Melaye’s Arrest: Police Disregarding The Sanctity Of NASS – Senators

Members of the National Assembly have said that the arrest and detention in hospital of Senator Dino Melaye (APC – Kogi West), destroys the sanctity of the chamber.

The senators have been showing support for their colleague, Melaye, who is currently embroiled in a face-off with the police.

The senators, in various ways, argued that Melaye is being being “intimidated and targeted,” saying the entire saga is “an abuse of democracy.”

The senators shared their solidarity statements on the verified Twitter handle of The Nigerian Senate.

It may be recalled that Senator Melaye was arrested at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, on his was to Morocco on Monday.

The police later laid a siege to his private residence in the evening of Monday.

On Tuesday, Melaye was being taken to Lokoja, Kogi State by the security agents when he jumped down from the police and was injured.

The events were recorded on videos, which found their ways to the social media.

However, Melaye’s colleagues in the Senate contend that the events did not only insult one of their own, it is also an abuse of democracy.

Statements came variously from senators Oluremi Tinubu, Shehu Sani, Ibrahim Gobir, Isah Misau and Joshua Lidani, among others.

Melaye, who is on admission on health grounds at the National Hospital, Abuja, is currently being visited by some of his colleagues, led by Senate President Bukola Saraki.

See their tweets below:

The Nigerian Senate

@NGRSenate

Senator Chukwuka Utazi states that Senator @dino_melaye has rights and as such, coercion will not work. “Due process should be followed if anyone seeks to oppose.”

The Nigerian Senate

@NGRSenate

“It was only an allegation against Senator @dino_melaye and since the matter is still in court, he should not be forced to go to Kogi.”- Senator @IsahMisau

The Nigerian Senate

@NGRSenate

“Senator @dino_melaye is being deprived of his fundamental human rights. This could happen to all of us some day.”- Senator Ibrahim Gobir

The Nigerian Senate

@NGRSenate

Senator @ShehuSani states his concern about systematic factors in the country and that all should remember there is no permanence in power. “What happened to Senator @dino_melaye is an abuse of power”.

The Nigerian Senate

@NGRSenate

Senator Sam Anyawu cites Order 43 and speaks on the incident that occurred yesterday, saying that Senator @dino_melaye was treated as a common criminal and also states that himself and his colleagues were denied access to Senator Dino in the National Hospital.

The Nigerian Senate

@NGRSenate

Senator Aliero Adamu condemns the way Senator @dino_melaye was arrested and embarrassed, held by SARS like a common criminal. “If this can happen to a serving Senator, Democracy is being rubbished.”

The Nigerian Senate

@NGRSenate

“We did not vote this Government to abuse democracy.  I condemn shameful act totally invite all those involved to speak to us and this case openly to the public.”- Senator Ubali Shitu

The Nigerian Senate

@NGRSenate

“Senator @dino_melaye is a very vocal person, he is being intimidated and targeted. It is clear that Dino Melaye is subject to inhumane treatment, let us all rise and condemn this act.”- Senator Joshua Lidani

The Nigerian Senate

@NGRSenate

Senator @oluremitinubu states that she is not in support of what happened to Senator @dino_melaye. “If Senators @dino_melaye and @OvieOmoAgege can be taken away by the police, it destroys the sanctity of this chamber.”

The Nigerian Senate

@NGRSenate

“The people look to the Senate for protection. “The average man needs protection just as we do.”- Senator @oluremitinubu

Court Nullifies NASS Attempt To Alter Election Sequence

The Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday ruled that the National Assembly does not have the power to amend the election timetable of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

The Presiding Judge, Justice Ahmed Mohamed, voided clause 25, section 15 of the Electoral Amendment Bill passed into law by the National Assembly reordering the sequence which was announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

The court also ruled that the 1999 constitution empowers INEC to organize and supervise elections including fixing dates and sequences, therefore, the National Assembly does not have the powers to over-ride the actions of INEC.

The judgment was on the suit by Accord Party (AP), challenging the legitimacy of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018, to which Buhari declined to assent.

