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.

Terrorism: Senate Meets With Service Chiefs

The leadership of the Senate and chairmen of committees relating to security agencies Wednesday, held a meeting with heads of the military to review the developments in the fight against insurgency in the North east zone, particularly in the wake of the recent vicious attack on Dalori town in Borno State.

At the closed door meeting which lasted for about two hours and presided by Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, several issues tailored at further empowering the security agencies to win the war against the Boko Haram insurgency were discussed in a frank and open exchange between the two sides.

The Military chiefs led by General Abayomi Olonishakin, the Chief of Defence Staff, briefed the Senators on the various challenges faced by the military, particularly the state of their equipment which they said require serious upgrading and restocking.

They also complained that their vote in the 2015 supplementary budget has not been released thereby hampering their ability to fund their operations. Other issues that came up for discussion was the need to continuously increase the personnel in the three branches of the military and the hindrance posed by the procurement process which they said is very slow.

The military chiefs also canvassed the need for the review of some laws governing their operations so as to make them able to respond to emergency situations they now confront in the North-east zones as well as conform with global best practices.

The need for regional support for the fight against insurgency in the North-east by the neighbouring countries, resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) back to their traditional homes, the issue of intelligence gathering and sharing among the various agencies and mobilisation of the international community, particularly through inter-parliamentary efforts in support of the fight against terrorism in Nigeria, were also discussed.

The Senators assured the military chiefs that they will fast track the request for the review of the relevant laws being complained about  by putting them on the Priority Bills list once they were given adequate information on areas that need to be amended.

They also promised to take up the issue of release of funds raised by the military chiefs with the Ministry of Finance immediately. The committees on Defence, finance and appropriations have also been mandated to ensure that the issues raised by the service chiefs are taken care of in the budget.

The Senators noted that at this point when the nation had recorded serious gains in the fight against insurgency, all hands should be on deck to sustain the tempo against the violent groups.

The meeting was attended by Saraki, his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, Majority Whip, Francis Alimikhena, Chairman, Senate Committee on Navy, Isa Hama Misau and his colleague in the Committee on Air Force, Duro Faseyi. However, Chairman of Senate Committee on Defence, Senator Ahmed Lawan was absent.

The Chief of Defence Staff, General Olonishakin led the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, his colleague in the navy, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ette Ibas and the Air Force, Air Marshal Sadiq Abubakar to the meeting.

2016 Budget Scale Through Second Reading At The Senate

The controversial 2016 Appropriation Bill on Wednesday scaled second reading in the Senate as Senators concluded debate on the general principles of the bill.

The Nation reports the Bill was thereafter committed to the Committee on Appropriation to coordinate budget defence by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in his concluding remarks warned senators against financial inducement in the course of budget defence by MDAs.

He said any lawmaker involved in unwholesome conduct in the course of budget defence would not be spared.

The Senate President said the Senate would not tolerate conducts capable of undermining the integrity of the Chamber.

On the general principles of the budget, Saraki said the proposal was a major departure from past budgets, particularly with regard to withdrawing focus on oil as major revenue source for funding the budget.

He said, “This to me and to all of us is the most important area of this budget in the sense that it will be a great foundation not only for today but for the future if this can be achieved.

“Also, with the pegging of capital expenditure at 30 per cent, a number of comments were made about the level of borrowing, but I think what matters is what the money is used for.

“On the percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), we are still within the limits and parameters, but what is important is to ensure that the money is judiciously used for what it is meant for.”

Saraki noted the National Assembly would take a critical look at the budgetary allocation to the agricultural and solid mineral sectors because they were potential revenue earners if effectively explored.

Saraki To Ex-legislative Aides: Payment Of Severance Allowance Will Soon Commence

Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki has assured  legislative aides and members of the 7th National Assembly that the  payment of their severance allowance will soon commence.

Saraki, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu said all efforts were being made to ensure that the former aides are paid their entitlements, and attributed the delay to the non-release of the funds by the Federal Ministry of Finance.

The National Assembly had on December 1, 2015 passed the N575 billion supplementary budget presented to it by President Muhammadu Buhari, out of which N10.6 billion was allocated for the settlement of the severance benefits of the legislative aides and members of the Seventh National Assembly. Five billion Naira is earmarked for severance allowance of ex-legislative aides

It will be recalled that the tenure of the 2015 appropriation bill has been extended till March this year by the Federal Legislature.

However, several weeks after the budget was assented to, by Buhari, the former aides were yet to be paid, a situation that prompted the aggrieved beneficiaries to stage a protest last week at the National Assembly complex.

Saraki, according to the statement assured that,”as soon as the money is released, all the beneficiaries will be paid promptly. The request has already been made by the National Assembly management.

“As Senate President and  Chairman of the National Assembly, I share in the plight of the aides of my colleagues, and I will ensure that their case is fast-tracked to ease their present difficulties,” the Senate President assured.

Both the  Chairman of the Senate Services  Committee, Senator Abdullahi Gobir and the Director of Information and Publications, Mr. Ishaku Dibal have confirmed to the Senate President that the delay in the payment was due to the non-release of the fund by the Finance Ministry, assuring that payments would  commence as soon as the money is made available.