Sen. Marafa’s Interview Causing Ripples In Saraki’s Camp

Chairman of the Senate Committee on National Identity and National Population, Sen. Kabiru Marafa, in this interview with TOBI AWORINDE, backs former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s call for transparency in the National Assembly

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo recently wrote a letter to Senate President Bukola Saraki, accusing the National Assembly of corruption. Do you agree with him?

Did he say the 8th Senate?

He said the National Assembly…

I remember, I saw the excerpts of the letter and he was talking about laying bare the budgets of 2000, 2005 and 2015. He was not particular about the 8th Senate, I think.

According to Obasanjo, the National Assembly illegally augmented salaries and allowances above the approved template of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission. Is this true?

I have not seen the letter written by Obasanjo, I only read it on the pages of newspapers. I learnt it was addressed to the Senate President and the Speaker (of the House of Representatives), and the Senate President did not read it on the floor of the Senate and he didn’t make it obtainable to all senators. I cannot really comment on the content; I don’t like speculation. But, I saw the response of the Senate President and he said very soon he would reply the former President. Part of what I read is that he wants the National Assembly to lay bare its budget and I think that is a genuine call. The Senate President equally agreed with the former President that we would take steps to do that in the near future.

Many Nigerians are curious as to why the National Assembly does not reveal the details of its budget. Why is it so?

I am not in the leadership, I cannot say why it is not so. But I am one of the people that believe that the National Assembly should make its budget detailed. Like I told you, the response of the Senate President seems to agree with that. This is a new government, whose purpose of existence is change — and a positive change for that matter. With the introduction of the Treasury Single Account and the introduction of the zero-based budgeting system, I think, like I always say, the National Assembly should lead by example. I believe in the call, if that is the call; I believe that is a voice of reason and the National Assembly should do the needful to make the budget available to all Nigerians to see what it is all about.

How then do you justify the N120bn to N150bn budgeted annually for the National Assembly?

That is one aspect on which I agree with Obasanjo about this budget. Sharing money should not be the basis of the performance of legislators. Maybe the less they earn the better, I don’t know. But, I think whatever he is saying is right and I support him that the National Assembly should lay bare their budget. Let everybody know what we have and what we are doing because the tragedy is that people will just look at our budget — this year, I think it is N115bn — and someone will just pick his calculator to say ‘109 senators and 360 House of Representatives members,’ punch in N115bn (divided) by these numbers and say this number of senators is getting this or that. I think that is wrong — absolutely wrong! The National Assembly is an institution; each senator and each member of the House of Representatives is entitled to about five aides, which is even too small if you are to function very well. You are expected to touch every aspect of the country. A senator or House of Representatives member is expected to be an engineer, a nurse, a doctor, everything! How many people have two or three degrees? You need to rely on some people to do some work for you; to find out some things for you, if you are to function properly. If you multiply these five aides by 109 and 360, how many people are there that they pay salaries?

Then, we have sergeant-at-arms; we have verbatim reporters, clinics, the National Institute of Legislative Studies, the Public Complaints Commission; all these are part of the National Assembly and they are being paid from those salaries. I am not defending the National Assembly but I want Nigerians to be informed so that they can ask questions like what Obasanjo asked. I think it is a step in the right direction. Bring out your budget, lay bare your budget; let us do what is the in-thing today, that is, the zero-based budgeting system. I support the zero-based budgeting system 100 per cent. Let us also key into it, so that everybody will see: Senator Marafa — this amount; senior legislative aide to Marafa is taking so-and-so amount; and the same goes for whatever I take to do my oversight work. I think the zero-based budgeting system is one of the most laudable things this administration came with and every Nigerian should support it because you can see at a glance where the problem lies and where it does not lie. The moment you look at it, you see it.

In the past, you see where a non-governmental organisation would be given about N10bn and they would just say ‘X billion naira for salary’ and you don’t know whose salary this is. Then, you have ghost workers. But with the zero-based budgeting system, you would have to come up with names. ‘I have Mr. A, he is the general manager of so-and-so place and this is his salary, all the way down to the messenger and this is the total for salaries.’ Anybody doing oversight can easily check and see who these people are. You can come and say ‘You said you have X, B, C and Y staff. Where are they? I want to see them.’ Like I said, the zero-based budgeting system is a good thing and everybody should be on board to key into it. It is very important when you compare it to what we used to have in the former envelope system. The envelope system was just an avenue to waste all of Nigeria’s money because when you need N1,000 and you are given N500, what do you do? You just end up spending it on something useless.

Is it ideal to budget N4.7bn for cars, with the economic situation that the country is facing?

(Cuts in) I have already spoken my mind on the issue of cars. I said I don’t think it is the right thing to do. We should abandon it. That is my opinion and I stand by it.

But is the National Assembly doing enough on austerity measures?

I think this is the problem with Nigerians; we tend to just say things without properly looking at the implications of everything. If you want me to function, you have to equip me very well. It is just like what we are saying about the military now: You want to send them to Sambisa (Forest); you want them to fight and you talk of austerity measures. You say you cannot buy this type of gun or that type of armoured car or that type of jet fighter and you want them to fight. You cannot have your cake and eat it. If you want the legislature to work properly, you have to equip it very well; know what you are supposed to give it and what you are supposed to deny it. I went for a course in the International Law Institute in Washington DC and one of the resource persons — a senator of about 36 years who had finished his service and was delivering lectures — told us that the chairman of the defence (committee) is entitled to 12-24 aides and eight of them are entitled to consultants of PhD level. You know the US is involved in so many military operations all over the world, and as the chairman of that committee the two of them are the ones that oversee everything the military does everywhere. For you to carry out your job properly, don’t forget that the parliament is the holder of the money; they (the lawmakers) are the ones that control the money. You will need to be well informed. You cannot do the job alone, for God’s sake!

If you look at the presidency now, Mr. President is entitled to many ministers, special advisers and so on. It is because he oversees the whole country. You cannot say because there are austerity measures, he has to now do away with two ministers or three advisers and so on. Our problem in Nigeria, honestly speaking, is not about the budgetary sums, it is the corruption that is done outside the budgetary amount; that is what Nigerians should pay attention to; that is where the problem is. It is not what you take legally. If they say ‘Pay him N10m,’ it is not the N10m that is the problem; maybe you will find out that N1bn is being misappropriated somewhere. We should pay attention to where the leakages are, not what civil servants or public servants take. What we see is not the problem. If Nigeria says ‘They should have one or two aides each,’ then, so be it. They will see the result in their performance. I think we should be bold to say that this is what we have — I am entitled to five aides and they are at different grade levels, from typist to senior legislative aide that can be an officer up to level 16. These are the people that help me to do a lot of work.

