Top officials of the National Assembly are already trading blames over the alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Orders/Rules 2015 ahead of the expected arraignment of Senate President Bukola Saraki, his Deputy Chief Ike Ekweremadu and two others in court tomorrow over the incident.
The immediate past Clerk to the National Assembly, SalisuMaikasuwa and the Deputy Clerk to the National Assembly, Benedict Efeture are to face trial alongside Saraki and Ekweremadu.
Maikasuwa and the Clerk of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Dr. NmaOgozy, in their separate statements to the police said onlyEfeture could account for how the amendment came about.
The statements,sighted by The Nation, form part of the proof of evidence attached to the charge sheet.
Ogozy,for instance, claimed that the 7th Senate did not consider the report for the amendment of 2011 Rules and there was no record on Senate Standing Orders/Rules 2015 (amended).
It was learnt that the trial court will now be saddled with the task of unraveling how the Senate Standing Orders/Rules 2011 was allegedly forged and printed as 2015 amendment.
Ogozy, in his statement to the police, said: “I have worked in the National Assembly since May 2004 and that I have been the Clerk of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business since 2006.
“As the Clerk of the Rules and Business Committee, it is my schedule to receive bills, get them gazetted and schedule them on the Order Paper for the legislative processes that lead to their passage.
“Also, it is my schedule to prepare the presiding officers’ brief for every plenary session and produce the Senate legislative calendar among others.
“The committee had collated proposals for amendment of the Senate Standing Rules (2011 as amended) and had sent or laid the report on the table of the Senate for further legislative.
“The Senate had not formally considered the report before the end of the 7th Senate on June 4th, 2015.
“Because there were no copies of the 2011 Rules (as amended) left at the close of the 7th Assembly, my assumption is that the 2015 Rules (as amended) publication may have been issued by the leadership of the Senate since even the National Institute for Legislative Studies had also printed some copies of the 2011(as amended) Standing Rules when the committee ran out of copies before the induction of the 8th Assembly Senate.
“It is my considered suggestion that any further information as to the differences found between the 2011 (as amended) and 2015 (as amended) Standing Rules would require the attention of a more senior staff of the National Assembly such as the Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly. This is all I have to say.”
On his part, the immediate past Clerk to the National Assembly, Maikasuwa said Efeture is in the best position to clarify the status of Senate Standing Rules 2015(as amended).
He said: “I became the Clerk to the National Assembly on 16th August 2010. On Tuesday, 9th June, I inaugurated the 8th Senate. I did not refer to any Standing Order to inaugurate the 8th Assembly.
“I used the format/ procedure for the opening of a new parliament and also the proclamation for the holding of the first session of the National Assembly.
“After the inauguration, I conducted the elections of the Senate President and his deputy. When nominations were made, I called the Deputy Clerk to the National Assembly, who is also the Clerk to the Senate to read out the guidelines for the election.
“I do not know the current Standing Orders being used by the Senate now. The Senate Standing Orders used in the 7th Senate was not known to me.
“The Clerk of the Senate is in a position to know. I am not aware of any amendment that was made to the Standing Rules of 2011.
“I am also not aware of the amendment of the Senate Standing Orders 2015. I only appear in chambers three times: During joint sittings, during inauguration and valedictory sessions.”
But Efetureasked the police to hold the leadership of the 7th Senate headed by ex-Senate President, Chief David Mark, accountable.
He said on oath as follows: “I am the Deputy Clerk of NASS. The senate leadership ordered the 2015 Standing Rules as amended by their convention and practice. Standing orders 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 follow similar practice.
“In Congress and in Parliament, amendment of Standing orders is by practice not necessarily by procedures.
“The Ruling of the Senate President that standing rules of 2015 is the authentic is relevant please. Refer to the debates of the Senate on Wednesday 24th June, 2015 Senate leadership referred to that of the 7th Senate.”
A source at the National Assembly who is familiar with the situation, said: “There is no doubt that there is Standing Rules 2015.
“But the question is: who influenced the bureaucrats to produce it? This is the knot which the court will un-tie. There was a bit of politics in the alleged forgery of 2015 Rules.
“It is an interesting case that will provide a few lessons for the management of the National Assembly.”
The federal government has already lined up 14 prosecution witnesses against the accused persons.
The prosecution witnesses,according to court documents obtained by The Nation, include the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator ItaEnang and the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator BabafemiOjudu.
Others are Senators Suleiman Hunkuyi; Solomon Ewuga; Ahmed Lawan; Abdullahi Gumel; KabiruMarafa; Gbenga Ashafa; Robert Boroffice and Abu Ibrahim as well as Dr. OgozyNma, D.J.Adem, ex-DIG Dan’Azumi J Doma and Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) David Igbodo.
The police report with reference CR: 3000/X/FHQ/ABJ/VOL.186/88 dated July 14, 2015 said: “On the 9th of June, 2015, a document titled “the Senate Standing Order 2015 as amended” was distributed to Senators of the 8th Senate for their inauguration as members.
“The contents of the Senate Standing Oder 2015 as amended are substantially different from the Senate Standing Order 2011 as amended. Sections 2 (IV), 3(3) E, I, ii, iii, G AND H, 5 and 7 of the Rules are different in the two Orders.
“The Senate Standing Order 2015 as amended was used by the clerks of the National Assembly and the Senate as the Senate Standing Orders to inaugurate and conduct elections into the offices of the presiding officials of the Senate viz the Senate President, the Deputy Senate President etc.
“The testimonies of some members of the 7th Senate including that of the Chairman of the Business and Rules Committee and Senators of the 7th Senate indicate that the Senate Standing Order 2011 was not amended during the tenure of the 7th Senate, which ended on the 8th of June, 2015.
“The procedure for the amendment of the Senate Standing Order as contained in Section 110 of the Senate Standing Order 2011 as amended stipulates that any amendment to the Senate Standing Orders should be in line with the following procedures:
Any Senator desiring to amend any part of the Rules or adding any new clause shall give notice of such amendments in writing to the President of the Senate giving details of proposed amendment.
The President shall within seven working days cause the amendment to be printed and circulated to members. Thereafter it shall be printed in the Order Paper.
The mover or movers of the amendment shall be allowed to explain in details the proposed amendments, thereafter in details the proposed amendments, thereafter the Senate shall decide by majority votes whether the amendment should be considered.
If the decision is to consider the amendments, then another date shall be set aside by the Rules and Business Committee, whereby opportunity would be given to Senators to further propose amendments but must strictly be confined to the original amendments. “Two- third majority shall decide the amendments but must strictly be confined to the original amendments.
Two third majorities shall decide the amendments and such amendments shall form part of the Rules of the Senate.