The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) high court, has granted bail to Senate President, Bukola Saraki, his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu and two other accused persons — Salisu Maikasuwa, former clerk of the national assembly, and Benedict Efeturi, deputy clerk of the legislature. Saraki and Ekweremadu Saraki, Ekweremadu and others were docked before Justice Yusuf Haliru over their alleged complicity in forgery of the Senate Standing Rules, 2015. They pleaded not guilty to the two-count charge preferred against them by the federal government.

Shortly after the defendants entered their plea to the charge marked CR/219/16, the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, Mr. Mohammed Diri, notified the court of FG’s counter-affidavit opposing release of the accused persons on bail. Diri told the court that the counter-affidavit which was filed Monday morning, was still pending before the court’s registry. He therefore persuaded trial Justice Yusuf Halilu to stand-down the matter for an hour to enable the registry to transmit the process to the court for hearing.

In his argument, Saraki’s counsel, Paul Erokoro asked the court to grant the Senate President bail on self-recognition. “The entire proof of service did not mention the third defendant (Saraki) in this case. The police never investigated the third defendant. It is a notorious fact that the third defendant has been standing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, (CCT) so it is ridiculous to say he will run away. He is the president of the senate, where will he run to? He is too big to hide.‎ I urge your lordship to grant him bail on self-recognition,” he argued.

Joseph Daodu, counsel to Ekweremadu, who stated that it is shameful how the country is denting its democracy by the trial, requested the court to grant his‎ client bail on self-recognition, adding that he is ready for trial. “The third and fourth (Ekweremadu) defendants are number one and two citizens of the legislature. It is shameful we are denting our democracy this way. We are ready for trial even today, so we urge your lordship to grant‎ the fourth defendant bail,” he said.

Ikechukwu Ezechukwu, counsel to Maikasuwa,  and Mahmud Magagi, counsel to Efeturi also prayed the court to grant their clients bail.   But the federal government, opposed the bail applications of Ekweremadu, Maikasuwa and Efeturi while urging the court to grant bail to only Saraki to avoid a vacuum in the senate.

The judge, who noted that the accused persons had not been proved guilty, hence granted them conditional bail. He ordered that the defendants were to provide two reasonable sureties who must be Nigerians and who must own property in Abuja, the failure of which they would be remanded in Kuje prison, Abuja.   ‎The judge adjourned to July 11 for trial.

Meantime, there was heavy security presence within perimeters of the court which shares boundary with the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, where Saraki is also answering to another 16-count charge bordering on his alleged false/anticipatory declaration of assets. Supporters of the embattled lawmakers thronged the court premises in their numbers to observe the proceeding. Whereas Saraki who appeared calm all through the proceeding, wore his usual white Caftan with matching cap, Ekweremadu on the other hand, wore traditional Igbo attire.

Earlier, armed security operatives barred photo-journalists from gaining entrance into the court premises, a development that led to protest by the journalists. It took the intervention of lawyers to persuade the mobile police men to grant the camera men entry into the premises.

The two-count charge which the defendant took turns to plead to on Monday read: “That you, Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa, Benedict Efeturi, Dr. Olubukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu, on or about, the 9th of June, 2015, at the National Assembly complex, Three Arms Zone, Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this court, conspired amongst yourselves to forge the Senate Standing Order, 2011 (as amended) and you thereby committed the offence of conspiracy, punishable under Section 97 (1) of the Penal Code Law. “That you, Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa, Benedict Efeturi, Dr. Olubukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu, on or about the 9th of June, 2015, at the National Assembly complex, Three Arms Zone, Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this court, with fraudulent intent, forged the Senate Standing Order 2011 (as amended), causing it to be believed as the genuine Standing Order, 2015 and circulated same for use during the inauguration of the 8th Senate of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria when you knew that the said Order was not made in compliance with the procedure for amendment of the Senate Order. You thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 364 of the Penal Code Law.” The charge marked CR/219/16, and dated June 10, was okayed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN.

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