You, the press, have a lot of work to do because part of the problem is that the Nigerian public doesn’t even know the work of the legislature. It is always reduced to plenary; what is shown on the television on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. What you see in the plenary doesn’t represent (up to) 25 per cent of the work of the legislators. The bulk of the work is at committee levels — oversight, investigations, public hearings, so many things that people don’t see. But I have seen so many times when somebody would just look at the television and say if he doesn’t see so-and-so person sitting, he would say they are absent, whereas they may be doing something else somewhere.

Considering the controversy that surrounded the leadership of the 8th National Assembly, do you think the jostle for power is a justification of Obasanjo’s claims?

I don’t know but I think they are two different things when you are talking of power and budget. The jostle for power came and it ended almost immediately after the elections. What you saw recurring initially in the Senate is the constant abuse of the laws of the Senate and the laws of the country. I think, maybe, that is what you are mistaking for the jostle for power.

But there are senators and members of the House of Representatives who have been occupying seats since 1999. Shouldn’t younger people be allowed to occupy those seats?

If you look at where we borrowed this system from, like America, you have senators that have spent over 40 years occupying seats. You have members of the Congress that are occupying seats for over 40 years. The longer you stay the better. The only thing you should query is their performance and how they win elections. If they win elections freely and fairly, I don’t think there is any cause for alarm.

As our democracy takes its root, you will find out that the people that frequently change their legislators will be at the receiving end because one of the things you talked about now, which is the constant fight or jostle for power, is likely because the rules of the Senate are constantly abused. If you remember, what we said right from the beginning was that the Standing Rules were forged to pave way for the emergence of the present-day (Senate) leadership. Following that, there was an abuse in some of the rules of the Senate, which gives precedence to this issue of experience.

Seniority is an inherent thing in the legislature anywhere you go anywhere in the world —a second-timer is ahead of a first-timer; a third-timer is ahead of a second-timer — to the extent that in the United States, a new senator that comes to see a senator that is serving his 10th term — that is, in his 40th year — will not be attended to so easily. He (the new senator) will have to book an appointment. Granted, he is a colleague of the older senator, but he would have to make an appointment to see him. You don’t expect a first-timer, for instance, to be met by the Senate President, for example. The National Assembly is an institution but it is so large that you would need to know your way around it. Besides, the makers of our Constitution were not fools. They knew what they were doing when they limited the Executive arm to two terms of four years each and they didn’t put a limit on the legislature because in the legislature, you are supposed to be nurtured to mature in it to know every nook and cranny and how to go about your responsibilities.

Are you saying experienced lawmakers are better than young, new ones?

Part of what we are fighting today is the jettisoning of this issue of seniority to the advantage of newcomers, which is putting the entire Senate upside down. The issue of giving (a new set of) people the chance to (into the Assembly) come does not arise. What we should be talking about is free and fair elections. Now, if the people feel that Senator A or so-and-so member of the House of Representatives should represent them over and over again, I think that is their prerogative and they stand to benefit more. I will give you another example: let us take, for instance, Benue-South Constituency that had the Senate President. Assuming they (the constituency) bring in a new person, can that person come to become Senate President? Would you say that a constituency that has one of their own as the Senate President would not be prouder than having an ordinary senator, or maybe someone that chairs the Committee on Defence and Army or the Committee on Appropriation or the Committee on Foreign Affairs, for instance? You cannot bring in a new senator, unless there is a high rate of this attrition we are suffering now.

If there is no old senator, then there is nothing you can do. You have to make do with what you have. But you will find out that even in the international arena, you would not be respected. If, for instance, you have a first-timer as chairman of a very big and important committee and he goes on an international assignment and he meets with his foreign counterparts. If you meet a senator from the United States, the first question he will ask you is for how long have you been in the Senate? And if you tell him that it is your first time, he will just tell you, ‘Okay, I am coming.’ The next thing will be for him to send his personal assistant to attend to you because he won’t have time for you, since you wouldn’t even know anything.

In essence, I don’t think this issue of giving some people the chance to come is the right question. What we should be asking is proper voter education and free and fair elections. If the people know what they are doing and they voted the right person, I think it is to their own advantage to maintain a good person. But if the person is not performing for whatever reason, he should be removed. That is why there is election. We don’t say you are elected once for 40 years. It is not all people that are tested; some people come in the political arena as new names; nobody knows their pedigree and there are no parameters to check their performance, experience or depth. When you (new lawmakers) come on board, people will look at you, what you have done, how much you have impacted on the lives of your constituents and the nation in general, then they see whether you measure up.

Punch

Senate Leadership To Punish Anti-Saraki Senator

The tension in the senate heightened on Tuesday when some senators commenced the process of suspending the spokesperson for the  Senate President Unity Forum, Senator Kabir Marafa,  over an interview he granted and published in the last week edition of Sunday Punch.

Marafa had in the interview, expressed support for  Former President Olusegun Obasanjo over the issues he raised in his recent  letter to both chambers of the National Assembly, especially on the need to make the annual budget of the federal parliament, transparent and accessible to Nigerians.

But at the resumption of plenary after a two-week recess on Tuesday, the Senator representing Bauchi South Senatorial District, Issa Missau, drew the attention of his colleagues to the publication, which according to him, was offensive.

Coming under matters of personal privilege, Missau, alleged that Marafa, by his comments, had infringed on his rights and that of others which should elicit an instant punishment from the Senate in order to serve as deterrent to others.

He said, “Senator Kabiru Marafa granted an interview misleading the public telling lies against this institution, the Senate. I think I have been called more than 500 times from my constituency in respect of this publication.

“I am a kind of person who struggled very hard to be here in this senate and I started this journey from 2012 when I contested on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria in 2011.

“I know how much I suffered, God in his infinite mercy granted me this privilege in 2015 and I will not allow somebody who enjoyed the 7th Senate to come and not allow us  to do our work properly here.

“Mr president I think the leadership has to do something about this, the senate should do something about this. We cannot allow one person to continue to tell lies against the Senate misleading the public.

“I think it is better we take decision so that we correct things not only Marafa, anybody that is here would not be allowed to be misleading the public. I think it is not okay Mr President”

Another senator,  Matthew Urhoghide from Edo South, seconded the motion moved by Missau and called for appropriate sanctions against the Zamfara Central senator.

Urhoghide said, “I want to lend my voice to the submission that was made by Senator Misau in respect to the publication in the Punch of the interview that was granted on Senator Kabiru Marafa.

“I want to say with every vehemence and every element of responsibility,  that publication as contained in The Punch,  smeared the integrity of this house and has totally put our reputation and of course reputations of other distinguished senators here to disrepute.

“When I got calls from a very large number of my constituents in respect of that publication I felt diminished. The leadership of this house that  I have so much reverence  had been brought to total disrepute.

