War: Nigeria Senate Threatens AGF

There now seems to be ample time for the cat and mouse game between the Senate and Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to play on.
This is sequel to the adjournment of commencement of trial in the forgery case against Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and two others to September 28, 2016.

The start date for trial was postponed from July 11 as earlier scheduled due to the ongoing
annual vacation of Judges in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja. Incidentally by next day, July 12, the Senate will resume from the Sallah holiday and its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters will report the AGF to plenary.

The Senate has consistently heckled the AGF to appear before it and explain his rationale for instituting the forgery case in court. The days ahead are likely to be full of drama, open intrigues and drawing of bad blood on the intransigence of the chief prosecutor
of the federation.

It will also be a day to put the Constitution and doctrine of separation of powers to test as the Senate seeks to inquire into a matter that is already seized of a court of competent jurisdiction. Will the AGF know his fate and the limitations of the powers of his
office as may be outlined by the Senate or will it come out bruised and powerless as has been argued in some quarters or proven in some cases?

The dominant narrative from the end of the legislature is that there has been a flagrant disregard of the Senate by Mr. Malami, who had shunned several invitations from the upper chamber on the forgery case.
Recall that the Senate at plenary, had invited the Attorney General to meet with its committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters over the institution of a forgery case against Saraki, Ekweremadu, former Clerk of the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa and Deputy Clerk, Ben Efeturi.

However, the AGF failed to show up at the first invitation and he did not send a representative either. The Senate committee Chaired by Sen. David Umaru (APC, Niger
State) re-invited the AGF to come on a later date but again, he failed to show up in person. This time however, he sent a representative, Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla, Special Assistant to
President Muhammadu Buhari on Prosecution, attached to the Federal Ministry of Justice.
Piqued by Malami’s absence, the Committee walked out the AGF’s representative due to the fact that he was a Presidential Aide and not the Attorney General nor an Aide of the AGF.

It was the position of the committee that the AGF had again shunned the Senate for no good reason. After being walked out, Mr. Obla told newsmen said that the Senate had no power to invite the Attorney General over the matter since it was already in court.
The Committee had resolved to report to plenary on July 12: Its position would be that the AGF failed to honour the invitation of the Senate.

What would do Senate do? Does the Senate actually have to powers to invite the Attorney General on a matter before the court? This is the fundamental question begging to be answered. Under the doctrine of separation of powers and to guarantee the independence of all three arms of government – the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary – the National Assembly is precluded from entertaining any matter before the courts.

However, Sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution affirms the powers of the legislature to inquire into any matter in the public interest and summon any public official in that regard.
Section 88(1) reads: “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, each House of the National Assembly shall have power by resolution published in its journal or in the Official Gazette of the Government of the Federation to direct or cause to be directed
investigation into –

(a) any matter or thing with respect to which it has power to make
laws, and

(b) the conduct of affairs of any person, authority, ministry or
government department charged, or intended to be charged, with
the duty of or responsibility for –

(i) executing or administering laws enacted by National Assembly,
and
(ii) disbursing or administering moneys appropriated or to be
appropriated by the National Assembly.

(2) The powers conferred on the National Assembly under the
provisions of this section are exercisable only for the purpose of
enabling it to –
(a) make laws with respect to any matter within its legislative
competence and correct any defects in existing laws; and

(b) expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or
administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the
disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it.”

Section 89 states for more clarity: “(1) For the purposes of any
investigation under section 88 of this Constitutional and subject to
the provisions thereof, the Senate or the House of Representatives
or a committee appointed in accordance with section 62 of this
Constitution shall have power to –
(a) procure all such evidence, written or oral, direct or
circumstantial, as it may think necessary or desirable, and
examine all persons as witnesses whose evidence may be material
or relevant to the subject matter;

(b) require such evidence to be given on oath;

(c) summon any person in Nigeria to give evidence at any place or
produce any document or other thing in his possession or under
his control, and examine him as a witness and require him to
produce any document or other thing in his possession or under
his control, subject to all just exceptions; and

(d) issue a warrant to compel the attendance of any person who,
after having been summoned to attend, fails, refuses or neglects to
do so and does not excuse such failure, refusal or neglect to the
satisfaction of the House or the committee in question, and order
him to pay all costs which may have been occasioned in
compelling his attendance or by reason of his failure, refusal or
neglect to obey the summons, and also to impose such fine as
may be prescribed for any such failure, refused or neglect; and any
fine so imposed shall be recoverable in the same manner as a fine
imposed by a court of law.

“(2) A summons or warrant issued under this section may be served or executed by any member of the Nigeria Police Force or by any person authorised in that behalf by the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as the case
may require.”

The Senate is obviously relying on the powers granted it by theabove provisions to wage its war against the AGF and by extension, the Executive.

Recall that both arms of government have engaged in bitter wrangling over the forgery trial, with the Senate accusing the presidency of unlawful interference in its affairs and attempting to cripple the legislative institution and endanger democracy.

But the Executive has countered consistently that it’s only doing its job by preserving the constitution and that a matter of forgery of public document could not be said to be an internal affair of the Senate and that a police investigation report had established a
case for prosecution.

The last statement on the matter from the presidency said the Senate was not on trial and that Saraki and Ekweremadu should simply go clear their names instead of engaging in shadow boxing.

It against this background that the AGF’s snub on the Senate will come up for deliberation as Senate resumes tomorrow and going forward. Will the upper chamber bite or will simply just bark again?

Recall that in 2015, the Senate had threatened to issue a warrant of arrest on former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Lamorde for failing to appear before its Committee on Ethics and Public Petitions.

But up till now, Lamorde has not still be compelled to appear before the Senate and that matter appears to have been sent to oblivion.

Will the Senate make an example of the AGF? How? With what powers? Does the Senate have powers to actually compel anyone to appear before it? Or it is just have a barking Senate that has no teeth? Will the Senate ever demonstrate whatever powers it has or
succumb to constant snub from officials of other arms of government? There now seems to be ample time for the cat and mouse game between the Senate and Attorney General of the
Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to play on.

This is sequel to the adjournment of commencement of trial in the forgery case against Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and two others to September 28, 2016.
The start date for trial was postponed from July 11 as earlier scheduled due to the ongoing annual vacation of Judges in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja.

Incidentally by next day, July 12, the Senate will resume from the Sallah holiday and its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters will report the AGF to plenary.
The Senate has consistently heckled the AGF to appear before it and explain his rationale for instituting the forgery case in court. The days ahead are likely to be full of drama, open intrigues and drawing of bad blood on the intransigence of the chief prosecutor
of the federation. It will also be a day to put the Constitution to test


Post credit: OrderPaper

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