Why is senate leadership always associated with forgery, fraud? – Femi Falana

Human rights lawyer and senior advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, has wondered why the leadership of the Nigerian senate is always associated with claims of fraud and forgery.

Falana on Wednesday said there were many open-ended questions regarding the sport utility vehicle (SUV) of senate president, Bukola Saraki, which was seized by the customs over forged documents.

Although Saraki’s spokesperson had said the issue was between the vehicle’s supplier and the customs, Falana said it may have motivated the senate’s insistence that Hameed Ali, comptroller-general of customs, wears uniform before addressing the red chamber.

“The statement credited to the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki is not a denial of the criminal allegation but an attempt to pull wool over the eyes of Nigerians,” said Falana.

“Even If we accept the explanation it means that the Senate leadership bought a vehicle that was imported to the country with forged documents.

“That has confirmed that the planned humiliation of the customs boss was borne out of vengeance. So it is no longer a case of individual liability but that of institutional criminal negligence.

“These guys have to invent more lies because the limousine was not budgeted for by the National Assembly.

“Or is it another case of padding of the budget? Why is the leadership always associated with forgery and fraud? Did the senate leader not distance himself from the controversial vehicle? So why did the leader of the senate allow the matter to be investigated by the ethics committee of the upper chamber if he was planning to wash off his hands like Pontius Pilate?” he asked.

Falana added that, “Since there are many unanswered questions, the Nigeria Customs Service should go ahead and get to the root of the criminality with a view to prosecuting the culprits”.

Tokunboh Akindele, the car dealer whom the senate contracted to supply the bullet-proof SUV, on Wednesday said Saraki was not involved in the transaction.

Akindele also said he did not know the customs documents issued to him were forged.


Source: The Cable

Accused of N2.4 billion forgery, Innoson motors wants judge to hands off case

Justice Saliu Saidu of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday fixed January 26, 2017, to hear an application to `recuse’ himself from a N2.4 billion suit against Innosson Nig. Ltd.


Innosson Nig. Ltd, Innocent Chukwuma , Charles Chukwuma Maximian Chukwuma, Mitsui Osk Lines `C’ and Anajekwu Sunny are facing trial before the court on charges bordering on falsification of shipping document.


At the resumed hearing of the case, the prosecutor, Mr J.I Ajakaiye, sought to withdraw a counter affidavit and written address he had filed, on the ground that he had fresh applications.


This prayer was not opposed by the defence team.


However, Nnabueze Mbadugha, one of the counsel, reminded the court that there was a pending application for the judge to disqualify himself from the matter.


He argued that “once there is such application, no further action is required to be taken by the judge, who is only expected to step aside.’’


According to him, once the neutrality of a court has been questioned, it offends the sensibilities of fairness and justice for the court to continue to entertain further proceedings.


Quoting the Latin maxim, “Nemo judex in causa sua,” Mr. Mbadugha submitted that it was a serious error for the judge to seek to entertain applications in respect of the same case.


According to him, the said Latin maxim simply postulates that one cannot be a judge in his own case.


He, therefore, urged the court to recuse itself from taking further steps in the case.


In a short ruling, Mr. Saidu held that the defence counsel had not moved any application before him urging him to disqualify himself from the case.


The judge said that he would not “chicken out’’ of the suit simply because a party says so, but would rather wait for an application to be moved in that respect.


He held, “It is the duty of the court to rule on an application after it has been heard and not to chicken out because a party does not want it to preside over it.


“Judges are not to submit to intimidation of parties; I am yet to hear any such application before me and so, I will not recuse myself now, until I hear the application,” the Judge said.


The court then fixed January 26 for hearing.


In the charge, the accused were alleged to have conspired to commit the offence on October 10, 2013 at Apapa Wharf.


The prosecution alleged that the accused falsified shipping documents, which they deposited with Guaranty Trust Bank Plc as collateral for the sum of N2.4 billion.