Justice Mohammed answered all the questions raised the suit for determination in favour of the plaintiff and granted all the reliefs by the sought plaintiff, except 11(1) which sought to restrain President Muhammadu Buhari from asserting to the Bill.

The judge noted that granting such prayer was no longer necessary since the President has already declined signing the Bill.

Before determining the main suit, the judge earlier dismissed the preliminary objection filed by the National Assembly (1st defendant) in which they argued among others that the suit was not justiciable, that the plaintiff were without the requisite locus standi and that the suit was academic.

Justice Mohammed disagreed with the 1st defendant on all the grounds raised in the preliminary objection.

Why I Gave Extra N10billion To National Assembly — Kemi Adeosun

The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, has reacted to a report detailing how her ministry illegally approved N10 billion for the National Assembly.

The report, published on Friday, indicated that Mrs Adeosun released the billions to the lawmakers despite the N125billion appropriated for the federal legislature in the 2017 fiscal year for recurrent and capital expenditures.

The fund was arbitrarily approved for the lawmakers by the minister in collusion with the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris.

Investigations by a news medium who published the report also showed that at least 44 of the 82 contractors the leadership of the National Assembly claimed they were owing were not registered on the National Database of Contractors, a database of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP). That means they are not eligible to be awarded federal contracts.

A further check by this newspaper revealed that 17 of the 44 firms were not even registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

In a statement by her media aide, Oluyinka Akintunde, Friday evening, the minister confirmed releasing the fund, but said her action remained legal.

Describing the newspaper’s report as ‘defective,’ Mrs Adeosun claimed that warrants were issued before the billions were moved to the lawmakers.

“The attention of the Honourable Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, has been drawn to a smear campaign by an online medium, Premium Times, of “illegally sharing of N10 billion from the national treasury”.

“The Honourable Minister wishes to debunk the entire mischievous and made-up report of the online medium which negates the ethics and professionalism of journalism. The article displays a worrying lack of understanding of Appropriation, Payments and Control, and therefore be disregarded by the public.

“The Minister further wishes to state that warrants are issued in accordance with Appropriation and after due approval by the Cash Plan Committee chaired by the Minister.”

The statement however failed to explain the process of approval for such warrant.

The minister did not also address salient issues such as the release of funds outside the budget and award of contracts to unqualified companies.

Mrs Adeosun did not also explain why she failed to conduct further due diligence by asking for evidence that the contracts were duly awarded before she approved the funds for the lawmakers.

Another explanation the minister failed to make is why her ministry preferred to give N10billion of the N20billion allocated for the payments of federal contractors to the National Assembly which has a budget that covers all its recurrent and capital spendings

Senate Mace Theft: Tight Security In National Assembly

There is a huge presence of security operatives in and around the National Assembly Complex on Thursday, following the invasion of the Senate chamber with snatching of the mace by thugs on Wednesday.

Apart from the presence of more policemen, soldiers were also deployed to guard the premises.

The sergeants-at-arms also conducted stricter checks on workers and guests going in.

Some soldiers and policemen stationed at the lobby adjoining the Senate and House of Representatives’ chambers‎ had a brief argument over their responsibilities in the protection of the area.

The Divisional Police Officer of the National Assembly Division, Mr. A Sulu-Gambari, however intervened in the matter and resolved the conflict.

The lobby was later cordoned off.

Saraki And The Frustrations With Our Brand of Democracy, By Zainab Suleiman Okino

The president of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki appears unhappy over the constant feud and friction between the arm of government he leads and the Presidency. Under the Muhammadu Buhari Presidency, the executive and the National Assembly have disagreed over almost everything. If it is not on budget padding today, it is about the screening of nominees by the legislature. If those the system favours, those who benefit, and those who, supposedly call the shots, are angry with the system, then who else is not? Is it the electorate, who are remembered only once in four years, the hungry and dejected Nigerians, the unemployed youth or those who cannot pay their hospital bills, or those whose wards have dropped out of school because school fees have been hiked beyond their reach? Or is it the businessman who is forced to close shop because of unfair competition, the monopoly of a few and absence of protectionist policies to shield local industries.

