- Resolves to reconcile, stands by Saraki
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The Senate wednesday bowed to pressure mounted by several Nigerians and civil society organisations (CSOs) by suspending work on the amendment of Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) Act as well as the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
Rising from a rowdy two-and-half-hour executive session, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the session, disclosed that after an exhaustive deliberation, the Senate resolved to suspend further amendments of both Acts.
The Senate last week began the process of amending the CCB/CCT Act and ACJA by initiating two amendment bills.
The first amendment bill sponsored by Senator Peter Nwaboshi (Delta North) curiously scaled the second reading last Thursday, barely two days after it was initiated.
The second bill sponsored by Senator Isah Misau (Bauchi Central) south aimed at removing the CCT from the list of courts statutorily empowered to initiate criminal proceedings against accused persons.
Debate on the second bill had been slated for this week but intensive criticism of the amendments stalled further consideration of the proposed bills.
Critics of the amendments described them as irresponsible and a deliberate attempt to frustrate the ongoing trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki before the CCT.
Despite its defence that the amendment would not influence Saraki’s trial because it would not take retroactive effect, critics stuck to their guns, describing the amendment processes as curious and in bad faith.
However, pressure from the public compelled the Senate to dissolve into an executive session yesterday immediately after the commencement of the plenary following a point of order raised by Senator Hope Uzodinma (Imo West).
After the session, Ekweremadu announced the suspension of the amendment process. He also announced the suspension of the planned move to discuss the report of the Ethics Committee on Senator Kabiru Marafa (Zamfara West), a foremost critic of Saraki.
Ekweremadu also announced the Senate’s decision to put behind it its protracted internal crisis since June 9 through a resolution that members should reconcile.
According to him, the terms of the resolution would involve the withdrawal of the case of forgery of the Senate Standing Orders currently in the court.
To ensure implementation, Ekweremadu said a committee had been set up to lead the path of true reconciliation. He added that members of the committee were drawn from the six geo-political zones. He also said the Senate had resolved to stand by Saraki until he is proven guilty by the tribunal.
He said: “After exhaustive deliberations and being sincere to ourselves, we have decided to put behind us all things that have divided us since the inception of the Eighth Senate and work as a united Senate in the best interest of our country.
“We also agreed to suspend the discussion of the Committee on Ethics report on Senator Marafa. We agreed to suspend further deliberations on the amendment of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act and the Criminal Administration of Justice Act.
“We agreed that this Senate should stand by the Senate president in his trial until proven guilty by the court in accordance with our constitution and democratic practices all over the world including South Africa, Brazil and Russia.
“We also agreed to set up a committee – two senators from each geopolitical zone to address all the remaining issues. And as part of the reconciliation, those in court should consider withdrawing the cases.
“Further to our agreement to set up the committees, the geopolitical zones have sent names of their representatives: South-south (Godswill Akpabio, James Manager); North-west (Sani Yerima, Suleiman Hunkunyi); North-east (Buka Abba, Joshua Lidani); South-east (Sam Egwu, Hope Uzodinma); North-central (Barnabas Gemade, Abdullahi Adamu); and South-west (Monsurat Sumonu, Gbenga Ashafa).”
However, the Senate was silent on the invitation of the Chairman of CCT, Mr. Danladi Umar by the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions chaired by Senator Sam Anyanwu.
The committee had summoned Umar on Monday to appear before it today. But Umar rejected the invitation.
Umar’s invitation has also attracted condemnation from human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) and some CSOs, which described it as another desperate move by the Senate to stall Saraki’s trial.
Although it is believed that the invitation has also been jettisoned, the Senate failed to make any official pronouncement on it wednesday.
Also yesterday, the Senate held another closed-door session with the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase and the Director General of the Department of State Security (DSS), Mr. Lawan Daura, over their inability to rescue 219 female students of Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, who were kidnapped on April 14, 2016.
However, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno and the service chiefs who were equally invited to the meeting were absent. No reason was given for their absence.
Announcing the outcome of the meeting, Ekweremadu said the Senate was briefed by the security chiefs on efforts made so far to rescue the girls. He said the Senate urged them to intensify efforts to ensure the girls are rescued.
“The Senate was briefied by the Director-General of State Security Service (SSS) and the Inspector General of Police on the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls and efforts to rescue them within the last two years.
“We urged them to continue and should leave no stone unturned to rescue the Chibok girls. Thereafter, they answered questions bordering on topical national security issues from very distinguished senators.”