“Senator Missau said it took him 11 years to get to the Senate, I want to say that it took me 23 years to come to the Senate. It is common knowledge to the people in my constituency that the first time I contested senatorial election was in 1992.

“Today I am in  the senate on the platform of the PDP after 23 years. For one other senator to think and act in a manner that will reduce my person and this institution is totally unacceptable.

“I want to say we need to take a drastic decision that will serve as a deterrent to other persons that want to act  like Marafa and will bring this distinguished Senate to disrepute.

” If anybody had bothered to read that interview, you will know that it is an issue that we must not treat with kid gloves. It is an issue that we must look at very dispassionately and this is not the time to raise unnecessary passions.”

Ruling on the motion,  Senate President referred the matter to the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, to investigate and report back next week Tuesday.

In his reaction, Marafa described the issue as a welcome development, and expressed his preparedness to appear before the panel.

National Assembly And Citizens’ Participation In Budget Process

By Sanni Onogu
Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki on Wednesday February 10, 2016 took his pledge to make the 8th National Assembly open, inclusive, transparent and accountable a notch higher, when he opened the gates of the legislature to Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the labour to ventilate their thoughts, make observations and voice their recommendations on how best to ensure that the 2016 budget truly reflects the will and aspiration of Nigerians.

Saraki had in his inaugural speech on his election as Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly on June 9, 2015, said the present National Assembly would do things differently. “It will no longer be business as usual,” he said. He promised to ensure that the change agenda of the present administration is reflected in every undertaking of the National Assembly.

Towards the realization of this objective,  the Senate and House of Representatives respectively prepared and adopted a people-centred legislative agenda as a guiding light to make the members stay true and focussed on their stated objectives. It was also meant to make the National Assembly a body that truly encapsulate the wishes and concerns of the ordinary Nigerian. As a way of making the process of law making, oversight and advocacy truly participatory, Saraki utilised every opportunity to engage Nigerians. One instance of such engagement os the use of Twitter and other new media platforms  on a daily basis to inform, educate, explain the rationale for certain actions of the National Assembly and above all. to respond in real time to the genuine concerns of the people. Beside, he had also ensured that the debates of the Senate at plenary are  streamed live to Nigerians, who equally take advantage of the social media to make their contributions, ask questions and voice their concerns.

However, last Wednesday, January 10, 2015, On hand to receive the representatives of the over 100 CSOs to the National Assembly were  Saraki,  Chairman, Senate Committee on Diaspora and Civil Society Organizations, Senator Rose Okoh, Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Ibn Na’Allah, Chairman, Senate Committee on National Planning and Economic Affairs, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso; Chairman Senate Committee on Health, Senator Lanre Tejuosho; Senator Olamilekan Adeola; Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Senator John Owan, Chairman, House Committee on Civil Society Organizations and Development Partners, Hon. Peter Akpatason, who represented the Speaker of the House of Representatives and other other members of the House. Some of the CSOs that participated in the interactive session included: PLAC, CENCOJ, BudgIT, HOMEF, ActionAid, CODE, EiE Nigeria, FEPAR, BMGF, NNNGO, Oxfam, ONE Campaign, OSIWA, YIAGA, NDI, CSR in Action, among others.

The interactive session with CSOs which has been hailed both in Nigeria and in the international community as “historic and unprecedented”, according to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Diaspora and Civil Society Organizations, Senator Okoh, was meant to ensure citizen’s participation in the decision making process in the legislature, especially on the 2016 Appropriation Bill now being considered by the federal legislature, Senator Okoh in her welcome address during the programme said: “Through your capacities of reach, advocacy and data collection, your contribution to this document (2016 budget) will not only enhance our mandate of appropriation for government, but also ensure that there is citizen participation in the decision making process of government at this crucial level.”

Saraki in his remarks at the event, noted that the country has come a long way since its return to democracy in 1999. Undoubtedly, according to him, the road had been full of challenges. Consequently, he said, the task of members of the 8th National Assembly, as representatives of the people in government “is to work towards the actualization of a more effective federal system of governance.” He lamented that a cursory look at the budgets of the past 16 years showed that “ineffective implementation and abandonment of projects have caused excessive wastages that have negatively buckled the Nigerian economy.” He told the CSOs that in response to the unacceptable trend, the 8th National Assembly has stepped up its oversight functions to ensure that funds duly appropriated are spent ‘how’, ‘where’ and on ‘what’ they were earmarked for.

He further hinted that since economic diversification is crucial to the success of the nation’s economy, the National Assembly is working to enact laws that will “boost internally generated revenues by plugging the loopholes that exist in our system, and encouraging the small and medium-scale business owners in our communities.” He commended the over CSOs that participated in the interactive session for making themselves available while acknowledging  that the National Assembly counts on the input of all Nigerians to move the country to the next level in her democratic journey. “We know that the work ahead of us is necessary. We also know that the road ahead of us will be lined with challenges. However, we also know that we cannot do this alone. We need all hands on deck for this one,” Saraki said. He added that the session was meant to aggregate the wishes of Nigerians concerning governance and to address the concerns of Nigerians who had often criticized the operations of the National Assembly as being opaque, which they contended often tends to various forms of corrupt activities. On the purpose of inviting the CSOs by the National Assembly, Saraki said it was in response to citizen’s concerns and public expectations. “The 8th National Assembly through this platform and the various others that we have set up online, will continue to be accessible to you. We will work tirelessly to address your concerns’ after all, we are only here because of you,” he said.

Furthermore, the Senate President said the maiden interactive session between the National Assembly and CSOs on the 2016 budget was convened to allow both members of parliament and the CSOs to “explore new angles, consider fresh opinions and weigh new suggestions on the reasonable changes that need to be made, and on the best way to forge ahead with the 2016 appropriation process. This is not only an opportunity for you to air your views, it is also a window that has presented itself that will allow all of us to work together to pass a budget that we can all be proud of. Therefore, I urge you all to feel free to point out your genuine concerns about the budget. Know that your relevant input is crucial towards ensuring the efficiency and effectiveness of the National Assembly to pass a document that we can all be proud of. When the civil society of a nation is strong, loud and empowered – we are all better off for it. When the civil society is a part of the process – with seats of their own at the decision-making table – governments become more responsive and accountable,” he said.

After the tone for the novel engagement had been set with the above remarks, it was time for the CSOs to bring to the table their observations aimed at making the 2016 budget a realistic and implementable document. During the session that lasted for about four hours, the 2016 budget was subjected to independent and intense scrutiny and analyses by the CSOs following which they made observations and recommendations to assist the National Assembly in their role of exposing corruption and ensuring that the funds appropriated were not only realistic but that the budget is faithfully implemented in totality in the interest of the people.

