Emeka Ekpunobi in Abuja X-rays the many battles facing Senator Bukola Saraki since his emergence as Senate President on June 9
Certainly this is not the best of time for the embattled senate president Senator Bukola Saraki. Though it may be too early to predict how his fast growing political travails would end, the fact however remains that the former Kwara State governor has never known peace since his controversial emergence as the president of the 8th senate in June 9.
The renewed mutual suspicion and bad blood earlier injected into the ranks of the APC senators and their agents of change is fast growing by the day. Sadly, the opposition senators under the aegis of Unity Forum are reported to have regrouped for a fresh offensive on the floor of the senate when the lawmakers resume sitting next week.
The PDP senators are however silent for now. But a PDP lawmakers from South South Senator Peter Nwaobishi had earlier told the ruling party to tread with caution. He blamed the ruling party for its woes in the senate just as he claimed that PDP would have taken both the number one and two seats in the senate on June 9 if the party senators had so wished.
Pundits however warn that the ruling party might play into the hands of the PDP if the warring lawmakers do not tread with caution in the face of the alleged attempt to unseat Senator Saraki.
The APC leadership and its preferred candidate for the number three job in the land Senator Ahmed Lawan are not in a hurry to forgive Senator Saraki for this his single act of disobedience in June 9. And to add fuel to the then raging fire Senator Saraki allegedly turned down another order by the APC leadership to crown Senator Lawan as the senate majority leader.
Saraki in defiance to the said order anointed Senator Ali Ndume from the northeast as majority leader. A source alleged that both the APC leadership and president Mohammadu Buhari are yet to fully recognize the senate leadership as presently constituted. Every effort to do just that may have failed at least going by the mood of the APC leaders and their loyal senators.
The medical doctor turned politician has every cause today not to sleep with his two eyes closed for now. Though Saraki himself is not strange to controversy, but there are however fears in some quarters that he may not escape his current political travails unhurt. But his cronies insisted at the weekend that there was no cause for alarm. And for some of his associates, Saraki is indeed another proverbial cat with nine lives. But for his opponents Saraki is on acting on borrowed time. According to them, the Kwara state born politician has murdered sleep on the very day he decided to defile the order of the ruling party.
The legal fireworks to nail the former governor of Kwara state got messier on Friday as the Code of Conduct Tribunal ordered the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mr Solomon Arese to produce Saraki in court on Monday to answer questions on his alleged false asset declaration before the bureau. The tribunals order followed the reported refusal of Saraki to appear before the court to answer questions on the celebrated 13 count. The National Headquarters of the Police Force is yet to act on the order. Force Public Relations Officer, Olabisi Kolawole, said so much on Saturday
He said the police cannot arrest Saraki without the court order.
“We have not received the bench warrant till now (Saturday) and until we get the court order, we cannot execute it,” she said over the phone.
Justice Danladi Umar of the Code of Conduct Tribunal had on Friday in Abuja ordered a bench warrant against Saraki for failing to appear before the court to answer charges over alleged false declaration of assets.
The charge filed against him before the tribunal by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB). The charges ranges from false and improper declaration of assets allegedly acquired during his tenure as Governor of Kwara State from 2003- 2011.
The Code of Conduct Bureau in the 13 count charge accused the enate president of “false declaration in the assets declaration form for public officers on assumption of office as Governor of Kwara State by making an anticipatory asset declaration in that you claimed to have owned and acquired No. 15A and N0. 15B McDonald Ikoyi, Lagos through your company Carlisle Properties Limited in the year 2000 when the said property was actual fact sold by the Implementation Committee on Federal Government landed property in the year 2006 to your companies Tiny Tee Limited and Vitti Oil Limited for the aggregate sum of N396, 150, 000.”
It also alleged that Saraki allegedly operated an American Express credit card account during his tenure as Governor, where he allegedly wired at least $3.4 million to from a Nigerian account. But Saraki in a swift reaction last week dismissed the allegations as politically motivated and another attempt to distract him from performing his constitutional responsibility as the senate president. Saraki was reported to have shunned the tribunal’s invitation to appear before it on Friday.
The tribunal in preliminary ruling on Friday ordered the Inspector General of Police to produce Saraki before it today. The tribunal insisted on Friday the Saraki must appear in person to clear himself. This was despite a motion by the counsel to the senate president, Mr Joseph Daudu, former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, drawing the attention of the tribunal to an earlier constitutional matter already raised by Saraki which is still pending before the Federal High court. The Federal High Court on Thursday, September 17, 2015, therefore ordered that the all parties in the case should appear before it on Monday, September 21, 2015. Counsel to Saraki argued that the implication of this ruling by a Court of competent jurisdiction is that the sitting of the tribunal on Friday has been overtaken by event. It is for this reason that Dr. Saraki chose to go about with his normal official schedule.
According to him the said motion stating that there is a pending constitutional matter before the Federal High Court to be decided on Monday and that the Tribunal should hold the trial until the constitutional matter is disposed of. Saraki through his counsel said ‘ we are however dismayed that the Tribunal chose to disregard the order of the Federal High Court and the motion to suspend hearing till Monday when all parties are expected to argue their positions on the constitutional matter’ While the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, had stated and maintains that he is ready to submit himself to due process of the law on any issue concerning him, he also believes he has an inalienable right to resort to the same judiciary for protection when he feels his fundamental rights are about to be infringed upon.
According to the counsel: “We are however dismayed that the tribunal chose to disregard the order of the Federal High Court and the motion to suspend hearing till Monday when all parties are expected to argue their positions on the constitutional matter.
