Criminal conspiracy charge against Senate leadership dropped

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

An affidavit in support of the motion, sighted by an online media, Premium Times, was filed before the High Court of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) by a litigation officer from the Federal Ministry of Justice, Odubu Loveme, on Thursday.

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 on Thursday, Loveme said counsel for the Federal Government on the matter, Aliyu Umar, on September 30, in the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), 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.”

Loveme added that he had, 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.

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

Count one of the charge against the two civil servants was 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.

“Salisu Maikasuwa and Benedict Efeturi, on or about June 9, 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 seventh Senate of the Federal republic of Nigeria which act was committed by yourselves and that you thereby committed the offence of criminal conspiracy,” the charge read.

The two officials were accused of fraudulently amending the 2015 Senate Standing Orders without the authority of the seventh Senate, “with intention that the senators-elect of the eighth Senate would believe that the said Senate Standing Orders 2015 (as amended) was made by the authority of the seventh Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

They were 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 government also accused them of giving false information with the intention to mislead the public.

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

When contacted on the new development, the Special Adviser to the Senate President, Yusuph Olaniyonu, declined comments.

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