The Executive Director of Centre for Global Solutions and Sustainable Development, Adebowale Adeniyi, in the executive summary he wrote on behalf of the CSOs that partook in the event, noted that the exchange was “indeed a great session, first of its kind, and a great demonstration of inclusivity and participatory governance in Nigeria by the National Assembly.” He said the CSOs had discovered that from time immemorial, budgets in Nigeria have been an up-bottom approach which is against the democratic principle and practice world-wide. “We recommended that henceforth, budget in Nigeria should be a bottom-up approach, open, transparent, all inclusive and participatory, especially at the formation stage, even at implementation and evaluation stages. That is: everybody must have a voice in it.”

Adeniyi said that the need to establish an open, inclusive and participatory budget formation is not negotiable and cannot be over emphasized. “We applaud the effort by the National Assembly towards the determination to ensuring increased participation in the process that govern our activities especially the drive towards ensuring the efficiency and effectiveness of the Senate to pass a document that we all can be proud of.” Globally, according to him, there is a growing government involvement of CSOs in budgeting “and in Nigeria, we have begun the process with this interaction with the Senate. We appreciate the partnership hands extended to us by the National Assembly towards formally institutionalizing the CSO-Legislative relationships. As CSO, we shall continue to engage the government in constructive and intellectual ways in ensuring that things are done in the right manner, especially in conformity with the international best practice,” he said.

He further declared that the CSOs who attended the event were satisfied that the National Assembly has taken it upon itself by doing the needful in ensuring that the remaining process of the budget is now open, inclusive and participatory. “We hereby applaud the opportunity given to us by the National Assembly in opening partnership channel with us the CSOs, recognizing us as important and critical elements or components to good governance and democracy at large. Also trusting our input and seeing us as voice to the voiceless and the intermediary between the government and the governed,” he said.

On his part, the Senate President pledged that the observations and inputs on the 2016 budget made by the CSOs at the session would form part of the report of the National Assembly Committees on Civil Society Organizations to the Committees on Appropriation for onward submission to Senate and House of Representatives in plenary. He called on the CSOs and Nigerians to continue to support the National Assembly, as it strives to “acquire and execute critical and suitable programs that are highly beneficial to every citizen of this nation. Everyone here will agree: we have come here today with the determination and resolve to ensure increased citizen participation in the processes that govern our activities here at the legislature. Today’s session on the 2016 Budget is the first of these series of engagements – but I assure you all – it will not be the last. As my colleagues and I have stated on multiple platforms, on previous occasions, and at various events: the National Assembly is actively working towards repositioning its efforts. These steps – though not as complete as some of you may want; and these endeavours – which may not be as perfect as all of us may wish for – are fully intended to ensure that this National Assembly works for and on behalf of every Nigerian, and for the present and future successes of our collective ‘Nigerian Project.’ These sessions might be baby steps to some, but know that little steps are the beginnings of greater outcomes that lead to the positive change that Nigerians voted for at the polls,” he said.

Onogu is the Chief Press Secretary to the Senate President.

Senate Caucuses Meet Over Saraki’s Pending Trial At The CCT

Members of the Senate met separately at various caucus levels on Monday to discuss the fate of Senate President Bukola Saraki, who is to resume his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal over alleged false declaration of assets.

It was gathered that the lawmakers discussed the issues peculiar to their interest, especially the likely effect of the trial of Saraki at the CCT.

The Supreme Court had on February 5 ruled that Saraki should face his trial over false asset declaration.

There are fears among senators, who resume plenary on Tuesday (today), which they suspended two weeks ago, that there could be another move to challenge Saraki’s leadership at the Senate over his trial.

It is further feared that Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, may be removed if they are found guilty by the CCT.

Investigations by one of our correspondents revealed that the Peoples Democratic Party caucus in the upper chamber met in the house of one of their leaders and resolved to support the Saraki/Ekweremadu joint ticket.

A PDP senator, who craved anonymity, told one of our correspondents on Monday that his colleagues had agreed to maintain decorum in case the All Progressives Congress Senators, who are against Saraki’s leadership, decide to create any scene on the floor today.

The Senator from the South-East geopolitical zone, said, “As members of the opposition, we are ready to pass another vote of confidence in Saraki because he is truly a stabilising factor in the nation’s legislature.

“He commands a lot of respect among majority of members. He is accessible and he carries everyone along, not minding your political party or group affiliation within the Senate.

“So, as PDP senators, we believe that the Senate President should be given the benefit of the doubt as he pleads his case before the tribunal.”

However, one of our correspondents learnt that the Senate Unity Forum, the group that pushed for the emergence of Senator Ahmad Lawan and George Akume as Senate President and deputy respectively, also held another marathon meeting at an undisclosed location on Monday.

None of the members spoke on record but one of them from the South-West said they met to perfect their strategy to produce the next Senate President in case Saraki was indicted at the court.

The lawmaker added, “We have been meeting as members and strategising on an individual basis. I can assure you that we have our game plan, which we will keep to ourselves.”

Asked whether the nation should expect a rowdy or stormy session during plenary today, the Senator said, “We are senior citizens, we can’t fight on the floor. We are already winning the battle; very soon, you will see us in action.”

The leadership of the Senate was also said to have engaged in another round of strategic meetings on Monday, which allegedly led to an emergency meeting between the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, and President Muhammadu Buhari at Aso Villa.

But Ndume told journalists in his office that his visit to the Villa on Monday had nothing to do with Saraki’s case as he ruled out a possible rowdy session during plenary on Tuesday (today).
He said, “I have been a friend of President Buhari for a long time and had continued to visit him and will not relent. As the Leader of the Senate, there are lots of consultations that are necessary between the executive and the legislature.

“I am happy to be seen or called a mediator: I am the Senate Leader and we do consultations, I go to do consultation and we should be doing that more often. When the President was in Kaduna on retirement, I was one of the few persons who would go to visit him; so this time round, it will not change.”

Ndume had, last Tuesday, met with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo alongside some of his colleagues while Buhari was on vacation.

SUNDAY PUNCH had reported exclusively that the visit of Ndume and his delegation to Osinbajo was part of the ways the embattled Senate President was seeking the Presidency’s intervention in his case before the Code of Conduct Tribunal over the alleged false declaration of assets.

He, however, told State House correspondents at the end of his meeting with Buhari on Monday that he was at the Presidential Villa to consult with the President ahead of Tuesday’s resumption of the Senate.
He said there was nothing unusual about his visit except that he had been embarking on similar visits in the nights.

Ndume said, “I hope you people know that I am the Senate Leader and this is an APC (All Progressives Congress) government. So if the Senate Leader comes to see the Vice President or the President in the Villa, is it supposed to be a surprise?

“I guess it is because most often, I come in the night but this time, I came in the afternoon and it becomes very strange.