The endless frictions, which Saraki attributed to lack of the “constructive engagement, synergy and institutional collaboration” are taking their tolls on the Senate president, hence his anger and frustration. This came to light at the weekend in Jos during a one-day retreat organised by the Senate Press Corps, tagged “Strengthening Executive-Legislature Relations”. The Senate president, who was visibly angry and seemed flustered about the unworkability of the present arrangement, also admitted that friction is a normal occurrence in a democracy, but theirs (the Senate and the Presidency) in the current dispensation has even degenerated to name calling. Currently brewing are the issues of budget consideration, the N4.6 trillion bond and approval of $1 billion from the excess crude account to fight the Boko Haram insurgency.

“Just a few days ago, the issue of providing funding for the purchase of security equipment came up. In a good environment, such an issue needed to have been discussed with lawmakers. Already, some senators are angry. They said they were not consulted by the executive before such a decision was taken. These are the issues we are talking about.

“There is no way the security architecture of this country can work without a strong synergy between the executive and the legislature. When you see certain agencies which by their actions and utterances frustrate the relationship between the two arms, you begin to wonder. In a situation where a particular arm of government stands up and calls people from another arm of government thieves, looters and other names, how can we work together? How? It is not possible. It is not realistic. If we collaborate, the country will be better for it. Imagine, the federal government wants to raise a N4.6 trillion from the capital market. The leadership of the National Assembly first heard about it through a letter written by the president. This is what happens from time to time and yet, people keep blaming the legislature for being confrontational”, the Senate president further raved about.

Nigerians are justifiably frustrated with the representatives of the people, the National Assembly members, who sometimes collude with the executive to short-change the citizens and only cry foul when their interests are not taken care of. Nigerians are angry with the president for being aloof in the face of unmet expectations.

 

Saraki also spoke on the so-called budget delay, rather blaming this on the executive which unfortunately plans (and even tries to execute) without consideration of the National Assembly’s constitutional right of oversight and scrutiny. Saraki’s anger might not be misplaced after all, especially as the Presidency seems to have retraced its steps over the funds for the prosecution of the battle against Boko Haram and is now ready to channel its requests through the National Assembly. However, the Senate president only needs to reverse his role with those of other Nigerians, put himself in their shoes, visualise the situation of things, and he will see a groundswell of anger, frustration and disenchantment against all the lawmakers put together. Their grouse is not unconnected to both the National Assembly and Presidency’s nonchalance about their welfare and security. Citizens are angry at the level of opulence displayed by the president’s men. They hear about millions changing hands among Buhari’s kitchen cabinet, when they thought they had made the right decision through their choice of the opposition party led by the assumed incorrigible President Buhari in 2015.

Nigerians are justifiably frustrated with the representatives of the people, the National Assembly members, who sometimes collude with the executive to short-change the citizens and only cry foul when their interests are not taken care of. Nigerians are angry with the president for being aloof in the face of unmet expectations. Yes, the citizens are angry at the humongous amount in salaries, constituency and other allowances that lawmakers collect on behalf of their people without giving much in return. The citizens are even more frustrated when the two arms of government that should collaborate to advance the course of development are at loggerheads. Over what anyway?

Over the years, the leadership of the country has put politics before the people in our model of democracy. We politicise everything, including social services like health, education, road construction and security. Imagine a governor like Abdulaziz Yari, whose primary and secondary schools are in tatters (only 28 Zamfara children from public schools are said to have enrolled for Common Entrance out of over 70 million across the country), playing good politics at the centre as the chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, and Governor Yahaya Bello and Senator Dino Melaye of Kogi state, who draw attention to their state for all the wrong reasons.

 

Our brand of democracy is failing; the citizens are frustrated because our government is not people-oriented. The Asian Tigers, like Singapore and Malaysia, put development and the people before politics in their model of democracy. Here it is politics, politics, politics and personal advancement of those who hold the levers of power.

Democracy works better only if the interest of the few persons in the corridors of power is subsumed under the interest of the entire citizenry. Executive-legislative harmony can only be guaranteed in an atmosphere of rule of law and adherence to the separation of powers as spelt out in the constitution, instead of the superior posturing of one over the other.

