and the police, however, confirmed to our correspondent that the police were not ready to carry out further investigation into the case.

The Senate Standing Orders 2015, alleged to be a forgery of the 2011 version, was used for the leadership election of the Senate, which produced Dr. Bukola Saraki as the Senate President and Ike Ekweremadu as his deputy shortly after the 8th Senate was proclaimed on June 9, 2015.

It was the opinion of the Ministry of Justice, which was then being headed by the immediate past Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, Mr. Abdullahi Yola, that the acclaimed amendment of the Senate Standing Orders did not follow the procedure stipulated in Order 110 of its 2011 version.

The legal opinion, which analysed the evidence thrown up by police investigation, had indicated that the 'leadership election based on the forged document cannot stand and it is null and void'.

The legal advice added, 'Further investigation should reveal:

'Who authorised the promulgation of the Senate Standing Order 2015,

'Who published the Senate Standing Order 2015,
'Who approved the Senate Standing Order 2015,
'Who paid for the publishing of the Senate Standing Order 2015, and

'Who distributed the Senate Standing Order 2015.'
In addition, the legal advice recommended the-yet-to-be identified suspects to be prosecuted 'for criminal conspiracy, contrary to the provision of Section 97 of the Penal Code; forgery, contrary to Section 99 of Penal Code; breach of official trust and unlawful assembly contrary to Section 102 of the Penal Code'.

The legal advice also recommended that the various versions of the Senate Standing Orders since 1999 should be collected as part of evidence needed for the prosecution of the case.

Malami, who was appointed the AGF about four months after the legal opinion by his ministry was issued, had, in an exclusive interview with our correspondent on January 2, 2016, promised to take a decision on the case in a week's time.

But, when contacted one week after the interview, Malami asked our correspondent to write a formal letter, requesting information on the stand of the ministry on the case.

Despite writing the letter in January, Malami had yet to respond to our correspondent's request as of the time of filing this report.

When confronted with allegation that his boss was suppressing the case on Monday, AGF's Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Salihu Isah, said he needed to hear from the minister before he could comment on it.

'I need to hear from him (Malami) before I can respond to the allegation,' Isah said.

The Force Public Relations Officer, Bisi Kolawole, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, did not respond to calls put across to her telephone by our correspondent on Monday.

She did not also respond to a text message sent to her mobile.

The police had investigated the alleged forgery of the Senate Orders following a petition by Senator Sulaiman Hunkuyi of the All Progressives Congress from Kaduna State.

The petition had alleged that some parts of the 2015 Senate Orders were different from the one ratified by the 6th Senate and was used by the 7th Senate, as Standing Orders 2011.

The police had, during their investigation on July 6, questioned some members of the 7th and the 8th Senate as well as some management employees of the Senate, including the Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa.

It was alleged that the 2011 version of the Senate Orders was secretly altered by some individuals to produce the 2015 edition.

It was alleged that Rules 3(3)(e) and (k) in the 2015 edition of the orders were not amended in accordance with the provisions of Rule 110 (1)(2)(3)(4)(5) of the 2011 Orders.

While the 2011 Order Rule 3(3) (e) provides for manual voting and open ballot in the election of the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President,  the 2015 Orders allows electronic and secret ballot voting in the said elections.

Also, while Rule 3(3)(k) of the 2011 Order makes it mandatory for all members to participate in the process of electing the Senate President and Deputy Senate President, the reverse is the case under the 2015 Orders.

The 2011 Orders, Rule 3(3)(k) reads, 'All Senators-elect shall participate in the nomination and voting for President and Deputy President of the Senate.'

But a similar provision in Rule 3(3)(i) in the 2015 Orders reads, 'All Senator-elect are entitled to participate in the voting for Senate President and Deputy Senate President.'

The Directorate of Public Prosecutions had, on July 27, received the police report, which sought legal advice from the Attorney General of the Federation on the alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Orders based on the facts revealed by police investigation.

The AGF and Minister of Justice had yet to be appointed for the ministry as of that time.

The 13-page police report of the investigation had confirmed that the amendment of the 2011 version of the Senate Standing Orders to produce the 2015 edition was 'criminally' done as it was carried out by only a group of senators. Punch