“There are issues that are really on the ground. One is the budget. We also have two bills before the Senate that we need to start working on when we resume tomorrow: the Money Laundering Bill and the Criminal Information Sharing Bill.

“There are issues other than those that are really on the ground. This is how we are supposed to be doing it earlier. That is, coming to the Villa to consult and guide the proceedings in the Senate appropriately.

“Other than that, I don’t want you to see it as an unusual visit. I will be doing this often because this is how it is supposed to be.

“Again, I was consulting the President on a personal basis long before he became the President, so it is not unusual.”

When he was asked to comment on the report that he was serving as an intermediary between Saraki and the President, Ndume said, “I am not the Senate President. The question should be directed to the Senate President.”

When probed further, the Senate Leader said, “You are asking me what I do not know. I consult and if I have to mediate on anything, there should be a problem. I do not know of any problem.”

Source

Code Of Conduct Corruption Trial: Senate President Saraki Reaches Out To Buhari, Tinubu Again

Senate President Bukola Saraki has made fresh moves to reach out to President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, following the Supreme Court judgment on his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

The Supreme Court had on February 5 ruled that Saraki’s trial should continue at the CCT. The apex court had affirmed the propriety of Saraki’s trial at the CCT on 13 counts of false asset declaration.

In the 13 counts initiated by the Federal Government, Saraki was said to have made false asset declaration in his forms at the Code of Conduct Bureau as a two-term governor of Kwara State.

The CCT had on Friday said Saraki’s trial would resume on March 10.

It was reliably gathered that since February 5, Saraki had been making moves to indirectly reach out to Buhari and Tinubu.

A top government source, who confided in SUNDAY PUNCH, said Saraki could not reach out directly to Buhari on the matter because he knew the President’s disposition to such issues.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added that the Senate President resorted to sending emissaries to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo when Buhari was on a six-day vacation and Osinbajo was the acting President.

The delegation was reportedly led by the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume.

The source said the Vice-President made his position and that of the President clear to Saraki’s emissaries.

He said, “Saraki knows the kind of person the President is and I think he won’t approach him directly on this matter.

“But yes, I can tell you that he is reaching out indirectly.

“He sent emissaries to meet with the Vice-President when the President was on vacation and the Vice-President was on the chair in acting capacity.

“The emissaries had met with the Vice-President under the cover of the developments about the 2016 budget.

“In the process, they put the issue of Saraki forward.

“Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, however, made it equivocally clear to them that the two issues could not be mixed. He told them that the issue of the budget was different from the trial of Saraki.”

Ndume had on Tuesday led some of his colleagues, including Dino Melaye, Abdullahi Adamu and Monsurat Sumonu to meet Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

At the end of the closed-door session, Ndume told State House correspondents that the meeting reviewed some developments in the polity, including the issue of the 2016 budget currently before the National Assembly.

While saying that it would not be a new thing if people read meanings into their visit, Ndume had claimed that his delegation did not discuss Saraki’s travails with the Vice-President.

He was however quick to rise in support of the Senate President when his opinion was sought on the calls by his colleagues in the Unity Forum that Saraki should resign.

“Are you saying that the Senate President should be convicted before the trial? In our constitution, you are considered innocent until proven guilty,” he had said.

For Tinubu, it was gathered that Saraki had reached out to not less than 10 opinion leaders and clerics to visit the APC leader at his home in Bourdillon, Ikoyi, Lagos.

Saraki and Tinubu fell out in June last year when he defied the directive of the APC and became the Senate President under controversial circumstances.

The Senate President further ensured that Tinubu’s preferred candidates were denied principal offices at the Senate.

The former governor of Lagos State subsequently broke all communication with Saraki, describing him in an open letter as an ‘indisciplined and disloyal man who is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party in soul.’

Another reliable source told one of our correspondents that Tinubu was not interested in Saraki’s latest peace moves.

He said, “Access from Saraki’s camp has been blocked. Tinubu has been disappointed in every way. It was the party that picked Ahmed Lawan. He was not Tinubu’s initial candidate but he did it all the same.

“So, he has decided to (wash his) hands and will not say a word again regarding Saraki.

“Efforts have intensified since Saraki’s recent CCT trouble but Tinubu has been out of the country. He has been in Guinea for the last five days.

“We have been informed that Saraki is working with a team of people in Ilorin that will storm Lagos. Top leaders there including Muslim clerics are being put together to visit Lagos and mediate on his behalf but Tinubu is not interested.”

He added, “There is no deal to be made anymore. Saraki never conceded anything. He did not give any of our people any principal position. He then went ahead to increase the number of Senate committees by fiat just to placate those that have been following him to court.

“Every concession was denied. The approval of ministers had nothing to do with Tinubu. It was purely between him and President Muhammadu Buhari.

“Tinubu has moved on. He has been visiting African countries, supporting other democracies in West Africa.”

“Saraki should go and get good lawyers. As you can see, attempts to remove the CCT chairman did not work. Attempts to stop the trial at the Supreme Court have also failed.”

All attempts to reach the spokesperson for Tinubu, Mr. Sunday Dare, proved abortive as he did not respond to repeated telephone calls.

Saraki meets Buhari regularly — Aide

When contacted, the Special Adviser to the Senate President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Yusuf Olaniyonu, said on Saturday that his principal had been having regular meetings with the President in recent times on national issues.

Olaniyonu, who spoke with one of our correspondents on telephone cited the most recent when both leaders jointly hosted the German President at the Aso Rock villa on Thursday night.

Saraki’s spokesperson however, said the regular parleys between Saraki and Buhari were purely on issues of national interest.

He said, “These two gentlemen hold two critical arms of government and they need to meet regularly to discuss issues of national importance.

“The issue of budget is there, insurgency and the economy generally. How can anybody think the Senate President will be seeking audience with the President on the issue of the CCT when there are serious national issues calling for attention?”

When asked if Saraki would reach out to the President, Olaniyonu said, “No comment.”

Before his recent moves to reach out to the President and Tinubu, Saraki had been facing renewed opposition from the Senate Unity Forum led by Senator Ahmed Lawan.

Lawan was supported for the senate presidency by the APC leaders and some party senators, while Saraki got the backing of all Peoples Democratic Party senators and some APC senators to emerge as senate president last year. Last week, the Lawan faction regrouped in a bid to force Saraki to resign.

Punch

Tension, Anxiety In Senate As Saraki Keeps Date With Destiny

As Nigerians await both the resumption of plenary at the Senate next week and the full commencement of the trial of Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, any moment from now, SUNDAY ABORISADE reports that uneasy calm pervades the atmosphere at the upper chamber of the nation’s federal parliament

The Supreme Court verdict of last week Friday which gave a nod to the trial of Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, for allegedly declaring on oath, assets he had yet to acquire as of the time he was sworn-in as the Governor of Kwara State in 2003, has heightened tension and anxiety among members of the red chamber.

