The Federal Government has set up 20 teams of prosecutors, comprising 80 lawyers, who will handle a number of high profile criminal cases investigated by law enforcement agencies, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The PUNCH learnt that each of the teams had four lawyers with a Senior Advocate of Nigeria as the leader.
The identities of the lawyers, who were said to have been specially trained for the tasks ahead, have not been made known.
It was learnt that the Prof. Itse Sagay-led Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption was involved in the training of the special prosecutors.
Our correspondent gathered that the training, which ended in June, lasted for over one month.
Sources in the Federal Ministry of Justice in Abuja confirmed to our correspondent on Thursday that one of the teams of prosecutors had been assigned the forgery case recently instituted against Senate President Bukola Saraki; his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, and two others.
The new prosecuting team will fully take over the forgery case from the Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Diri, when the trial resumes on Monday, a source confirmed to The PUNCH.
The Federal Government, through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minster of Justice, had, on June 10, preferred against Saraki, Ekweremadu and others, two counts of criminal conspiracy and forgery of Senate Standing Rules used for the leadership election of the presiding officers of the 8th Senate on June 4, 2015.
The two other co-accused persons are a former Clerk to the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa, and his then deputy, Benedict Efeturi.
The Federal Government stated that the offence of conspiracy is punishable under Section 97 (1) of the Penal Code Act and offence of forgery with “fraudulent intent” punishable under Section 364 of the same law.
On June 27, the four accused persons were arraigned and they pleaded not guilty to the charges before Justice Yusuf Halilu of a Federal Capital Territory High Court in Jabi, Abuja.
Shortly after their arraignment on June 27, they were granted bail on the conditions that each of them should produce two sureties, who must have property either in Asokoro, Maitama, Wuse 2 or Garki (all in Abuja).
Sources confirmed to our correspondent on Thursday that the AGF and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, deliberately assigned the case to the special prosecution team for “efficient prosecution and management of the case”.
It was learnt that the team was given the liberty by the AGF to review the case file “and make necessary adjustments or amendments” where necessary to enhance the prospect of a successful prosecution of the case.
When contacted, the AGF’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Salihu Isah, confirmed to our correspondent that the forgery case was one of the high-profile criminal cases that had been assigned to one of the special teams of prosecutors.
“The prosecutors, 80 in all, are constituted into 20 teams. After they were trained, cases have been assigned to the first six and one of the cases is the Saraki’s case that you mentioned,” Isah said.
Though he declined to mention the names of the lawyers in the team, Isah said the matters assigned to the various teams varied from terrorism to corruption cases, among others.
According to him, the National Prosecution Coordination Committee, inaugurated by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, would review some of the cases either being prosecuted or still being investigated by the EFCC, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission and others agencies.
The committee, he added, would also recommend the re-assignment of suitable cases among them to the teams of prosecutors.
“The teams will take up cases investigated by the various law enforcement agencies – ICPC, EFCC, DSS – and even some being handled by the ministry,” he said.
A source explained that some of the cases that would be assigned to the teams of prosecutors were the over 1,500 terrorism cases said to have been filed before the Federal High Court in Abuja since last year while the accused persons had yet to be arraigned.