Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja
Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Abubakar Malami, Wednesday, maintained that his decision to reopen the alleged case of 2015 Senate Standing Rules forgery was in public interest.
Malami, who also apologized for snubbing the senate previously when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to explain his role in the matter, however said the case was instituted because there were alleged breaches of procedure.
“I wish to state that I have a clear obligation to do whatever that can possibly be done to sustain democracy. Section 60 of the 1999 Constitution (Amended) states that the National Assembly shall have powers to regulates its own procedure.
“If the procedure in question was not followed, then it does not fall within Section 60 of the Constitution. When the need for amendment of the Senate Rules arose in 2011, the Senate conducted a proceeding, and passed resolution for amendment.
“The 2015 Rule, as allegedly amended, did not pass through the traditional way of doing things. That is where the inherited quarrel comes into being.
“In as much a senate has powers to regulate its procedures, any rule that did not follow the processes, as stated above, is a breach.
“The need to prevent abuse behooves on me. The parameter, arising from the breaching of Section 60 is to ensure that I take logical criminal step to ensure (that) things are done within the constitutional provision,” he said.
Aware that commenting on the substantive suit currently before the court of law would be subjudice, Malami, however, pointed out that his action was in the interest of justice and to prevent abuse of office.
He further apologized for not being able to honour previous invitations on the matter.
“I am in receipt of letter dated 21 June from the Committee, addressed to the AGF’s office, titled: imminent threat to our democracy on account of which I was invited to deliberate upon. The issue that led to the invitation is a criminal case that was instituted by the AGF office against certain members of the Senate as at the time of the alleged commission.
“It predates my appointment. It is suit FHC/ABJ/CS/646/2015. It was instituted at the instance of a serving senator, Senator Gilbert Nandi, and it was filed on 23 July 2015.
“The Police, as at July 23, 2015, concluded investigation over the alleged forgery. I was appointed on November 12, 2015; that was four months, after the conclusion of the investigation.
“As at the time I came into office, there exists that investigation. Arising from the fact that the case already existed, I have an obligation for sustenance, and I instituted an action arising from that.
“I want to submit that it was for the sustenance of rule of law and not desire to truncate the process of democratic processes, which I am bound by law to protect,” he said.
The Chairman of the Committee, Senator David Umaru, raised concern that the present suit against some principal officers of the Senate was an executive interference in legislative matters.
He said the Constitution was clear on the separation of powers, and should not be abused by any arm of government.
“Sections 60 to 62 of the Constitution allows for setting up of committees and making rules to regulate its own proceedings. Also, Order 97 of our Standing Rule specifies the powers of the committees and the Senate. The issue of rules has its foundation from Section 60 of the 1999 Constitution.
“On the alleged forgery of our rules, the Senate can even decide not to have any. For the executive to make the internal affair of the Senate an issue looks as if it is intruding. He made clarifications that the purpose of our inquiry was not to look at the criminal case that was pending on forgery and conspiracy.
“We feel the AGF owes a duty to the citizens of Nigeria, including the Senate to know, if his power was exercised in public interest, and that there was no abuse of public interest,” Umaru said.
It would be recalled that the Senate, on Tuesday, gave the AGF the last opportunity to appear before it over alleged forgery of 2015 Standing Orders.
Earlier, the Red Chamber, had, on June 21, invited Malami to come and give reasons for reopening alleged forgery case against its principal officers, after it was struck out by the court.