The development took everyone by surprise, coming especially at a time when all hands seemed to be on the deck at the upper chamber with all the 65 committees chaired by both loyalists of the Senate president and those who are opposed to his leadership, have started carrying on legislative activities in an atmosphere of peace and harmony, putting behind them the leadership crisis that rocked the chamber at inauguration.

Indications that Saraki had fully established himself among his colleagues manifested when no fewer than 83 out of the 109 senators passed a vote of confidence in him in July last year following his prosecution at the CCT.

Some of his loyalists across the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party in the chamber openly mobilised themselves to the court in solidarity and pledged their loyalty.
The Anti-Saraki senators, under the aegis of the Senate Unity Forum, cried foul at the decision of Saraki to continue to preside over the chamber instead of resigning his position on moral grounds having been docked by the tribunal for an alleged criminal act.

An attempt by the spokesperson for the SUF, Senator Kabir Marafa, to raise a point of order on the floor on the issue was frustrated by Saraki, who used the gavel to rule him out of order on the grounds that any matter pending before a court of law could not be subjected to a debate on the floor.

Saraki’s Like Minds Senators thereafter appeared to be winning the game of supremacy between them and the SUF, as most of the arrow heads of the “Ahmad Lawan for Senate President” group were appointed as chairmen of “juicy committees”, a development which drastically reduced their attacks and opposition to Saraki’s Senate presidency.

The last straw which seemed to have broken the camel’s back, however, was during the screening of the ministerial nominees contained in two separate list forwarded to the Senate by President Muhammadu Buhari. Both the like minds senators and their colleagues in the SUF closed ranks and worked closely to ensure that all the candidates were cleared despite opposition from the PDP senators against some cases.

Saraki consolidated the stability of the chamber which he achieved during the ministerial nominees’ screening exercise when all the SUF members he appointed to key committees as either chairmen or members gladly grabbed the posts with the exception of Marafa, who turned down the chairmanship of the Committee on National Identity and National Population allocated to him.

Many observers, therefore, saw the verdict of the Supreme Court as an anticlimax coming at a time when membership of the SUF had suffered a great depletion with only a handful of them appeared to be still showing a strong commitment to the struggle as others had started identifying with the Saraki’s leadership.

Investigations by our correspondent revealed that the SUF had stopped holding regular meetings for a very long time before the apex court ruling which gave the members a ray of hope that their ambition might be realised after all if Saraki should lose his case at the court.

Further checks also revealed that the SUF had now regrouped and are perfecting strategies to draw local and international attention to the implication of Saraki still presiding over the affairs of the Senate while facing criminal prosecution.

Some members of the group confided in our correspondent that they would not create any scene on the floor because the issue of removing Saraki as the Senate president would be an uphill task since a majority of the senators were of the view that the man is presumed innocent until otherwise decided by a competent court of law.

However, Marafa, who spoke with our correspondent after the verdict of the apex court last Friday, demanded the immediate resignation of the Senate president to enable him to concentrate on his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

He nevertheless explained that Saraki was free to return as a presiding officer after his case at the CCT. Marafa noted that the image of the Senate and the entire Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria would continue to be battered in the public view if Saraki continues to preside over the affairs of the red chamber while answering criminal charges at the courts.

Marafa said, “We really pity the Senator Bukola Saraki, but I think this issue has dragged for too long. We have indulged him thus far because we believe that he is presumed innocent until otherwise decided by a competent court of law.

“Now that the Supreme Court has decided that he has a case to answer, I think that the best thing for Senator Saraki is to resign in order to face his trial.

“He could, however, return and contest as a presiding officer in the chamber if he is declared innocent by the court, but at the moment, the leadership of the Senate should ask him to step aside.

“At the moment, the image of the Senate does not worth anything in the eyes of Nigerians because of the attitude of its president, who ordinarily should have resigned in a sane clime.

“However, if the Senate president refuses to resign and neither the leadership nor the entire Senate mounts any pressure on him to do so, and then we will call on Nigerians to recall all their representatives in the Senate because we have failed in our responsibilities.
“We have tried to him enough. We can no longer wait and watch someone who is answering criminal cases in court come out of the dock always to preside over the affairs of the Senate.”
However, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, who moved the motion which led to the vote of confidence passed in Saraki last year,   said that calls for Saraki’s resignation at this stage was uncalled for.
Anyanwu, a member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, told our correspondent that the issue of factions among members of the Senate ended when over 80 senators across the two main political parties in the red chamber passed a vote of confidence in the Senate president.

Likewise, some senators across the two main political parties in the upper chamber expressed divergent opinions on the calls for the resignation of Saraki.

A good number of the lawmakers believed that Saraki should have resigned while others asked him to stay on until his fate would have been decided by the CCT.

For instance, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Science and Technology, Senator Robert Boroffice, said he would have resigned if he were in Saraki’s shoes in order to save the image and integrity of the Senate.

He said, “My position is not personal. I have nothing personal against the Senate president but what I am saying is that if the matter had happened in advanced countries and if I was in his shoes at the moment, I would have resigned.”

Boroffice, however, urged his colleagues to approach the matter with caution by allowing justice to take its course, adding that the country could not afford any major crisis in the Senate.

But the Chairman, Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, said calls for Saraki’s resignation were unnecessary.

He said, “Let me be quoted unequivocally that the Senate president enjoys a stronger support in the National Assembly. Whoever, in his or her dream, thinks there is a way to call for his resignation should understand that such dream can never come true by blackmail but the channel of the Senate Chamber.

“We shall continue to respect the rule of law and the constitution of our country. On the heels of these, we are very hopeful that the Senate president would come out of these politically-motivated controversies innocent and victorious.”

Ibrahim said his interaction with senators indicated that their solidarity with Saraki remains stronger than ever.

He said, “We cannot deny having heard of some renewed hallucinations in the media trailing the ruling by the Supreme Court. Let me state in clearer terms, immediately that our colleagues remain firm in their support for the Senate President.

“From what we have experienced in the 8th Senate particularly the leadership and the concord pattern it has drawn among its members, it is not hidden from Nigerians that Saraki is loved beyond imaginations.

“Not just that, his leadership remains the centre of unity in the Senate. It must be noted that the rapid feats of the present legislature is not disconnected from the innovative ideas introduced by Saraki which has always received a warm welcome and support from the well-meaning members of the eight Senate.

“As a member of the Senate and a true Nigerian, I’m no way surprised to see comments accredited to Senator Kabir Marafa of the ‘defunct’ Unity Forum. To me, those agitations reflect nothing but the mirage on the path of a man who is been taken for a jester on the floor of the eighth Senate.”

