The confluence of morality and law; the quagmire of the 8th Senate
THE inauguration of the 8th session of the Nigerian Senate orchestrated by the characters therein represented on the 9th June 2015 and the theatre of the absurd that accompanied the exercise brought in the men of the Nigerian Police Force, who acting on an allegation instituted investigation panel which established the fact that the Senate Rules were surreptitiously altered or forged. This Machiavellian approach to political ascendancy and the attendant ripples form the basis of this discourse.
With all professional respect, the issue of forgery as established by the Police is frowned at by the law irrespective of class, status and gender. The Blacks Law Dictionary (9th Edition)@ 722 defines forgery as “The act of fraudulently making a false document or altering a real one to be used as if genuine or a false or altered document made to look genuine by someone with the intent to deceive”.
In the same vein, S.465 of the Nigerian Criminal Code (CAP 77) Laws of the Federation expressly agrees with the Blacks law Dictionary. It defines it thus: “A person who makes a false document or writing knowing it to be false, and with the 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. In SMART v THE STATE (1974) 11 SC.117, Coker JSC said @ 185 “In Nigeria, forgery consists of the making a false document or writing knowing it to be false and with intent that it may be used as genuine”.
It is suffice to affirm that the uniqueness of the legislature at the centre is captured by S.47 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended). S.48 provides for the establishment of the Senate, S.56 takes care of its rules while S.60 empowers the upper legislative chamber to have power to regulate its own procedure.
In retrospect, the 7th Senate at its valedictory plenary did not amend its rules. Procedurally, the 8th Senate ought to have followed due process in altering its own rules in order to avoid a tainted action which could be interpreted to be bona-fide or mala-fide.
In Inakoju & ors v Adeleke & ors (2007) 1SCM @22 R.33, the apex Court opined that “the legislature in exercising its powers to suspend its rules to deal with any given situation should do so bona-fide. It said further that while a legislature is competent to suspend particular rules to enable it deal with a situation in the overall interest of the common good of the body and the persons it represents, this must be done bona-fide and mala-fide.
A bona-fide action will vindicate the totality of good parliamentary action, practice and conduct. A mala-fide action will violate parliamentary action, practice and conduct. Whether an action is bona-fide or mala-fide is a question of fact to be deduced from the factual milieu giving rise to the decision. I have no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that the suspension of the rules of the House of Assembly and the Speaker in a hotel apartment were clearly mala-fide as the act was designed to carry out illegal and unconstitutional acts which are ultra vires S.188 of the constitution (per Niki Tobi JSC).
Gleaned from the above legal authority, the validity or otherwise of the intrigues that traversed the political domain during the inauguration of the 8th Senate where the Police have already established the heinous act of forgery should agitate genuine agitators of the change mantra. The punishment ascribed to violators of the act of forgery is not gender, class or status sensitive. It is time the criminogenic public servants and any concerned law maker(s) involved in this dastard act realize that the regime of impunity is over and that Nigerians are more conscious and enlightened to shove aside vide the constitutional recall provision of any elected individual found wanting in learning, character or misrepresentation. The expectations of Nigerians at the moment are such that this FORGERY saga gauged at the Courts of morality and law cannot be swept under the RED CARPET.
Omote is a Benin-based legal practitioner.