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Why Court overruled FG, granted Saraki, Ekweremadu, others bail

ABUJA - Despite stiff opposition from the Federal Government, an Abuja High Court at Jabi, on Monday, released the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, former Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa and his deputy, Mr. Benedict Efeturi, on bail.
The quartet were docked before the court on a two-count forgery charge the federal government entered against them.
The defendants were alleged to have masterminded the usage of a bogus Senate Standing Rules for the July 9, 2015, election, through which both Saraki and Ekweremadu took over the leadership of the Senate.
FG maintained that the defendants had by their conduct, committed an offence punishable under Section 97 (1) and 364 of the Penal Code Act.
However, though FG which was represented by the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, Mr. Mohammed Diri, did not oppose Saraki's bail request, it however urged the court to deny the other defendants bail.
The DPP told the court that Ekweremadu and the other defendants previously evaded service of the charge on them.
"We urge this court to be cautious in handling the bail of the 1st, 2nd and 4th defendants. This is also considering the fact that the charge against them is very serious", the DPP insisted.
He noted that the three defendants evaded service until the court granted an order for substituted service of the charge on them by pasting it at the National Assembly notice board.
"My lord, what this means is that if granted bail, the defendants may not be seen again for trial", Diri added.
He said FG's decision not to oppose Saraki's bail application was to ensure that legislative business in the Senate was not hampered.
Meanwhile, delivering a bench ruling on the matter, trial Justice Yusuf Halilu stressed that the essence of bail was to ensure the liberty of an accused person who under section 35 of the 1999 Constitution, is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
"The law is trite that considering whether or not to grant bail is within the discretion of the court and exercise of such discretion must be done judiciously and judicially", the Judge held.
He observed that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, equally "lends supports that an accused person standing trial shall be granted bail to enable him prepare defence".
He said the concept of "presumption of innocence" under the Constitution entails that an accused person should be afforded the facility and time to prepare to defend the charge before the court.
"Consequently, and having considered the applications for bail and submissions by counsel to the defendants, Mr. Ikechukwu Ezechukwu, SAN, Mahmud Magaji, SAN, Paul Erokoro, SAN, and J.B. Daudu, SAN.
"Also having considered the counter-affidavit from the DPP, I shall allow the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants to go home today.
"However, the 1st, 2nd and 4th defendants shall provide two reasonable sureties each", Justice Halilu ruled.
He maintained that the sureties must be owners of landed properties in the highbrow areas of Asokoro, Maitama, Wuse II or Garki in Abuja.
The court subsequently fixed July 11 to commence full-blown trial of the defendants.
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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