Other senators who spoke with our correspondent on the issue though on the condition of anonymity, expressed different opinions on the calls for his resignation.

For instance, a senator from the South-East said Saraki should be allowed to continue with his work since the case against him was a mere allegation while another from the North-East said he should step aside for now.

The incident, however, generated increased public discourse early in the week as both the SUF members and their colleagues in Saraki’s camp held separate meetings to strategise over the new development.

The senators rose from their meetings and threatened a showdown at the resumption of plenary next Tuesday if the issue of resignation was raised by any senator or group of senators.

Investigations by our correspondent revealed that the trouble started when some pro-Saraki senators held a meeting on Sunday evening and decided to issue a statement declaring the full support of the upper chamber for the embattled Senate President.

The pro-Saraki senators incurred the wrath of their colleagues in the SUF, when the statement, signed by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, indicated that it was the position of the entire members of the red chamber.

But a ranking senator from the South-West, who is also a strong member of the SUF, told our correspondent on the condition of anonymity that the press release did not represent the opinion of the Senate.

The senator, who said the South West caucus would react officially at the appropriate time on the issue, accused the Senate spokesperson of abuse of office as he was only expected to make public, the resolution of the Senate taken at plenary by either simple majority or two-third majority.

The spokesperson for the SUF, Senator Kabir Marafa, expressed shock at the contents of the press statement.

He said, “In as much as I want the whole world to know that members of the SUF do not have any personal problem with the Senate president, we believe that as lawmakers, we should respect the law. I am not aware of any meeting of senators where that decision was taken and we are not part of it.”

Another member of the SUF from the North-Central said the group would make its position known at the appropriate time.

He said, “We will definitely pass our message across to the Senate using the normal channels. We will not join issues with anyone on the pages of newspapers.”

 

Punch

CCT Will Begin Saraki’s Trial On March 10

Having failed to persuade the Supreme Court to save him from prosecution, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, will on March 10, appear before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, in Abuja, to face corruption charges the federal government preferred against him.

Saraki whose appeal was thrown out by a seven-man panel of Justices of the apex court on February 5, is answering to a 13-count criminal charge bordering on his alleged false declaration of assets.

The apex court panel headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohamed, had in a unanimous judgment, maintained that Saraki has a criminal case to answer, even as it upheld an earlier verdict of the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal which okayed the Senate President for prosecution before the CCT.

Already, the CCT panel which is headed by Justice Danladi Umar, has issued and served hearing notices on all the parties.

The notices were sequel to a letter that was written on behalf of the Federal Government by the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, which notified the tribunal of the judgment of the Supreme Court for the trial to proceed.

It will be recalled that Saraki had after the apex court dismissed as lacking in merit, the appeal he filed with a view to stopping his trial, said he would have his day in the court to prove his innocence of the charge pending against him.

He however expressed his disappointment with the judgment of the apex court which he said was only invited “to rule on some preliminary issues in the process of commencing the trial”.

Saraki was in the charge before the CCT, marked ABT/01/15 and dated September 11, 2015, accused of ‎breaching section 2 of the ‎CCB and Tribunal Act, an offence punishable under section 23(2) of the Act and paragraph 9 of the said Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

Vanguard

Ineffective Implementation Of Past Budgets Bane Of The Economy – Saraki

…As NASS Engages CSOs on the 2016 budget

Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki on Wednesday said that the ineffective implementation of past budgets and abandonment of projects have led to wastages that have negatively affected the nation’s economy in the last 16 years.

Saraki who stated this in his speech during the National Assembly’s interactive session with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on the 2016 budget in Abuja, said in response to the unacceptable trend, the 8th National Assembly has stepped up its oversight functions to ensure that funds are spent ‘how’, ‘where’ and on ‘what’ they were earmarked for.

Furthermore, he noted that as economic diversification is crucial to the success of the nation’s economy, the National Assembly is working to pass laws that will “boost internally generated revenues by plugging the loopholes that exist in our system, and encouraging the small and medium-scale business owners in our communities.”

Saraki who commended the over 100 CSOs that participated in the interactive session, said: “We know that the work ahead of us is necessary. We also know that the road ahead of us will be lined with challenges. However, we also know that we cannot do this alone. We need all hands on deck for this one.

“In this regard, in response to citizen’s concerns and public expectations, the 8th National Assembly through this platform and the various others that we have set up online,  will continue to be accessible to you. We will work tirelessly to address your concerns’ after all, we are only here because of you,” he said.

According to the Senate President, the maiden interactive session between the National Assembly and CSOs on the 2016 budget was convened to allow both members of parliament and the CSOs to “explore new angles, consider fresh opinions and weigh new suggestions on the reasonable changes that need to be made, and on the best way to forge ahead with the 2016 appropriation process.

“This is not only an opportunity for you to air your views, it is also a window that has presented itself that will allow all of us to work together to pass a budget that we can all be proud of.

“Therefore, I urge you all to feel free to point out your genuine concerns about the budget. Know that your relevant input is crucial towards ensuring the efficiency and effectiveness of the National Assembly to pass a document that we can all be proud of.

“When the civil society of a nation is strong, loud and empowered – we are all better off for it. When the civil society is a part of the process – with seats of their own at the decision-making table – governments become more responsive and accountable,” he said.

The Senate President also pledged that the observations and inputs on the 2016 budget made by the CSOs at the session would form part of the report of the Senate Committee on Diaspora and Civil Society Organizations to the Senate Committee on Appropriation for onward submission to Senate in plenary.

He called on the CSOs and Nigerians to continue to support the National Assembly, as it strives to “acquire and execute critical and suitable programs that are highly beneficial to every citizen of this nation. 

“These sessions might be baby steps to some, but know that little steps are the beginnings of greater outcomes that lead to the positive change that Nigerians voted for at the polls,” he said.

Earlier in her address, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Diaspora and Civil Society Organizations, Senator Rose Oko, urged the CSOs to work with the National Assembly to ensure that there is citizen’s participation in the 2016 Appropriation Bill.

“Through your capacities of reach, advocacy and data collection, your contribution to this document (2016 budget) will not only enhance our mandate of appropriation for government, but also to ensure that there is citizen participation in the decision making process of government at this crucial level,” Senator Oko stated.

Over 300 participants representing different CSOs and NGOs attended the session. Some of the CSOs that participated in the interactive session include: PLAC, CENCOJ, BudgIT, HOMEF, ActionAid, CODE, EiE Nigeria, FEPAR, BMGF, NNNGO, Oxfam, ONE Campaign, OSIWA, YIAGA, NDI, CSR in Action, among others. 

CCT Trial: Saraki Should Resign His Position As Senate President – CACOL

The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL, has called for the resignation of Senate President, Bukola Saraki as he battles to save his face when he faces the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) trial.