The loan facility was granted Innosson Nig. Ltd but the shipping documents were discovered to have been falsely presented as genuine with intent to defraud in order to clear the N2.4 billion goods.


According to the charge, the offence contravened the provisions of sections 1(2) (c), and 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offence Act, Cap M17, Laws of the Federation 2004.

Customs dismisses 29 senior officers for bribery, forgery.

Less than a week after the management of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) sacked 17 junior officers for bribery, drug addiction, use of fake certificates and absence from duty, the Comptroller-General, Col. Hameed Ali, has approved the dismissal of 29 senior officers for various acts of gross misconduct.

The public relations officer of the service, Wale Adeniyi, said the affected officers are among 44 senior officers who were punished for actions capable of compromising national economy and security.

He stated that 10 other officers were retired from service, while the appointment of one officer was terminated.

He further stated that four officers were given written warnings to be of better conduct while another four officers who were investigated and tried for some offences were exonerated.

“Four of the officers who got the hammer were of the rank of deputy-comptroller of Customs, while five were Assistant-comptroller. Others were seven Chief Superintendents of Customs and four Superintendents, among others.

“comptroller-general of Customs, Col. Hammed Ali (retd) had made it clear upon his assumption of duties that the Service will not compromise on corruption and indiscipline among the officers corps.

In line with this, the structure and process for investigation of offences was strengthened to handle cases reported promptly and professionally.

“We will give all officers fair hearing in line with the principle of natural justice. We will however insist that sanctions be punitive, not only to match the offence committed, but to serve as deterrent to others”, the CGC remarked at Management meeting convened to consider the report of the Disciplinary Committee that investigated the cases.

Adeniyi disclosed in the statement that the process of dismissing the officers were based on the civil service rules.

“The process leading to the actions taken on the officers was painstaking in line with the Public Service Rules (PSR). All the officers were served with Queries indicating offences committed, before they made appearances before the Special Investigation Committee.

“The Committee’s recommendation was discussed and approved by the Customs Management. The recommendation was thereafter referred to the Presidency for ratification, in the absence of a substantive Board for the Nigeria Customs Service. All the officers affected in the exercise have been communicated accordingly.

“The Comptroller-General warned officers that punitive sanctions will continue to be used to discipline officers who refuse to embrace change.

“Officers affected in this exercise were investigated for involvement in improper examination and release of containers without proper documentation and payment of duties, illegal release of goods in advance before the arrival of vessels, collection of bribe to release prohibited items, release of export prohibitions, fraudulent sale of seized items, use of fake certificates and bribery to secure auctioned goods.”

Just In: FG set to press fresh charges on Saraki, Ekweremadu individually.

In what appears as pyrrhic victory for Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, the forgery case against them, which the Federal Government surreptitiously withdrew last week, is to be filed afresh by the same government.

However, according to findings by Vanguard, the government will charge the two Senate leaders individually as opposed to the previous one where they were jointly docked.

A top Justice Ministry official told Vanguard last night that the case was primarily withdrawn because the Nigeria Police Force, handling the case, was yet to conclude its investigation.

In fact, as the source pointed out, the NPF is yet to interrogate Saraki and Ekweremadu and other officials of the National Assembly said to have masterminded the forgery of the Senate
Rules used in conducting the inauguration of the 8th NASS.

“You can see that under the Criminal Justice Act, the statement of the accused persons and all the witnesses are expected to be filed and it would have been wrong to have pressed ahead with the case when the police are yet to conclude their investigations,” the MoJ official pointed out.

“The federal government considered it appropriate to withdraw the case and conclude the investigation and attach both the statements by the accused and the witnesses before filing fresh charges against the suspects.

“We want to strengthen our position and present a solid case against the suspects as required under the Criminal Justice Administration Act,” the official told Vanguard.

However when contacted, the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, confirmed that a fresh charge would only be pressed against the suspects when the government was ready and declined to say.

“I will get back to you on the matter when we are ready,” Malami said.