 

It is high time we began to prioritise the economic wellbeing of the people than focus on the face-off between one arm of government and another. Democracy works better only if the interest of the few persons in the corridors of power is subsumed under the interest of the entire citizenry. Executive-legislative harmony can only be guaranteed in an atmosphere of rule of law and adherence to the separation of powers as spelt out in the constitution, instead of the superior posturing of one over the other.

On the impasse over budget presentation recorded through the years, Senator Olubunmi Adetunbi, who was deputy chairman of the Senate Committee on Interior in the Seventh Senate, who also presented a paper on Improving Nigeria’s Budgetary Process through Executive-Legislature Cooperation suggested a new model of engagement in this direction, adding that cooperation at the planning stage and not at the stage of presentation of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP) and the need to reintroduce development plans with clear objectives, outcomes and performance indicators in our budget planning process, as the way forward.

Clearly, the missing link in our endangered democracy, causing frustration all over the place is because the practitioners put the people last. The solution also lies in our leaders eschewing self-first, ego-tripping and grandstanding, while they should be more development- and people-oriented.

[email protected], www.zainabokino.blogspot.com

National Assembly Begins 2018 Budget Hearing Today

The National Assembly will today (Tuesday) and Wednesday hold a public hearing on the 2018 Appropriation Bill.

The hearing is jointly organised by the Senate and House of Representatives’ Committees on Appropriations, according to an advertisement published in some national daily newspapers on Sunday.

The hearing will take place at the National Assembly Complex, Abuja, while the Federal Government’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies, stakeholders and members of the public have been invited to the meeting.

President Muhammadu Buhari had laid the Appropriation Bill before the National Assembly on November 7, 2017.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, announced last week that the National Assembly had scheduled the budget for passage on April 24, 2018.

Standing committees at the Senate had on Thursday began the submission of their reports on the MDAs to the Committee on Appropriations.

Submission of the reports will end on Thursday, according to the announcement made by President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, at the plenary last Wednesday.

The Committee on Appropriations, which is collating the reports by the sub-committees, had met on the 2018 budget last Thursday.

It was learnt that the committee discussed arrangements on the harmonisation of the reports for onward presentation and passage by the chamber.

Not Too Young To Run: CSOs Want Buhari To Sign Bill

Not-Too-Young-To-Run Movement, a Coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately append his signature to the bill lowering age for participation and contesting in elections in Nigeria now on his table.

A Principal Officers of the movement, Mr. Samson Itodo, said in a statement in Abuja that the group had already sent a letter to the President to assent to the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Bill which aimed to enhance youth’s participant in politics.

According to the group, the quest for age reduction for persons to participate in politics was premised on five points of promoting inclusion, deepening inter-generational dialogue and exchange, and enhancing democratic development.

“Till date, this campaign has gained both national and global attention with the United Nations adopting it as a global campaign for youth inclusion.

“More recently, the African Union and ECOWAS also endorsed the campaign and have launched it in several countries in Africa like Kenya, Gambia, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Cameroun and Sierra Leone, ” the group said.

The group recalled that the Senate passed the bill in July 2017 with an overwhelming majority of 86 senators while it was also passed by a large majority of 261 members in the House of Representatives.

It also noted that in February 2018, the age reduction Constitution Amendment Bill was popularly known as Not-Too-Young-To-Run was passed by 33 out of 36 states’ Houses of Assembly.

“With this unprecedented feat, the world looks to you to assent to the constitutional amendment.

“Once you assent, the bill becomes law making it possible for young people to run for office in 2019 and beyond.

“It is against this background that the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Movement requests that you assent to the age reduction bill as soon as the National Assembly transmits the constitutional amendment bills to you,” the group urged Buhari.

Suit Against Electoral Act Amendment Not Achieving President Buhari’s Aim – Accord Party

By Ismail Kolapo

The national chairman of Accord party, Mr Muhamed Lawal Lalado has denied insinuations that the party is working for the interest of President Muhammadu Buhari to caution the National Assembly on its amendment of the electoral act.

He said Accord party is demanding for due process as enshrined in the constitution and that the National Assembly has no power to override the independence of the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC.