CACOL took a swipe at some lawmakers making disproportionate comment to shield Saraki from being prosecuted.

CACOL, in a statement signed by Debo Adeniran, its Executive Chairman, said it is disappointing to continue to watch some supposed senators exhibit such shamelessness and lack of morality the way they had been doing since the start of the ‘SarakiGate’.

“CACOL finds it unintelligent for some people to continue to adduce ‘political vendetta or witch hunting’ as the reason behind the trials and travails of corruption suspects with reckless abandon for the gravity of the charges against the suspects.

“We ask why the loyalists of these corruption suspects won’t wait till their hero/es are discharged and acquitted before grandstanding and shamelessly displaying their immorality. For us, we commend the members of the Senate who are distancing themselves from the stain of corruption in line with our belief in shunning, shaming, naming and nailing corruption suspects.’

“CACOL believes that the Senate as the Upper Chamber of the law making arm of the Federal government should be conscious of its image in the minds of the people they were elected to serve in terms of integrity, legitimacy and acceptability of its decisions as whatever comes out an institution headed by a suspected criminal would be received with suspicion.

“The truth is that the wheel of justice may be slow, but it eventually catches up with the guilty. From the facts of the case available in public domain, the honourable thing that the Senate President should do is to resign or step aside for his name to be cleared,’’ Adeniran said.

“The history of the Nigerian Senate since 1999 is replete with similar scenarios to the present one and we remember how the Senate Presidents that got entangled in corrupt cases ended. It was only Adolphus Wabara that took the honourable path of resigning in 2005, while Evan Enwerem and Chuba Okadigbo were shamed out of office via impeachments in 1999 and 2000 respectively,’’ he stated.

Though Declared Wanted, Saraki’s Minion Drags EFCC To Court

In a bid to forestall his arrest and detention, Dr Kennedy Izuagbe, the managing director of Carlisle Properties Investment Limited, owned by Senate President Bukola Saraki, has dragged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before a Federal high court in Lagos, south west Nigeria.

Joined as co-defendants in the ensuing legal battle are Director of Operations of EFCC,Olaolu Adegbite and the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.

Izuagbe, in a statement in support of the application to enforce his fundamental right filed before the court by Mahmud Magaji SAN, stated that he was first invited by EFCC on the 13th of November 2014 and after series of interrogations he did not hear from EFCC until 29th of April 2015 when he was again invited.

EFCC requested for some documents including the one relating to how the Senate President,Dr Olusola Saraki purchased his landed properties that Carlisle Property and Investment Limited, manages but he told them that the landed properties and information relating thereto can only be properly addressed by Dr Saraki himself.

Izuagbe stated that he was surprised to read on pages of newspapers how EFCC has been manipulating media perception to the effect that the portfolio of his company could have been derived from the public service proceed of its beneficial owners.

On 26th of August 2015 while he was in United States on holiday, he was informed that EFCC came to the headquarters of his company with lorry load of policemen and ransacked their offices and carted away several documents.

Consequently,based on the foregoing,he is approaching the court for an order directing the EFCC from further intimidating and harassing him and the company’s law abiding staff.

A counter affidavit sworn to by EFCC legal officer, Israel Akande and filed before the court by Barrister K M A Olusesi,denied almost all the averments in Dr Izuagbe’s suit.

Akande declared in the counter-statement that the commission is investigating a case of money laundering involving Dr Olusola Saraki where it discovered several lodgements of cash and monetary instruments by companies linked to Dr Bukola Saraki and regular cash inflows into his personal account by his aides and other yet to be identified persons totaling N15billion and another S13 million.

Mr Akande averred further that the situation peaked on 26th October,2009 when 88 different persons paid sums into Dr Bukola Saraki’s account on the same day totaling N80million and investigation commenced to unravel the sources of the fund.

In the course of investigation, it was discovered that Dr Kennedy Izuagbe was the managing Director of Carlisle Properties and Investment,company that received funds from several individuals and over 150 companies which funds were moved to Dr Bukola Saraki’s accounts and that,DrKennedy Izuagbe acting on behalf of his principal,Dr Bukola Saraki directed that the inflows into the company account be wired offshore to the beneficial owners.

Based on the investigation being conducted and considering the weighty allegations levelled against Dr Izuagbe,he was invited by the anti-graft agency with a view to obtaining his reaction to the allegations. He made voluntary statement and was asked him to report back.

However during the course of investigation he broke the news of his mother’s death and was allowed to go on compasssionate grounds.

Thereafter he went incommunicado and all efforts to get him proved abortive as his phone was no longer through hence hampering the course of investigation.

When all effort to reach him proved abortive,warrant of arrest was secured for his arrest.

Consequently,Mr Akande averred that EFCC is statutorily empowered to cause investigation to be conducted as to whether any person, corporate body or organisation has committed any economic or financial crimes.

Therefore,restraining EFCC from further investigations into economic or financial crimes reported to it will send a wrong signals to criminally minded persons who may want to violate the law of the land with impunity and hide under the protection of the court. Consequently urged court to refuse to accede to the request of the applicants.

When the matter was mentioned, the two parties were not in court. In view of this development the court was unable to fix any date for hearing.

PM News

Supreme Court Judgement: Resign Now, Falana Tells Saraki

Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, on Saturday, asked the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, to resign his position in order to preserve the integrity of the National Assembly.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria, in an interview with our correspondent, said the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court would add value to the battle against corruption.

Citing an instance involving a former Senate President, the late Chuba Okadigbo, Falana asked Saraki to resign having undertaken to prove his innocence before the CCT.

He said, “Having undertaken to prove his innocence at the Code of Conduct Tribunal Senator Saraki should resign as Senate president so as to preserve the integrity of the National Assembly.

“When Senators Chuba Okadigbo and Adolphus Wabara were indicted they were made to step down as Senate presidents.”

This comes amid indications that senators opposed to the Senate President under the aegis of the Senate Unity Forum had regrouped to force Saraki out of the seat.

The Supreme Court had on Friday dismissed the appeal by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, challenging the validity of his trial on charges of assets declaration preferred against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

A seven-man panel of the apex court presided over by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, unanimously ruled that Saraki’s appeal against the jurisdiction of the trial and competence of the charges lacked merit.

Justice Walter Onnoghen, who read the lead judgment, held that contrary to Saraki’s contention, the Danladi Umar-led Code of Conduct Tribunal was validly constituted by two members.

Justice Onnoghen also held that the tribunal was by the provisions of its enabling laws and the Constitution conferred with the quasi-criminal jurisdiction and thus could validly issue a bench warrant.

He thus held that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 was applicable to the proceedings of the tribunal.

Saraki, who said the Supreme Court judgment was disappointing, however, said he would have his day in court and that “at the end of the day, the truth will prevail, and justice will be served.”

Punch