Uneasy Calm In Senate, As Saraki Plots Survival
• Nation Sliding Into Fascism, PDP Warns
• No Order To Arrest Yet, Say Police
NOT a single senator from the ‘Unity Forum’, known to have expressed disappointment over the emergence of Abubakar Bukola Saraki as Senate President has spoken out against him, since the Code of Conduct Bureau filed a 13-count corruption charge against the embattled legislator at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), last week.
The only story extracted from few senators in the camp who didn’t want to speak on record was: “We are watching.”
But a few from the ‘Like Minds’ senators decried the trial of Saraki by the CCT, describing it as political persecution aimed at weakening the Senate and setting the stage for a “rubber stamp” National Assembly.
The ‘Like Minds’ were responsible for the emergence of Saraki as Senate President on June 9, 2015.
Dismissing as untrue, rumour making the rounds that Saraki might resign as a way of ending his travails, the group of senators said they believed Saraki could even win more support from his colleagues, as a result of the trial.
Senator Sabi Aliyu Abdullahi (APC, Niger North) said all the allegations raised against Saraki by the CCB were politically motivated and would not in anyway derail the 8th Senate from its objective of bringing about positive change to Nigerians.
He said: “I want to believe an allegation remains an allegation; and our laws are very clear. It is an allegation until it is proven; I want to believe it remains an allegation.
“However, let’s take a closer look at what the allegations are, dating back to 2003 to date. I think, as far as I am concerned, there is something fishy about it. It is very obvious. Of course, we know what has happened since the inauguration of the 8th Senate on June 9.”
Senator Abdullahi added: “We will stand by our leader because leadership is from God. And as far as I am concerned, I didn’t come here because I am the best; it is just the will of God that we will be here. And based on the fact that we are here, we shall try as much as possible to deliver very good legislations that will move this country forward. Nigeria is great and we want to make it greater. And I assure you; we will definitely not be distracted. The entire Senate is behind our leadership.”
Also condemning the trial, Senator Hussain Salihu (APC, Nasarawa South) said: “The charges against Saraki, as far as I am concerned, are just distractive, in the sense that we are talking about an issue of 13 years ago and people are bringing it now. I think Nigerians should disregard such issues because they are distracting the National Assembly from doing its constitutional work. I don’t think that it is going to help us.
What we are talking about now is how we are going to get power supply; how the ordinary man can send his children to school and the sick get to hospitals. So, the allegations are non-issues. I think the people who are doing this are not helping the country; they are not helping the President and they are not helping anybody, because as far as the National Assembly is concerned, we are going to move on from all these distractions.
Senator Mao Ohuabunwa (PDP Abia North) was of the notion that Saraki has led the Senate credibly in the last 100 days and they will continue to give him total support, irrespective of distractions from any quarters.
Saraki, however, is said to be embarking on intense consultations with his support base within and outside the Senate on how to survive the present travails.
A few senators who have not travelled out of Abuja were said to have visited his Maitama residence in Abuja in a show of solidarity.
Sequel to the 13-count charge slammed by the CCB, Saraki approached a Federal High Court in Abuja to restrain the CCB, CCT and Federal Ministry of Justice from proceeding on his trial.
The Senate President prayed the court to declare that the Ministry of Justice has not complied with the provision of the 3rd Schedule of Section 24(1) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act before proffering a charge against him.
But the Court ordered the Federal Ministry of Justice, chairmen of the CCB, CCT and M. S Hassan (1st to 4th respondents) to appear before him on Monday to show cause why they should not be stopped from arraigning Saraki.
The judge ordered that the respondents in the motion should be served with all the court processes, including the motion of notice for the interim order or injunction, motion ex-parte, adding that hearing notice should be served on all the respondents.
Based on this, Saraki refused to appear before the CCT for arraignment on Friday. And angered by this absence, the CCT ordered that a warrant of arrest be issued by the Inspector General of Police to bring Saraki to the Tribunal tomorrow.
Saraki was, however, swift to announce his decision to appeal the ruling of the CCT.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), meanwhile, said yesterday, “It is no longer in doubt that the nation is on a quick slide into fascism and official terrorism.”
The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, said the President Buhari-led regime has exhibited the trappings of despotism, including “ruling without a constitutional component of a cabinet, persistent abuse of power, undermining of democratic institutions, invasion of state government and personal houses, injection of confusion into the judiciary and hounding of individuals perceived to be against its interests.”
The party expressed worry over the “relentless onslaught against democratic institutions, especially the growing tension trailing the quest to annex the National Assembly.