Featuring on a radio programme monitored by our correspondent in Osogbo on Friday, Lawal said that the National Assembly failed to inform the INEC chairman about its plans to change the sequence of the 2019 general elections before its schedule for amendment at the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly.

He added among the issues considered before filing the suit against the National Assembly at the Federal High Court in Abuja is the financial aspect of election with the present situation of the Nigerian economy.

The Accord Party Chair said the re-ordering of the election timetable will cost the nation more than N2b when the current state of the economy is nothing to write home about.

Mr Lawal said that the party took the Senate to court for proper interpretation of the constitution to know whether they have constitutional right to amend the electoral act without informing INEC.

In the same vein, a Law Lecturer from of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Mr. Misbau Lateef while reacting on the program urged the people at helm of affairs to put national interest first before reordering elections.

The Legal Practitioner said in-spite the powers of the federal lawmakers to amend the electoral act under section (vi) of the 1999 constitution, the powers does not extend to determine the sequence of the election.

He however charged the National Assembly to follow due process of electoral amendment to the constitution.

Court Restrains National Assembly From Re-ordering Election Timetable

The Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday ordered the National Assembly to stop taking any further actions on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018, which seeks to provide the order in which the Independent Electoral Commission must conduct the 2019 general elections.

The restraining order issued by Justice Ahmed Mohammed is to last till March 17, which is the next hearing date.

Delivering ruling on an oral application by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), lawyer to the plaintiff, Accord Party, Justice Mohammed held that the restraining order was made to preserve the substance of the main suit.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on Tuesday informed the National Assembly that he had withheld his assent to bill which was earlier passed by both chambers of the National Assembly.

There have been threats by some legislators that the National Assembly would evoke its powers under section 58(5) of the Constitution to override the President’s withholding of assent by two-third majority votes of both chambers.

The oral application by Olanipekun for a “preservative order” was opposed by the counsel representing the National Assembly, Chinelo Ogbozor, during the Wednesday’s proceedings.

The Attorney-General of the Federation, the 2nd defendant to the suit, was not represented by a counsel.

But INEC, the 3rd respondent, was represented by its lawyer, Mr. Taminu Inuwa, who said he had no objection to the application.

Ruling, he judge held that the National Assembly was not likely to suffer any prejudice if it was restrained from going ahead with the amendment processes before the next hearing date.

He added that on the other hand, if no restraining order was issued and the National Assembly went ahead to exercise its powers under section 58(5) of the Constitution by overriding President’s withholding of assent, the essence of the whole suit would have been defeated.

The judge therefore ordered all parties to maintain “status quo ” Tuesday.

He fixed ‎Tuesday for the hearing of the motion for the interlocutory injunction, the same order which was granted during the Wednesday’s proceedings but would likely last till the final determination of the suit if the application succeeds.

The Accord Party, is by its suit challenging the constitutionality of the ‎ongoing amendment of the Electoral Act.

Buhari Writes NASS To Withhold Electoral Act Amendment

President Muhammadu Buhari, has written to the National Assembly to withhold assent to the amendment of the 2010 Electoral Act.

The letter was read on the floor during plenary by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.

In a letter addressed to Senate President Bukola Saraki, President Buhari stated that he is declining assent to the amendment of the Electoral Act because the amendment to the sequence of the election in section 25 of the principal Act may infringe on the constitutionally guaranteed discretion of INEC to organize, undertake and supervise all elections provided in section 16(a) of the constitution.

He also stated that the amendment to section 138 of the principal Act to delete two crucial grounds upon which an election may be challenged by candidates unduly limits the right of candidates to a free and fair electoral review process.

President Buhari further stated that the amendment to section 152(325) of the principal Act may raise constitutional issues over the competence of the National Assembly to legislate over local government elections.

Earlier in February, the Joint Committees of the National Assembly agreed on some of the amendments to the Electoral Act.

The amendment of the electoral act facilitated the collaboration between the joint committees.

Both the Senate and House of Representatives agreed to the earlier amendment by the House of Representatives that the National Assembly election will come first, followed by governorship and state Houses of Assembly and finally the Presidential election which will now come last.