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Saraki Case Withdrawal 'Speak to the Attorney General', Presidency tells Pulse

In a Pulse exclusive, Buhari's spokesperson Garba Shehu declined shedding more light on withdrawal of Saraki's criminal case

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Senate President Bukola Saraki and President Muhammadu Buhari

(Reuters)

"Nigerian Government withdraws criminal charges against Saraki, Ekweremadu", the headlines read. It was all social media needed to head into overdrive and an all too familiar meltdown.

For many social media commentators, this was yet another indication that President Muhammadu Buhari's much vaunted anti-corruption war is coming off the rails.

Only a handful of those commentators went beyond the caption(s), it has to be said.

There were 'sexy' captions and understandably so. It is after all what Editors and Bloggers are paid to do in the era of the clickbait. But sometimes, captions do not tell the entire story, nor should they be relied upon to tell the entire story.

ALSO READ: FG drops forgery charges against Senate President, Deputy

Pulse has been working the phones since the story of the withdrawal of the charge against Saraki, first found its way into cyberspace.

A litigation officer from the Federal Ministry of Justice, Odubu Loveme, filed a motion to withdraw the charge of forgery and criminal conspiracy against Saraki and his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu.

They had been accused of forging Senate Standing Rules.

The Federal Government was also only amending the charge and the said criminal conspiracy charge is still before another court. It was far from a complete withdrawal. This was also a case of avoiding the issue of coordinate jurisdiction, government officials have told Pulse.

Senate President, Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu at the Federal High Court in Abuja on June 27, 2016, play Ekweremadu and Saraki (Sahara Reporters)

 

“This government respects the rule of law, and hierarchy of the judiciary. It is in the light of these two applications (filed by Saraki and Ekweremadu) and a similar case before Justice Kolawole at the Federal High Court, that we are withdrawing the charges", explained lead prosecution counsel, Aliyu Umar (SAN).

“It is trite that two matters of the same subject matter cannot be before different courts of coordinate jurisdiction.Therefore, the amended charge dated October 5, 2016 and also the original dated June 10, 2016 and filed the same date, be struck out and all the four defendants be discharged,” Umar added.

Even though Saraki's criminal conspiracy charge has been withdrawn before Justice  Yusuf Halilu of the High Court in Abuja, the same case is still before Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court in Abuja, Umar said.

A Presidency source who spoke to Pulse on the basis of anonymity because he had not been authorised to comment on the subject, said the Buhari anti-graft war isn't losing its way on account of the case withdrawal against Saraki.

"It would have been difficult for us to prove the forgery and criminal conspiracy case because getting witnesses from the Senate would have been doubly difficult. We had to do this in one court and hope for the best in another", said the high ranking Presidency official.

Senate President, Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu at the Federal High Court in Abuja on June 27, 2016, play Ekweremadu with Saraki behind him (Sahara Reporters)

 

On whether Saraki was being given a soft-landing as the Number three man in Nigeria's power hierarchy, the official denied that was the case. "It's a figment of some people's imagination. What you can't take away from this administration is its single minded determination to tackle graft. Recall that Saraki's case before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for false declaration of assets and corruption is ongoing. One innocuous withdrawal doesn't mean a soft-landing", he added.

Pulse did reach out to Garba Shehu, who is the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, for a reaction to the development. "Please speak to the Attorney General of the Federation", said Shehu.

"Sir, is this a case of a soft-landing for Saraki because of the position he wields in government?", Pulse probed further.

"I'll advise you to speak to the Attorney General of the Federation", Shehu repeated for emphasis.

A call placed to the cellphone of Abubakar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation, wasn't replied before this story made it to press.

An aide of Malami's declined comment for this story. "Speak to Oga, please", he said, before hanging up in a huff.

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