Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Bid to dock Saraki, Ekweremadu: Buhari has turned into a dictator – Senate

ABUJA— Outrage overflowed in the two chambers of the National Assembly, yesterday, over bid to arraign the two presiding officers of the Senate for alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Rules 2015, with the Senate pointedly accusing President Muhmmadu Buhari of turning into a dictator. Saraki and Ekweremadu Saraki and Ekweremadu Following a four-hour closed-door session, the Senate in a unanimous resolution, summoned the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to appear before its Committee on Judiciary within two days, even as senators across party lines affirmed that the Rule Book, allegedly forged, remains authentic. The Senate resolution also claimed a plot by the Presidency to remove its leadership through what it described as a coup. The indignation in the Senate over the planned arraignment of Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, also spilled over to the House of Representatives, which in a similar resolution, called on the President to keep to the constitution in his decisions in order not to abort the nation’s democracy. Similarly, the PDP caucuses in the Senate and House of Representatives, in separate meetings, also lambasted the Presidency, with the PDP senators resolving, henceforth, to stop all manner of cooperation with the All Progressives Congress, APC-led administration. The PDP House caucus at a press conference in the National Assembly building, vowed to resist any plot to remove the presiding officers of the Senate, describing it as an attempt to foist a dictatorship on the country. Meanwhile, the reality of the showdown crystallized, yesterday, evening as judicial officials pasted the summons on Saraki and Ekweremadu to appear before the Federal High Court on June 27. The summons was pasted by way of substituted service, and it became the first time the two men were formally being notified of their prosecution. The Senate resolution followed a four-hour closed door session presided over by Senator Ekweremadu. Senate summons Attorney-General Following the session, Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West), upon a matter of urgent public importance, raised a motion accusing the Buhari administration of attempting to change the leadership of the Senate by muzzling the legislative arm. The motion, which was adopted unanimously without dissent, warned that the Senate might be compelled to withdraw its support for the administration if it continued to interfere in its domestic affairs. The Senate said the attorney-general must appear to “justify with evidence the basis for his action and why it does not constitute gross misconduct, incompetence, contempt of court and abuse of office.” It insisted that the “Senate Rule 2015 was not forged” and that “it is the authentic rule of the Senate.” The motion, tagged: “Motion on the imminent threat to our democracy as it relates to the alleged invitation of our principal officers by the court in Abuja,” asked the Senate to rise and defend democracy. Melaye’s motion went further: “This Senate notes further that the judiciary had through several rulings in a recent case suit no AFC/ABJ/CS/646/2015 on the same issue, warned the executive arm from treading the path of criminalising or interfering in the running of the internal affairs of the Senate. “This Senate, therefore, acknowledges the grave implications this emerging trend poses to the security, continued existence, unity, and survival of our dear country. “This Senate is aware that the legislature is subject to provisions of the constitution to regulate its procedures as explicitly stated in Section 60 of the Nigerian Constitution, which we have all sworn to uphold.” He said he was disturbed that instead of “applying itself to the myriads of problems confronting the nation, including the escalating cost of living, extremism, worsening insecurity, rising ethnic divisions, skyrocketing unemployment, declining national productivity and an economy nose-diving into recession, the executive continued to be hell-bent on chasing rats while the federation burns.” Upon that and other resolutions, the Senate declared that if its rules were fake, then the treatments the President had received using the same rules were fake. No condition is permanent — Ekweremadu Ekweremadu, who presided over the day’s session, warned that “those who use their public office today to persecute others must realise that there is no condition that is permanent. “I don’t intend to say much because I’m involved. I just want to add that those who use their public office today to persecute others must realise that no condition is permanent.“ All senators, who took turns to contribute to the motion, accused the executive of unnecessary interference in the affairs of the National Assembly, warning it to steer clear. House condemns move The House of Representatives, in its resolution on the issue, also charged the Presidency to always abide by provisions of the constitution of the country and not do anything that would jeopardise the nation’s democracy. The House resolution was upon a motion sponsored by Tajudeen Ayo Yusuf (Kabba-Bunu/Ijumu, Kogi State), entitled ‘Urgent need to safeguard the nation’s democracy and protect the integrity and independence of the National Assembly.” The motion, which was unanimously carried, also tasked President Buhari to call his attorney-general to order. The resolution said the move to arraign the two presiding officers of the Senate was an attempt to dabble into matters wholly the internal affairs of the Senate. According to the House, the alleged meddlesomeness of the executive is a deliberate and concerted attack on the National Assembly to render it useless in the eyes of the general public, adding that “if this ugly trend continues unabated, it will be detrimental to good governance and highly damaging to our democracy.” No more co-operation with APC govt — PDP senators Meanwhile, PDP senators, yesterday, said they had brought their one-year romance with the government to an