Forgery and the Senate

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Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu

The 8h senate is stymied in controversy, and, despite the best efforts of the beneficiaries of the leadership crisis, the issues have refused to go away.

To compound the disagreements, five members of that otherwise august body, have reinstated that they are still in court, claiming that the senate standing orders, through which the present leadership emerged, is a forged document. That allegation, is in addition to the controversy arising from the intrigues and subterfuge that bedevilled the indecorous emergence of senators Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu, as senate president and deputy senate president, respectively.

To be fair to the distinguished and undistinguished senators alike, the matter of who leads the senate, is the prerogative of the senators. Well, considering that they may not always all agree on a choice, a fortiori, the law enjoins them to set down the rules of engagement, ab initio. Going forward, once they set down any rule, then, it is sacrosanct that they follow it, unless they agree in a manner afore-agreed, to ignore it, or set it aside, also, in a manner pre-determined. Anyway, whether or not such was the case, in the emergence of the foremost principal officers, will be determined by the courts, since the matter is presently, sub-judice.

However, just as the senators have their privileges, the nation state, made up of citizens, and institutions of the state, have their collective privileges. To that same extent, an allegation of forgery, as claimed with regards to the standing order of the 8th senate, is a crime against the state, and it is the prerogative of the criminal justice institutions of the state, on behalf of the nation-state, to vigorously pursue the allegation, and in furtherance of that, if the circumstance so demands, to properly bring before the court, any person(s) allegedly involved in the crime, to answer to the charges.

So, it is strange that despite the national importance of this matter, no person has been charged to court for the alleged felony that has thoroughly embarrassed our country. Or is the allegation of forgery of the standing orders of the 8th senate, a ruse? Strange country. In fact, stranger than fiction, if one ponders some of the strange things happening here. Ordinarily, there are enough laws in the book, to determine, whether the criminal offence of forgery, has been committed. Also, considering that the document in question, is not one of the rag-tag obscene publications, without a copyright, that steal our attention at bus-stops; because of its obtrusive and lurid pictures and headlines; it is strange, that nobody has been held, for the alleged forgery.

Let’s look at what the criminal code, which is substantially in pari materia with the penal code, says about the offence of forgery. Section 465, of the Criminal Code Act, provides the Definition of Forgery, thus: “A person who makes a false document or writing knowing it to be false, and with intent that it may in any way be used or acted upon as genuine, whether in the state or elsewhere, to the prejudice of any person or with intent that any person may, in the belief that it is genuine, be induced to do or refrain from doing any act, whether in the state or elsewhere is said to forge the document or writing”.

Bearing this definition in mind, the simple question for the investigating authority would simply have been, to find out whether the senate standing order 2015, is a false document? To determine this, in the circumstance, is to find out, who made the document, and whether the maker, had the authority under the law, to make the document. Where the maker had no powers to make the document, and went ahead to make same, with the intent to represent it as genuine, then prima facie, the offence of forgery may have been committed.

The responsibility of that investigating officer, or institution of state, which under our extant laws, is the Nigeria Police, is to bring the offender(s) before the law to answer the charge of forgery. Considering the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, the police should after their investigations, forward their finding to the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, for it to decide, whether and where to prosecute. Strangely, or if you prefer, stranger than fiction, there is the unbelievable tale, as to what has happened to the police report. The report in the media is that, the report has been lost in transit, albeit in its shuttles, between the two institutions of state.

Should the report be found, and it is established that the senate standing order was forged, Nigerians hope that the maker(s) would be taken before a magistrate or judge, for a criminal trial. According to section 467, of the criminal code: “Any person who forges any document, writing, or seal, is guilty of an offence which, unless otherwise stated, is a felony, and he is liable, if no other punishment is provided, to imprisonment for three years”.

In climes, where the law is not afraid of some of its citizens, those who allegedly forged the senate standing orders would by now, have had their day in court. If as some senators have claimed, the allegation is baseless, then the institutions of state, should say so. Or is it possible, as reported in the media, that the police report, did not mention the maker of the allegedly forged document. Of note, in Alake vs State, Alagoa, J.C.A; held, ‘If the charge upon which an accused person is arraigned relates to forgery, it must be proved that it is the accused person that committed the forgery’.

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