Senate Resolves To Stop The EFCC From Exercising Its Statutory Functions In Probing Economic Crimes Alleged Against Wife Of The Senate President And Others
Senate yesterday threw spanner in the works for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as it barred the anti-graft agency from “harassing, intimidating and blackmailing” wife of the senate president, Mrs. Toyin Saraki. It also extended the shield to senators who may have questions to answer before the agency.
The resolution, which came as the first major decision of the senate upon resumption from a long drawn break, followed a motion to same effect by Senator Samuel Anyanwu and 81others drawing attention of the upper legislative chamber to alleged intimidation and blackmail of senators and their spouses by security agencies.
Senator Anyanwu argued that such harassment has become “clog in the wheel of progress”. According to him, the sustained interference in the internal affairs of the senate should be stopped forthwith.
Senate president, who was visibly excited with the motion, however, did not invite senators to debate it. He argued that since the motion was supported by 82 senators already there was no need to call for a debate.
There was also no dissenting voice when the question was put in support of the motion. Senate had earlier brushed aside another attempt to reopen an allegation of forgery of its standing rules. Senator Kabiru Marafa, had in a point of order, asked the senate to declare illegal every other business excluding election of presiding officers conducted on the floor of the senate on June 9 based on the alleged forged senate standing rules.
His point of order was over ruled by the senate president who instead directed the matter to the National Assembly bureaucracy. The lawmakers, also in a unanimous resolution yesterday, passed a confidence vote on both the Senate President and his Deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, insisting that leadership of the senate, as presently constituted, enjoy confidence of the lawmakers. Senators noted “with dismay the continued harassment of the senate and senators, the National Assembly management and spouses of senators by security agencies of government”.
Though no incidence of EFCC or police harassment or intimidation of senators was cited by the sponsor of the motion, legislative sources alleged that the move was a calculated attempt to protect the wife of the senate president, who had been invited by the EFCC for questioning.
The motion was also said to aim at protecting the Senator Ekweremadu and the Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salusi Maikasuwa, and others, over the alleged forgery of the senate standing rules.
Meanwhile, the Senate President has declared that oil theft will no longer be an acceptable part of Nigeria’s oil business. This is coming about 24 hours after President Muhammadu Buhari disclosed that oil theft is still on-going despite his stance against same.
Saraki, who made the declaration yesterday in a speech to welcome senators from their long break, also announced the appointment of principal officers of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Saraki reminded elected public office holders that they cannot afford to frolic, as Nigerians did not give them their mandate to pursue leadership, but to pursue governance, and bring solutions to their burning issues.
In his welcome speech, after a fiveweek recess, Saraki observed that Nigeria’s revenue profile has taken a great hit with the present economic realities “Aside the drop in the oil receipt, we have seen revenues plummet due to oil thefts, indiscriminate grants of numerous import duty waivers, concessions and grants.
Nigerians want to see the National Assembly tackle these obscenities in our revenue systems, as it denies our people the right to good governance. “Distinguished colleagues, our country is passing through a difficult time.
We cannot afford to watch the mind boggling leakages in our oil receipt to go on. This Senate is in tandem with Mr. President (Muhammadu Buhari) on this, and is determined to turn every stone and shift every rock to ensure that all revenues due to the country from oil are recovered. We are not the only oil producing country in the world; oil theft cannot, therefore, become an acceptable part of our oil business.
“Furthermore, Nigerians are tired of the inadequacies in the power sector and want to see a reinvigorated power sector (that is) capable of delivering enough energy to power the new Nigerian economy. Our people dream to see a more open economy. They want to see legislative instruments that will help to open and stimulate private sector investment in infrastructure development, and enhance the ease of doing business in the country,” he declared.
Saraki expressed sadness on the resurgence in the activities of Boko Haram and some other criminal elements in the country, which led to the death of many of Nigerians. Saraki, who claimed that the aim of the militant groups is to test Nigeria’s resolve and disintegrate her unity, urged the international community to join in the collective resolve to win the fight against the Islamist sect. “We cannot continue to let senseless groups cause untimely death to our citizens without hindrance. This is another sad addition to the cocktail of security challenges we can ill-afford at this time.
“In the coming days, I will constitute a high powered Senate delegation to visit our troops on the battle line and some of our internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the North-East to have a firsthand appreciation of the challenges, the suffering and plight that (have) befallen our people in the area.
Soon afterwards, we shall, work together with the House (of Representatives), develop concrete steps towards the rehabilitation and renewal of the battered local economy of the North-East.
“Make no mistake about it, the aim of these militant groups is simple, to test our resolve and disintegrate our unity. But let me reiterate the readiness and willingness of the National Assembly to support and work with President Muhammadu Buhari to comprehensively rout Boko Haram.
We join Mr. President in saying: ‘that we will defeat terrorism in our country and region because we have the will to win this fight.’ Our resolve is collective, we urge all friends of Nigeria, including the United States and the entire international community to join us,” he appealed.
He reminded elected public officers that Nigerians did not elect them to pursue leadership, added that the job of changing Nigeria’s corporate destiny has already started, despite the huge challenges. “Their mandate was for us to pursue governance and bring solutions to their burning issues. It is time we remind ourselves of the solemn promise to deliver to our people real change. Leadership is secondary to our primary responsibility of good governance.
“As Senate President, you have given me responsibility to ensure that our primary responsibility is placed on the table, not under the table. Nigerians did not put their lives on the line for politics, but for the delivery of good governance. “My distinguished colleagues, the job of changing our corporate destiny starts today.
Though the challenges are huge, they are not insurmountable. Let (these) challenges inspire us as leaders to show courage, statesmanship and valour. We have taken the right first steps out. We must now set out at dawn. We do not have all the time; indeed, our clock is ticking”, he said. The Senate President also announced the officers of the minority PDP in the Upper Chamber.
The UNION reports that the quartet of minority principal officers was led by the immediate past Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who was named Senate Minority Leader.
Others are: Senator Emmanuel Bwacha from Taraba State as the Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Philip Aduda from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as the Senate Minority Whip and Senator Biodun Olujimi from Ekiti State as the Deputy Minority Whip.
-Emeka Ekpunobi, Abuja