Reuters International

A court clerk reads the charges to Nigeria Senate President Bukola Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal at Darki Biu, Jabi Abuja, Nigeria September 22, 2015. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

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By Camillus Eboh

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria's third most senior politician, the head of the upper house of parliament, pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges of altering the senate's rules to get himself elected to the post, at the start of his trial.

Bukola Saraki, a member of President Muhammadu Buhari's party, is charged along with his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, of "forging" the upper house's rules during the process by which they were elected in June 2015.

Both politicians and two other men, who worked as clerks during the senate elections, denied the charges at the high court in Abuja. All were granted bail and the case was adjourned until July 11. If found guilty, they could be jailed for up to 14 years.

Saraki ran unopposed for the position of senate president, mainly with the backing of the opposition. He was not the ruling party's preferred candidate and his relationship with Buhari has been strained since his elevation to the position.

Charges have been levelled against a number of senior Nigerian politicians since former military ruler Buhari took office last year, vowing to crackdown on corruption.

In a separate case, Saraki is accused of falsely declaring his assets when he was a state governor from 2003 to 2011. He has pleaded not guilty.

(Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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