Senate suspends Ndume, clears Saraki, Melaye
Former Senate majority leader, Muhammed Ali Ndume, has been placed on a six-month suspension with effect from yesterday. But the upper chamber absolved its President, Bukola Saraki and Dino Melaye of allegations of purchase of vehicle with fake documents and certificate forgery.
When it was time to consider the report of the Sam Anyanwu-led committee, Saraki, who had been presiding over the session suddenly stepped down from his seat to allow his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, preside over the consideration of the report. The Senate president said he could not preside over the matter because it was his fate that was about to be decided.
The sanction against Ndume is an indication of disharmony among the lawmakers which could hamper the making of laws for good governance of the country. The upper chamber said it suspended Ndume “for bringing Melaye, his colleague and the institution of the Senate to unbearable disrepute at this time of our national life, when caution, patriotism, careful consideration and diligence should be our watchword.”
The Senate also stated that it reached its conclusion because having failed to cross-check facts before presentation at plenary, Ndume could not be said to be a patriotic representative of the Senate, and should be penalized to serve as deterrent.
Ndume’s suspension followed the adoption of the report of the Ethics Committee of the Senate which investigated the alleged purchase of a sport utility vehicle (SUV) with inaccurate customs duty payments by Saraki. The Anyanwu-led committee also investigated the alleged certificate forgery against Melaye.
The sanction against Ndume was arrived at after an amendment was proposed and adopted by the Senate that the initial recommendation of 181 days suspension be reduced. The report reads in part: “After carefully examining the documents available and hearing out the matter, the committee observed that ‘the name of the Senate President, Saraki was not mentioned anywhere in the Bill of lading or any document whatsoever connected with the importation or purchase of the SUV Range Rover vehicle; that he did not import any SUV Range Rover as corroborated by all respondents.”
The panel also said it found out “that this story was cooked up with intent to embarrass the Senate President, the Senate and by extension, the National Assembly. “The complainant (Ndume) did not conduct due diligence before bringing the matter to the floor of the Senate. As a former Senate leader and a ranking senator, he (Ndume) was expected to have weighed the consequences of the allegation, carefully, investigated it before presenting it.”
Clearing Melaye, the committee submitted that he obtained a first degree in Geography from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Ekweremadu said: “I believe that lessons have been learnt from this and that going forward, we should try as much as possible to investigate matters before we make allegations or before we call the attention of the Senate of the country to those allegations. I do believe that the committee has done a good job.”
Attempts to save Ndume from being suspended were earlier defeated on the floor. Joshua Ledani (PDP, Gombe South) moved a motion that Ndume should simply be warned and made to apologise publicly to Saraki and Melaye. The motion was seconded by Ahmed Abubakar Moallayidi (APC, Adamawa Central) who said there was no reason to suspend him in the first place.
When the question was put to vote, the motion failed. Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo) then rose to propose an amendment to the original prayer of the report which recommended 181- day suspension. He suggested that it should be reduced to six months.
The motion was seconded by Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP, Delta North) and it was approved by the Senate. Nwaoboshi in seconding the motion explained that “Ndume is not just a first offender. We took a decision on the secretary to the government, he went outside and maligned the Senate.
“When the report of the Department of State Services (DSS) was read, he rose and started begging that we should send Magu back to the president to take a decision on him.
“Out of respect for him as a leader at that time, this Senate obliged him. After that, he went out to malign the Senate but he did not tell the public that he was the person who begged us. He even went further and said we should invite him and tell him why we cannot. He’s moving as a saint.”
Also yesterday, the lawmakers resolved to investigate the alleged derogatory comments made against them by the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay, in his reaction to the Senate’s insistence that President Muhammadu Buhari should act on its decision to disqualify the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.
The Senate had on Tuesday suspended consideration of Buhari’s nomination of 27 persons for appointment as Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs). It hinged its action on the President’s failure to respect its decision not to confirm the nomination of Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, as substantive chairman of the commission
In his reaction to the decision of the Senate, Sagay was reported by a national daily to have described the call on Buhari to sack Magu as “childish and irresponsible.” He was also reported to have stated that the Senate was filled with people of questionable character, who put their personal interest ahead of that of the nation.
Adopting a motion by Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Na’Allah, yesterday, the chamber referred the matter to its committee on Ethics, Privileges and Code of Conduct to investigate the matter and report back within four weeks.