The fresh determination by the government to file charges against the Senate gladiators, appears to have short lived their celebration of the initial abrogation of the charges filed against them.

The withdrawal of the charges had elicited nationwide commentary, fuelling speculations that the Presidency, fingered as the arrowhead of the case, had opted to make peace with the NASS leadership, which it fell out with as a result of their emergence last year.

Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, APC National Leader, Asiwaju Tinubu and other Nigerian leaders promptly lauded the move once it was announced.

But the optimism of the leaders appears to have been shortlived with the plan to slam the Senators with fresh charges.

BREAKING: FG withdraws forgery case against Saraki, Ekweremadu.

The Federal Government of Nigeria has filed a motion to withdraw the charge of criminal conspiracy against Senate President Bukola Saraki and his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu.

An affidavit in support of the motion was filed before the High Court of Federal Capital Territory on Thursday by a litigation officer from the Federal Ministry of Justice, Odubu Loveme.

Messrs. Saraki and Ekweremadu, as well as a former Clerk of the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa, and a former Deputy clerk, Ben Efeturi, were first arraigned before Justice Yusuf Halilu on June 10, 2016 via charge No. CR/219/16.

They all pleaded not guilty on July 27, 2016.

In the motion filed Thursday, Mr. Loveme said counsel to the Federal Government on the matter, Aliyu Umar, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, on September 30 in the office of the Director of Public Prosecution told him that he had studied the case diary and “ had decided to amend the charge in the manner stated on the face of the motion paper”.

Mr. Loveme added that he has, consequently, filed an amended charge.

“That I depose to this affidavit in good faith believing same to be correct to the best of my knowledge and information and in accordance with the Oaths Act Cap 01 laws of the Federation of Nigeria,” he said.

Based on the amended charge, only Messrs. Maikasuwa and Efeturi would face prosecution.

Count 1 of the charge against the two civil servants, is that of Criminal Conspiracy punishable under section 97 (1) Penal Code Act ( Northern States) Federation Provisions Act, 1960, Cap 345, laws of the Federation 1990 as amended.

It read that “ Salisu Maikasuwa and Benedict Efeturi, on or about the 9th day of June 2015 at the National Assembly Complex, Three Arms Zone, Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court agreed to do an illegal act, to wit to make the Senate Standing Orders 2015 as amended without the authority of the 7th Senate of the Federal republic of Nigeria which act was committed by yourselves and that you thereby committed the offence of criminal conspiracy.”

The two officials are accused of fraudulently amending the 2015 Senate Standing Orders without the authority of the 7th Senate “ with intention that the Senators elect of the 8th Senate would believe that the said Senate Standing Orders 2015 ( as amended) was made by the authority of the 7th Senate of the Federal republic of Nigeria.”

They are also accused of forging a document punishable under section 366 of the Penal Code Act ( Northern States) Federal Provisions Act, 1960, Cap 345, Laws of the Federation 1990 ( as amended).

The Nigerian Government also accused them of giving false information with the intention to mislead the public.

The Court had on September 28 adjourned the matter to Friday, October 7 for commencement of hearing.

Mr. Umar, in his written address in support of the motion to amend the charge on Thursday, stated that the sole issue for determination is “ whether the Court can permit the amendment of the charge in terms of the amended charge”.

He said the Court has the powers to permit the amendment based on the provisions of Section 216 (1) of the Administration o Criminal Justice Act.

The Section stated that “ A Court may permit an alteration or an amendment to a charge or framing of a new charge at any time before judgment is pronounced.”

He also quoted Section 216 (3) which states that “ Where a Defendant is arraigned for trial on an imperfect or erroneous charge ,the Court may permit or direct the framing of a new charge, or any amendment to, or the alteration of the original charge.”

BREAKING: Nigeria’s Attorney General stalls Saraki’s forgery trial

The trial of Senate President, Bukola Saraki, for alleged forgery was stalled on Wednesday, because the prosecution counsel, Aliyu Umar, said he had not prepared his response to a fresh motion by the defendants challenging the jurisdiction of the court.