The statement reads in part: “Ordinarily, the intra-party squabbles within the APC, regarding leadership positions in the Senate is not necessarily our concern. Also, we are not interested in whether Senate President Bukola Saraki ran for the APC Presidential ticket against President Muhammadu Buhari; or whether he ran for the Senate Presidency against the advice of the
President and his party. Our concerns here are the prevailing executive intolerance, the undermining of the institution of the National Assembly and the overall threat to the survival of our democracy.
Whereas the PDP totally supports the fight against corruption, while reposing confidence in the judiciary to protect and preserve its sanctity, we note with grave concern, the politically induced controversies within the judiciary, as a result of the part being played by agents of the executive, especially the question of due process with respect to the roles statutorily vested on the person of an Attorney-General, who is yet to be appointed, regarding proceedings in the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
We note this dangerous trend because the Presidency and the APC have not hidden their aversion to the election of Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu as Senate President and Deputy Senate President, respectively, even as the fact of various moves to oust them from office, including the recent unsubstantiated allegations of forgery and harassments by the federal controlled security agencies are in the public domain.
We call on Nigerians to be aware that the fixation on the leadership of the National Assembly is part of a major step towards the appropriation of the federal legislature, so as to undermine its statutory role of checks and balances and set the stage for dictatorship in the land.
It is therefore a mockery of reasoning for President Buhari to use choice words to condemn the coup in Burkina Faso while his government engages in brazen contravention of our own constitution, a development
that is clearly derailing Nigeria from the path of order, democracy and constitutionalism.”
The All Progressives Congress (APC) has distanced itself from the ordeal of Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, saying there is no way it could have been involved in the matter.
Speaking to The Guardian, yesterday, APC National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, expressed deep reservation over “dragging the party” into the matter.
He said: “If at all the party will get involve in this situation, officials would meet and communicate their position to the public. But it would be highly mischievous for anyone to insinuate that the party is behind this ordeal. This is absolutely false. There is no truth, whatsoever, in this. The party cannot, of course, be working against itself. Or have you suddenly forget that the distinguished Senate President is our member?”
Mohammed also noted that it is improper to discuss matters of the court in public.
While Nigerians watch to see which way the storm confronting Saraki would blow, the Police insist they have not yet received orders to arrest the Senate President.
Spokesperson for the Force, Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police Olabisi Kolawole told The Guardian, yesterday: “The Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, has not received such orders. There is no order to the effect that the police should arrest him.”
A source at Police Headquarters, however, said: “It would be grossly insensitive to arrest someone like that for whatever reason. This time, the situation is different. Anybody can be arrested. But this case is too sensitive. So, it is safe to say we have not received a formal notice to the effect.”
Asked if the Police were shying away from carrying out the directive, the Police spokesperson said: “Directive by whom? We are yet to receive any directive to that effect.”
The Ile-loke Ilorin, Kwara State, residence of the Senate President, yesterday, was a ghost of its former self, as many of his supporters were absent when The Guardian visited the place at 13.30pm.
Security guards were spotted at their posts and the free flow of traffic along the popular Ilofa Street gave the impression that all was well with the people and their political leader.
Meanwhile, there are divergent reactions in Ilorin over the Saraki orderal.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Olusola Bayeshea, said: “I believe that nobody should be above the law. We have to start this from somewhere. It is the right time for our leaders to be ready for the scrutiny of their private and public affairs. I have to say this because I am more concerned with the survival of our legal system.”
In his view, the Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kwara, Chief Rex Olawoye, said, if Saraki had identified his present ordeal as a political vendetta, “then he should equally look for the solution. I hope he will be able to wriggle his way out of the vendetta, as claimed. Otherwise, he knows the best way out.”
For Mogaji Nda of Ilorin Salihu Woru-Mohammed, a retired Police Officer, the police should obey the decision of the Federal High Court rather than effect the arrest of Saraki via the warrant of arrest issued by the Code of Conduct Bureau. Mohammed said: “When we were at the Police College and Staff College, we were warned and trained not to obey unlawful orders.”
A political movement in Ilorin, Maja Elders Forum (MEF), urged the prompt intervention of President Buhari on the matter.
The MEF in a statement yesterday in Ilorin, signed by its coordinator, Alhaji Kayode Yusuf, said the alleged witch-hunting of Saraki, since he emerged, as Senate President should be halted in the interest of peace in the polity.
“We are taken aback by recent developments in the nation’s political circle where Saraki seems to be the only politician that should be investigated by anti-graft agencies in Nigeria. We are not opposed to anti corruption crusades of President Buhari but what we don’t understand is why the searchlight should be beamed only on our leader, to the exclusion of others? We want Mr. President to use his good offices to call the operators of these anti-graft bodies to order, in the interest of peace,” the group said.