end, noting that the government’s actions towards their party members so far, since taking over the central government, were enough agonies to pull out their support. The senators kept the outcome of their meeting secret as they resolved to communicate their new position to the national leadership of the party, yesterday evening after which it would be publicly announced at a press conference today. To this end, a source at the meeting, who spoke to Vanguard, said a delegation, comprising one senator from each geo-political zone with Senator Ekweremadu, was mandated to take the position of the PDP Senate caucus to the leadership and report back today. ‘We are expecting them to report back the outcome tomorrow (today) and from there, you would hear our position formally at a news briefing, ‘’ he said. After a similar meeting of the PDP caucus in the House of Representatives, the Representatives vowed to stop any attempt to illegally remove the Senate leadership. PDP Reps condemn arraignment Briefing journalists in Abuja, following the closed-door meeting, PDP House leader, Leo Ogor condemned the moves in the Senate, saying it was an attempt to erode the independence of the legislature against the principles of separation of powers as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Ogor, who relied on the ruling by Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court in suit, No. FHC/ABJ/CS/646/2015 between Senator Gilbert Nnaji, Plaintiff/Applicant and the Inspector-General of Police, Attorney-General of the Federation who were Defendant/Respondents respectively, challenged the executive to provide instances where the presiding officers had hands in the amendment of the Senate Standing Rule. “Democracy thrives on mutual respect and co-operation among the three arms of government. Therefore, the executive arm of government has no business whatsoever meddling in the internal affairs of the legislature. Each of the houses of the National Assembly since 1999 has always had its rules produced by the management of the National Assembly, hence Senate Standing Orders 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 in the instance of the Senate.” The caucus also noted that Senator Ekweremadu ceased to be a Senator from the 4th of June 2015 when the 7th Senate adjourned sine dine until he was inaugurated alongside other members of the 8th Senate on 9th June 2015. The caucus, therefore, wondered how the production of Senate Order issued for the inauguration of the Senate would be any business of his, adding that the two were never accused by any panel of inquiry or the purported petition to the police. It said: “It is equally instructive that Senator Ekweremadu and the Senate President were neither accused nor mentioned by the Senators who petitioned the police; Senators and bureaucrats who made statements during the investigation; and even the police in its report. “We, therefore, challenge the Attorney-General of the Federation to tell Nigerians how it came about the names of Senator Ike Ekweremadu and Senator Bukola Saraki in the lawsuit or how a legal practitioner of his ranking preferred criminal charges against presiding officers of the National Assembly without according them a fair hearing,” the caucus submitted. Meanwhile, the South East caucus in the House has also decried what it described as an attempt to blacklist the South East at the federal level with the recent plot to arraign the highest Igbo person in government, Senator Ekweremadu. Leader of the South-East caucus in the House of Representatives and Deputy Minority Leader, Chukwuma Onyema, stated that the South-East had been “marginalised, brutalised and it is targeted at Ekweremadu because he is from the South East. “This administration has shown resentment for the South East. Go to appointments; South East is systematically shut out.” A statement by the caucus called on “all well-meaning Northern elders, federal legislators, and the international community to rise in the defence of our nascent democracy. “There is currently no one of South East origin in President Muhammadu Buhari’s kitchen cabinet and the distribution of other appointments such as ministerial appointments leaves no one in doubt that this government has an incurable hatred for Ndigbo.” Continuing the caucus said, “This latest onslaught is being carried out through trumped-up forgery charges already before the Federal Capital Territory High Court.” Meanwhile, the Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday officially summoned Saraki, Ekweremadu, former clerk to the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa and outgoing Deputy Clerk, Ben Efeturi, over their involvement in the alleged forgery of Senate Standing Orders. The summons were effected through a substituted service which was pasted at the corridor along the Senate President’s office. According to the summons, Saraki, Ekweremadu, Maikasuwa and Efeturi are to appear before the court on Monday, June 27. Parts of the summons read: “By oral application dated 21st June 2016 moved by D.E Kaswe, Principal State Counsel Federal Ministry of Justice, in this case, praying the court for: “An order of this Honourable Court granting leave to the complainant/ applicant to serve the criminal summon on the defendants by substituted means to wit by pasting it at the Notice Board of the National Assembly Three Arms Zone, Abuja. “And after hearing D.E Kaswe with A.A Kaltingo Esq, Counsel for the Complainant/Applicant moved the court orally for the above relief “ Also included in the summons were statements volunteered by Maikasuwa and Efeturi on the matter. Maikasuwa in his statement said: “The Senate Standing Orders used in Seventh Senate was not known to me. The Clerk of the Senate is in position to know. I was not aware of the amendment made to the Standing Rules.” Also, in his statement, Efeturi said the Senate Leadership handed the 2015 Standing Rules as amended by their convention and practice to him. “The Senate Leadership handed the 2015 standing rules as amended by their convention and practice. Standing Orders 2003, 2007, and 2011 followed similar practice, “he said.