Mr. Umar is prosecuting the case on behalf of the Attorney General of the Federal, Abubakar Malami.

Mr. Saraki, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, former Clerk of the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa, and his deputy, Benedict Efeturi, are facing trial for alleged forgery of the Senate standing rules used to elect them as leaders of the Senate in June last year.

The matter was adjourned in July till September 28 following the annual vacation of the judiciary.

At the opening of session on Wednesday, Mr. Umar informed the court that he had just received a motion from the defendants challenging the jurisdiction of the court in respect of the charges against them and asking that the case be dismissed.

He added that since the matter has to do with the fundamental right of parties to fair hearing, he needs to properly prepare his response to the motion.

“Just now I became aware of a motion by the first defendant and served on us on September 26. The motion is fundamental because it is asking your lordship to decline jurisdiction and quash the charges. It is a short notice?,” he said.

“I have not filed anything?. It is fundamental to fair hearing. Under the circumstances, I will ask for an adjournment to enable me to respond to the motion.

“Honestly, I’m not ready for this motion. If it is only just two days, grant us the adjournment to respond to the motion,” he said.

Mr. Umar further said he had some internal issues he needed to attend to, before responding to the motion.
Malami’s fault.

?The counsel to the defendants objected the application for adjournment.

“T?he act of prosecution is serious business, especially in a criminal charge. The office of the Attorney-General which is the chief prosecuting counsel was served months ago. They had all the opportunities to respond to our applications,” said Mahmud Magaji, counsel to Mr. Efeturi.

“I urge your lordship not to allow us to descend to the internal working of the prosecution. In view of this, I’m objecting to the application for adjournment,”

Counsel to Mr. Saraki, Paul Erokoro, also asked the court to refuse application, describing it as lacking in merit.

“O?n behalf of the third defendant I submit that the application has no merit. If the Attorney-General has not deemed it fit to pass the entire case file to the counsel, then we should be allowed to move our motion. We are ready to proceed,” said Mr. Erokoro.

The trial judge, Yusuf Haliru, adjourned the matter till October 7.

Certificate Forgery: Nine Ekiti Assembly Members To Face Trial

The Federal Government is planning to prosecute nine out of 26 members of the Ekiti State House of Assembly for alleged forgery of their academic results.

A security said in Abuja on Sunday that  the decision to prosecute them was based on the outcome of “an intensive investigation carried out by the Department of State Services into the state lawmakers’ certificates.’’

The DSS, it was gathered, carried out the investigation into the credentials submitted by the politicians to the Independent National Electoral Commission during the last general elections.

It was gathered that the probe was sequel to a myriad of petitions sent to the agency and the Police by aggrieved members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party and the opposition party in the state, the All Progressives Congress.

Investigation was said to have been carried out in schools allegedly claimed to have been attended by the lawmakers and their former places of work.

The source explained that the files of the affected lawmakers had been sent to the office of the Attorney General of the Federation for prosecution.

The source added, “We have investigated the academic credentials of the lawmakers based on petitions sent to us by the politicians in the state.

“The petitions were based on alleged false declaration of academic qualifications and alleged age falsification in the papers presented to the INEC.

“We have been able to know that petitions against nine members of the State House of Assembly are genuine.

“We have already presented our report and we are expecting the office of the AGF to study it and prepare the charges against the suspects.”

Credit: Punch

Robbery, Thuggery, Now Forgery: A Legislative Evolution By Gbolahan Yusuf

The legislature. Many see it as the most important leg in the tripod of governance, especially given its power as a supervisory arm over the almighty executive even while limiting the power of the judiciary over it. It is public knowledge that any democracy revolves around the people (of, by, and for the people), and so the powers of the legislature are easily justified seeing as it stands for the people in any government. Or well, it should. The purity and sanctity of such an institution therefore should never be brought into disrepute.

