Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja
Senator Kabiru Marafa on Monday snubbed the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, and challenged it to do its worse.
Chaired by Senator Samuel Anyanwu, the Committee was mandated to investigate Marafa’s alleged disparaging comments against the Upper Legislative Chamber in a press interview.
Marafa was first invited on Thursday last week to appear before the investigative Committee, to defend himself over allegations that he went about making comments in public domain which undermined the Red Chamber and put its integrity to disrepute.
However, the lawmaker could not honour the invitation because he was said to be away in Kaduna, to condole his colleague, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi, whose mother passed on recently.
Anyanwu, who had hinted that Marafa would appear before the panel, said that after the first invitation failed last week, Marafa personally requested to be given yesterday date to appear, promising that the Committee would submit its report on the floor of the Senate today.
“We will submit our report; if he (Marafa) appears and the petitioners appear, we will conclude our work and submit the report on Tuesday. When we invited him last week Thursday, he requested to be given Monday to appear,” he said.
But at the venue of the proposed investigation, Senate Room 120, Marafa was conspicuously missing, without any communication to the Committee on while he was not present.
However, the Clerk of the Committee, Mr. Freedom Osolo, told the senators that when he called Marafa to remind him of the invitation, he said that the Committee should go ahead and do whatever it desired to do.
At this point, the members of the Committee resolved to go into a closed door session, to take decision on the next line of action to take.
The Chairman of the Committee, Anyanwu, said that the outcome of the closed door session would only be disclosed during plenary today.
It will be recalled that Marafa reportedly granted press interview to some national dailies recently, where he allegedly said that he was in total support of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, that there was high level corruption in the Upper legislative Chamber.
Following the interview, some aggrieved Senators, brought a motion to the floor of the Senate last week Tuesday, asking the Chamber to investigate the matter and invoke the relevant rules of the assembly on Marafa, to serve as deterrent to others.
Senator Isa Misau in particular, raised a point of order on personal privileges, in which he observed that the alleged interview by Marafa brought the entire Senate to disrepute and put his personal position as a Senator in jeopardy.
Misau said that the interview, which was published by a national daily (not The UNION) on February 7, 2016 and credited to Marafa, was full of lies, misleading and brought the Senate to public ridicule.
Also, Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo South) who seconded the motion moved by Misau, said that it was embarrassing that Marafa would continuously brought the integrity of the Senate to disrepute.
Consequently, after deliberating on the issue, the Senate in plenary, presided over by the President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, last week Tuesday, directed its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions to investigate the allegation and submit its report within one week.
In the absence of Marafa, the Committee received the submissions of one of the petitioners, Urhoghide, who pleaded with the Senators to critically look into the matter and come up with resolutions that would protect the Upper Chamber from further embarrassment by its members.
He expressed serious concern that a member of the hallowed Chamber was the one telling the world that the Senate was corrupt, regretting that his reputation and that of the entire Senate had been thoroughly diminished.
In his presentation, Urhoghide said, “in a newspaper publication which of course was in circulation in Nigeria which was on February 7, 2016, and I think that newspaper publication coming from a colleague in the senate attracted my attention and the attention of most Nigerians.
“I painstakingly read the interview. After going through the interview, it only took my mind back to the very, very wrong misconceptions that were expressed on the pages of newspapers.
“On January 27, 2016 the electronic media was filled with the accusations that was made on the senate and the House of Representatives, that is the National Assembly by former President of this country, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
“In fact, the pronouncement credited to him, I saw it as an affront; of course facts that were misplaced. I felt demeaned by his pronouncement because I could see the deliberate attempt to malign this 8th National Assembly, to give it a bad name and of course to bring it to public odium in Nigeria.
“The statement he made that day was clear that he was saying that the National Assembly is very corrupt, that the National Assembly stinks; it means that all the members of the National Assembly, distinguished senators of the federal republic of Nigeria and of course members of the House of Representatives are corrupt.
“After going through the interview, the first thing that was very clear was that my own colleague was acting in tandem, with the former President by saying that “I think whatever chief Obasanjo is saying is right and I support him.
“Therefore, I believe my colleague should be called to come and explain how the National Assembly and the Senate stinks; how we are greedy, how we are corrupt.
Since I came to this Senate, all the exercise that I have taken part in, there is no one that has called my integrity to question”.
After his presentation, the Chairman of the Committee, thanked him for responding to the invitation and making submissions that would help the Committee in its decisions.