The ongoing war of attrition between the Presidency and the Senate got messier yesterday.
Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice Mr. Abubakar Malami said the Senate lacked the power to summon him for questioning.
The AGF, who was invited by the Senate to appear before its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, said he was not answerable to the Senate.
He said the Senate did not appoint him and, therefore, lacked the jurisdiction to summon him.
The Senate fired back that it may be forced to issue a warrant of arrest against the AGF for his refusal to honour its invitation.
The Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution attached to the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla, who represented the AGF, was walked out of the meeting room.
The altercation took place yesterday at the Senate Meeting Room 3 31.3, 3rd Floor, New Senate Building, National Assembly Complex, Abuja.
The Senate had on Tuesday invited Malami to appear before it to explain why he charged to court Senate President Bukola Saraki and Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu for alleged forgery.
Saraki, Ekweremadu and two others were arraigned at a Federal High Court, Abuja on Monday to answer charges of alleged forgery of the 2015 Standing Rule of the Senate.
The upper chamber resolved to invite Malami to explain why he allegedly reopened the alleged forgery case against Saraki and others when a court of competent jurisdiction had struck it out.
The Senate that Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Abuja High Court ruled on the matter affirming that the issue was an internal affair of the Senate.
Before Obono-Obla was asked to leave the room, he told the committee members that they lacked the jurisdiction to summon the AGF because the Senate cannot be a judge in its case.
He also insisted that the AGF, who was not appointed by the Senate, cannot be answerable to the Senate.
Obono-Obla said the Senate was over reaching itself by creating the impression that the AGF committed a crime by charging Saraki and Ekweremadu to court.
He noted that the Senate constituted itself into a court of law by summoning the AGF on an issue that was in court.
He told reporters outside the meeting venue: “The AG has not done anything wrong. The AG has not undermined democracy. He acted pursuant to his powers vested on him by the Constitution, Section 174 (1) says he can prosecute anybody. And he has done that. The Senate is not on trial. He has not taken the Senate to court. He has taken four persons to court. They are not the Senate. Being President of the Senate does not make you the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The matter was investigated by the police and a prima facie case was established and the AG invoked his powers under Section 174 (1) to initiate criminal proceedings against those persons. And this matter is now before a court of law. There is separation of powers in Nigeria. It is not the position of senators to constitute themselves into a court of law.
“He’s (AGF) not answerable to them. By virtue of the principle of Separation of Powers, he is answerable to the President who appointed him. And he has not done anything wrong.
“You cannot be a judge in your own case. We don’t have confidence in the committee.”
Obono-Obla said he was qualified to represent the AGF because he is working in his office as an SA to the President.
The chairman of the committee, Senator David Umaru, said the purpose of the meeting was to interact with the AGF based on Senate’s resolution.
Senator Umaru, who was disappointed by the failure of the AGF to honour the committee’s invitation, said:
“We take it that the AGF did not honour our invitation. This is despite the fact that he requested for time to articulate his own position. We take it that he has not respected the Senate. We will report back to the Senate to take appropriate decision on the issue. We take it that the AGF has refused to honour our invitation. The best we can do is to report back to the Senate.”
Senator Joshua Lidani, a member of the committee, also said the AGF refused to honour the invitation.
Lidani noted that the person who purported to represent the AGF is not the AGF the Senate invited.
He added that the person was also not responsible to the AGF but to the President.
Senator Chukwuka Utazi, another member of the committee, said: “The AGF asked that we should give him time to come. We put him on notice that he is to appear today (yesterday). Today (yesterday) again he has refused to come. This is a slap on the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”