The Nigerian Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu have on October 7, 2016 finally been left off the hook for charges brought against them and two others at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Nigerians at home and abroad have now continuously engaged in ambivalent discussions about the veracity of the move by the Federal government. The withdrawal of the case against the senate president and his deputy according to the federal government, who instituted the charges was necessitated by the need to respect the rule of law and the hierarchy of the judiciary.
It was also said that it is conventional that two matters of the same subject matter cannot be before different courts of coordinate jurisdiction, while the case was struck out, the four defendants were therefore discharged.
Recall that a two count charge case was brought against the senate president and his deputy following both parties’ emergence as the president and deputy of the House red chamber. The charges included offence of alleged forgery of Senate Order 2015, used to conduct the chamber’s leadership election in June, 2015 and the offence of conspiracy.
Others arraigned alongside the two principal officers include the immediate former clerk to the national assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa and his deputy, Benedict Efeturi. The offences were said to be punishable under the Penal Code Law.
But the withdrawal has generated speculation, arguments and counter-arguments among stakeholders in the country while some have practically condemned the withdrawal, terming it as a game of politics, a legion has voted their support for the move by the Federal Government, describing it as a right move at the right time.
Some stakeholders have maintained that the withdrawal was politically motivated, noting that the President was only wetting the floor against the due date for his appearance before the House, for questions bordering on the state of the economy and other palpable situations in the country. They simply held that this is understandable so that the President had a soft landing at the House.
Others, who supported the move have lamented that the country at this dire time would have had something better, rather than the unwise and unnecessary waste of time and resources on such case as this, especially at a time when the country’s economy is going down the drain.
They inferred that aligning with the rule of law, which was the excuse given by the Federal Government for the withdrawal would have meant fore sighting any possible break in the judicial process when the charges were freshly instituted.
“It is appalling and the only way to describe the situation is that it is utter wastage, and not at this time when the country has even resorted to selling its assets. Although, they said we should follow the rule of law, fine, but does the rule of law say they should waste time and money on frivolity only to eventually come back from the court and declare withdrawal of a case that so much resources have gone into its hearing? What we expect them to have done is a kind of research to determine whether there would be a hiatus in the long run, before they even start the case,” a legal consultant had noted.
However, an Economist, who described himself simply as Mr. Ayo Olukunle, noted that what the Federal Government had done is not out of point, stating that the withdrawal was in accordance with the dictate of the law. “It is not unknown in the justice administration to withdraw a case whenever a superior evidence manifests.
“Without including sentimentality, it has been clearly stated. This is obviously a situation of not wanting to pre- judicially mar one case by litigating another similar one, so it is crystal clear,” he said.
By same token, speculation have also emerged that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration’s fight against corruption, which was the basis for the forgery trial is absolutely without direction. There are also fingers pointing that eight months on, the current anti-corruption war has yet to sentence any of the suspects involved in one anti-social activity or the other which they believe would have served as deterrent to others with same intentions.
A businessman, identified as Omotayo Tolu, maintained that even the cases that seemed genuine have yet to reach its final conclusion, noting that the issues are beginning to fade in the memory of common Nigerians. He cited examples of cases which have lingered at a snail pace since the current administration began it anti-corruption crusade.
“Although, we have heard of corrupt cases being tried at various courts, but has any of these cases been decided since about a year now? Sambo Dasuki is there, so also is the former Minister of Petroleum to mention just a few. Even this man in detention since February, Kanu Nnamdi, if there is any concrete evidence you have against him, then let’s see it instead of holding onto family men for reason of one investigation upon the other. And if you don’t have a better evidence against them, let them go and their cases be decided.
"A lot of things are happening upside down in this country. This particular case of Saraki and Ekweremadu actually did not come to me as a surprise because things are in shatter already. Do they want to tell us they didn't know there were cases lined up against the man before?" He said.
On the other hand, an undergraduate of law at an highbrow university asserts that it would be better if the people could exercise patience with the cases on ground, stressing that every step taken by the current administration so far, is not without reason and the court cases as provided for in the legal system have to follow due process.
“I think people should just be patient with Mr. President. Unfortunately, the kind of judicial system we run in Nigeria allows for a step by step procedure, which might although, take a relatively long time, but justice would eventually be served. So I think all we need is patience. After all, those being tried had been in the saddle for longer period of time, so administering their cases as meticulously as possible should not be wrong,” She said.
According to reports, immediately the forgery charges were withdrawn at the Federal High Court at the Federal Capital Territory, both the Senate President and his deputy stepped out of the court to cheers from their supporters.
The question left on the lips of inquisitive Nigerians is, considering the loose state of Nigeria’s democracy, has the case withdrawal really been done in good faith without any query left in the mind of Nigerians?