The Nigeria Police have concluded their probe into the forgery of the Senate Standing Order and given a copy of the report to President Muhammadu Buhari.The President received a copy of the report last week, a highly reliable source in the presidency said on Saturday.
The Police report confirmed that the Standing Rules used to inaugurate the 8th Assembly were forged, our source said. In the report, the Police recommended the prosecution of those found culpable of forging the orders, which had been used in the controversial election of the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, and his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, on June 9, 2015.
The report was said to have indicted the management of the National Assembly, especially the Clerk, Salisu Maikasuwa and recommended the prosecution of the suspects.
Acting on a petition by Senator Sulaiman Hunkuyi (All Progressives Congress, Kaduna State), the Police had on July 6 quizzed Ekweremadu and Maikasuwa over an alleged forgery of the standing orders. The petition alleged that some parts of the 2015 Senate Orders were different from the one ratified by the 6th Senate in 2010, which was used by the 7th Senate, as Standing Orders 2011.
The Police, on the strength of the petition, had subsequently quizzed the leadership of the 7th Senate, including former Senate President, Senator David Mark; his deputy (now Saraki’s deputy), Ike Ekweremadu; former Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba; and the former Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Enang. The Clerk to the National Assembly, Maikasuwa, who is the custodian of the Senate Standing Order was also invited for questioning by the police.
According to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, handed over copy of the investigative report to Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja last Sunday.
The source said, “I can confirm to you that the President has a copy of the Police’s investigation report on the Senate forgery and I can also authoritatively tell you that the report confirmed that the Senate rules were forged. Notable among those recommended for prosecution in the National Assembly is the Clerk because he is the one that keeps the Standing Orders.”
When asked if the Directorate of Public Prosecution had received a copy of the Police report, the source said he couldn’t confirm that. Detailed study of the controversial 2015 Senate Standing Orders, Rule 3, as contained on page four of the document, which has to do with the election of presiding officers, had shown that it is different from the 2011 Senate Order.
Rules 3(e) (i) and (ii) have been included in the 2015 document to accommodate electronic voting and secret ballot, whereas secret ballot and ballot papers were not specifically mentioned in the 2011 Standing Orders.
The Senate Order 3 (e) (ii) of 2011 states, “Voting shall be conducted by the Clerks-at-the Table, using the Division List of the Senate with the Tellers in attendance. The Clerk of the Senate shall submit the result of the division to the Clerk of the National Assembly.
“(iii) The Clerk shall then declare the Senator-elect who has received the greater number of votes, elected as President of the Senate.”
The same section in the 2015 Senate Order however reads, “Voting by secret ballot which shall be conducted by the Clerk-at-Table using the list of the Senators-elect of the Senate, who shall each be given a ballot paper to cast his vote with the proposers and seconder as Teller. The Clerk of the Senate shall submit the result of the voting to the Clerk of the National Assembly who shall then declare Senator-elect who has received the highest number of votes as Senate President-elect.”
Apart from the ‘alteration’ to the procedure for election, Order 95 of the 2011 rule on the chairmanship and membership of the committees is also different in the 2015 version.
In the 2011 document, provisions in Order 95 read, “The membership of all committees shall not be less than 11 and not more than 13 senators. (2) No senator shall serve in more than three committees (3) No committee chairman shall serve in more than one other committee.”
However, a new insertion in the amended version reads, “The appointment of Senators as Chairmen and members of committees shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the six geopolitical zones of the country and there shall be no predominance of senators from a few geo-political zones.”
Some senators who served in the 7th Senate had disowned the 2015 edition of the Senate Standing Orders (as amended).Similarly, members of the current 8th Senate across parties had also denied being part of any amendment process. The senators, who were from both the ruling All Progressives Congress and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, said they were not aware of any amendments to the 2011 Senate Standing Orders.
For instance, Senator Victor Lar (PDP, Plateau-South) had declared, “As of the time we left the (7th) Senate, there were no alterations (to the Senate Standing Orders).”Also, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business in 7th Senate, Senator Ita Enang, stated that the Standing Orders that was used and closed within the 7th Senate was the Standing Orders that should have been used for the inauguration of the 8th Senate.
Enang, who was in the PDP when he was in the Senate but later defected to the APC, had stated, “I made proposal for amendments between 2011 and 2015, I laid the report on the floor, but we did not consider the report. We did not amend the Standing Orders. “Before we left, I had approved the reprinting of the Standing Orders and the reprinting did not include inserting anything which was not in the old one. Reprinting is, simply reproduce what we have because there are no more copies.”
Some senior legal practitioners posited that forging a document like the Standing Rule of the Senate was a felony, which, according to them, is a criminal offence against the state that attracts a penalty of three years jail term, a fine or both. However, when contacted on Saturday, the Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Emmanuel Ojukwu, did not confirm if the President had received a copy of the report.
“The Police are still working on the report. Investigation is still going on,” he said.
Director (Information), Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Charles Nwodo, responding to an inquiry by one of our correspondents on Saturday night also said he was not aware of the if the DPP had received a copy of the report.