“It is also a surprise to us that despite the application by the lead counsel to the Senate President that he will produce Dr. Saraki on Monday and the personality of the person involved as the Number three man in the country, the tribunal insisted on issuing a warrant of arrest as if its intention is simply to embarrass Dr. Saraki. We are not unmindful of the fact that the Tribunal is acting under political influence and external pressure. This is dangerous to our democracy.
The conduct of the tribunal today left nobody in doubt that it cannot do justice on the matter before it. It is also clear that today’s decision is an abuse of the rule of law, which portends danger to our judicial system. The tribunal has equally set a bad precedent in the way and manner it conducted itself during the proceedings. We want to emphasise the fact that this is not part of any war against corruption but using state institutions to fight political opponents and seeking to achieve through the back door what some people cannot get through democratic process. . We need to caution here that in a desperate bid to settle political scores and nail imaginary enemies, we should not destroy our democratic institutions and heat the polity for selfish reasons. Let us all learn from history.”
Though Saraki has assured the court that he would make himself available on Monday, there are however fears in some quarters that the tribunal may cause the detention of the senate president. Source alleged that the tribunal might be playing the script of some powerful politicians who are desperate to unseat Saraki. According to him, the calculation of the socalled Saraki political enemies is to use the tribunal to nail him since Saraki enjoy immunity only within the National Assembly premises.
Saraki’s trouble started in June 9 when he emerged the president of the 8th senate as against the APC preferred candidate Senator Lawan. He was again asked to return Lawan as majority leader, which again failed. But his House counter part Hon. Yakubu Dogara was forced to crown Hon Fami Gbajamila as the House majority leader. Every attempt to unseat Saraki on the floor of the senate has failed as the PDP senators and few other APC senators insisted on retaining him as the senate president.
A top source claim that the whole legal fire works is all targeted at removing Saraki from office. The first attack, according to the source was on the wife of the senate president, Mrs Toyin Saraki . She was summoned by Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) to appear before it to answer questions over corruption allegedly committed while she was in office as first lady. The former Kwara state First Lady unlike the husband appeared before the Ibrahim Lamode led commission. She was at the commission office in Abuja with over 18 senators and other supporters. But the senate in a move to shield the wife of the senate president and then deputy senate president senator Ike Ekweremadu however passed a motion barring the commission and similar bodies from harassing, intimidating and blackmailing senators and their wives.
The Senate also brushed aside another attempt to reopen the allegation of forgery of its standing rules; instead it warned the police and similar agencies to stop harassing the senators and their spouses.
Senators also passed a confidence vote on both the senate president Dr Bukola Saraki and his Deputy Senator Ike Ekweremadu insisting that the leadership of the senate as presently constituted enjoys the confidence of the Upper House
Senators who are back from another long recess noted “with dismay the continued harassment of the senate and senators, the National Assembly management and spouses of senators by security agencies of government.
The resolution followed a motion by senator Samuel Anyanwu and 81others drawing the attention of the lawmakers to alleged intimidation and blackmail of senators and their spouses by security agencies.
Senator Anyanwu (Imo PDP) 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 about the motion did not invite senators for debate on the motion. He argued that since 82 senators supported the motion already there was no need to call for debate. Fortunately, there was no dissenting voice when the question was put in support of the motion.
Though no incidence of EFCC or police harassment or intimidation of senators was cited by the sponsor of the motion, but source alleged that the move was another calculated attempt to protect the wife of the senate president who was expected to have visited the EFCC office at the weekend for questioning.
The motion also may not be unconnected with the reported invitation of the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu , the Clerk of the National Assembly Alhaji Salusi Maikasuwa and others over the alleged forgery of the senate standing rules. The senate in turn ordered its committee on ethics to investigate alleged misappropriation of over N1tr by the EFCC.
The probe of the EFCC was again seen in some quarters as another sins of Saraki. The anti graft agency has in another attack on Saraki decided to beam its search light of the failed Societe General bank for which the former Kwara state governor is reported to be a majority share holder. EFCC was at it again last when it declared wanted Kennedy Izuagbe, a former director of the defunct Societe Generale Bank Nigeria Plc and managing director of Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited, a company allegedly owned by Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has been declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The Saraki family is said to hold majority shares in Societe-Generale bank, which went under due to bad management. Izuagbe, 45, who is being investigated in a case of conspiracy and money laundering to the tune of over N3.6 billion, has gone into hiding and all efforts to reach him have proved abortive, the EFCC said in a statement by its spokesman, Mr. Wilson Uwajaren, adding that Izuagbe is linked to the several shady deals and gross financial misconducts that took place in the bank, in which several millions of naira were granted as loan without due diligence. Source also alleged the last minute decision of EFCC to dust the failed bank file was again inline with the renewed attempt to nail senator Saraki.
Meanwhile the PDP said during the weekend that the Saraki travail was part of the general disregard for constitution and institution in the country by the Buhari presidency. According to its National Publicity Secretary, Oliseh Metuh, “Ordinarily, the intra-party squabbles within the APC regarding leadership positions in the Senate are not necessarily our concern.
“Also, we are not interested in whether Senate President Bukola Saraki ran for the APC presidential ticket against President Muhammadu Buhari; or whether he ran for the Senate presidency against the advice of the President and his party.
“Our concerns here are the prevailing executive intolerance, the undermining of the institution of the National Assembly and the overall threat to the survival of our democracy.”
APC spokesman, Mr. Lai Mohammed, however said, “With its statement that is nothing but an unabashed support for impunity and corruption, as well as its major actors, the PDP has now confirmed itself as the official ‘poster boy’ for corruption in Nigeria.” The days ahead would certainly prove heady for the Senate President. But there is no knowing with Nigeria prebendal politics to say with certainty where the pendulum would swing.