That is the ideal situation. The Nigerian situation however is that in 16 years of democracy, the legislative arm has steadily won and held fast to the responsibility of tarnishing the image of our democracy within and without. The country may be getting it right as portrayed in the last democratic transition from a ruling party to an opposition but until the custodians of democracy begin to act honourably, as their titles would have us believe they are, a giant question mark will still loom over the democratic tendencies or proclivity of Africa’s largest population.

From the inception of democracy, the National Assembly in particular has constituted a huge menace to the federal budget and contributed, in no small way, to a massive waste of taxpayers’ funds. This went on unnoticed for long before no less a personae than the then CBN governor himself, now Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi said about 20% of the federal budget was being spent on maintaining the National Assembly and that did not augur well for the nation’s treasury. The proclamation and its source sent shockwaves around the country and the agitation for a more open and less expensive National Assembly continues till date. A situation whereby a federal legislator will earn enormous separate allowances for vehicle fueling and maintenance, wardrobe, domestic staff, personal assistant, utilities, entertainment, house maintenance, constituency, among others, all besides their basic salaries, to make laws for people, majority of whom still live on about US$2 a day can only spell doom for the country. That this has been going on for so long is a clear case of the people being robbed blind. But this was not enough torture, so they moved on.

The immediate downside to turning our assemblies into money spinning machines, was the attendant legislative rascality that went into hallowed chambers on one issue or another. It is just like our motor parks; wherever there is free money, there will be lazy touts. From state houses of assemblies to the national assembly, matters often degenerate into cloth-tearing, chair-throwing, or mace-hitting drama. More disappointingly, such dramas oftentimes termed ‘crisis’ are never about the people but varying selfish ambitions. In many cases, there are even direct affronts on the rule of law by the same people who rightfully should be the custodians of the law. Not a few times have we seen a lesser number of legislators in a House try to hijack the chambers, in what assumed a disturbingly high increase under the past administration in particular. Ogun, Edo, Rivers, and more recently Ekiti are all states where legislative rascality rose to new heights in the past federal administration and curiously also, all mentioned states at the time of their ‘crisis’ had their assemblies controlled by the then national opposition party. In one case, five “honourable” members were going to impeach a speaker of a House of about 24 members. The rule of law was never considered, at least not where it impeded selfish ambitions. But still our legislators won’t stop, they move on.

After the leadership of the 8th Senate was voted in, some members were quick to notice that the Senate Standing Rules of 2011, which had not being amended following due process as articulated in the rules itself, had some alterations as presented in the Senate Standing Rules of 2015, which was used for the election of the presiding officers. Senator Kabiru Marafa alerted the floor of the Senate to this impropriety but was swiftly overruled by the Senate President. Subsequently, the police after receiving a petition on the matter carried out their investigations and though the report of the probe has yet to be disclosed by the police, it has been reported that the report of the probe has been sent to appropriate authorities for further action and that it confirmed forgery of the rule book, while indicting the Clerk to the National Assembly. In the summary of these reports, it was claimed that the police asked the Ministry of Justice to determine if it should be treated as crime or left alone as a matter to be treated on the Senate floor. Again, the power of our legislature at play.

It is alarming that crime can now be committed in our hallowed chambers and be seen as a legislative problem that should be settled in-house. Senator Shehu Sani re-echoed such infuriating sentiments when he asserted that the case should never have involved the police. According to this faulty theory, while the legislature checks the executive, the judiciary should have no powers over the legislature.

If indeed forgery has been established, many questions remain unanswered; Who altered? On behalf of whom? For what purpose? These pertinent questions and more will have to be answered if we must stop this dangerous trend in our assemblies. If rules can now be amended without any subsequent reaction, then legislators around the country may just have found a new instrument to further expose our democracy to ridicule. The sad part is to realize that our legislative has been evolving at the same time the people they represent have been revolving around the vicious circle of unemployment, poverty, and insecurity. May God help Nigeria.