FG, Senate Face-off: APC, PDP Clash over ‘Selective’ Anti-Graft War

  • Judiciary c’ttee asks AGF to appear before it thursday
  • Saraki: I know nothing about forgery
  • President writes Senate, seeks Magu’s confirmation

Omololu Ogunmade and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The face-off between the National Assembly and the presidency took a turn for the worse wednesday, when senators of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) exchanged words over the criminal charges brought against Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu over the alleged forgery of the Senate rules, as well as what the PDP senators termed the “selective” anti-corruption war of the administration.

Reading the riot act to President Muhammadu Buhari, the Senate PDP caucus accused him of an unnecessary witch-hunt against Saraki and Ekweremadu as well as opposition voices such as the governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, whose account was frozen by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Briefing journalists at the conclusion of a meeting it held after yesterday’s plenary, Senate Minority Leader Godswill Akpabio, flanked by other leaders of the caucus, said henceforth, the PDP caucus would withdraw all support for the executive as it warned the president against continuing along the road of change of leadership in the upper chamber.

“We the PDP senators met in our caucus meeting wednesday 21st June, 2016 and deliberated on the state of the nation, and to examine our position on unwarranted threats to the legislative arm of government, particularly to the Senate leadership by the executive arm as well as the on-going intimidation/persecution of the opposition party, PDP, by the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC).

“Arising from the foregoing, the caucus passed the following resolutions: we condemn in totality the orchestrated plot to remove the President of the Senate and his deputy through any illegal means.

“The deployment of state instruments of coercion to intimidate an independent arm of government like the legislature is now a major threat to the survival of our democracy.

“The glaring witch-hunt of perceived opposition elements in the polity is an invitation to anarchy.
“The war against corruption should not be selective, must be fought with sincerity and not the politics that is being played now with the ‘war against corruption’.

“We therefore condemn in strong terms the sentiments displayed in fighting corruption. For example, the freezing of account of the Ekiti State governor, is clearly a political witch-hunt.

“Since the war against corruption has devolved into probing campaign funds, it should be extended to all parties, APC inclusive.

“The PDP Senate caucus therefore wishes to warn the executive arm of government to act with caution on matters that have the potency to subvert our democracy.

“The executive must therefore desist from these acts of lawlessness that are only typical in a military dictatorship.
“The caucus therefore wishes to advise the APC-led government to concentrate on the existing economic and security challenges that are threatening our survival as a nation.

“Finally, the PDP caucus wishes to reiterate that we will no longer support the APC government until they cease the belligerent attitude towards PDP members,” the caucus said.

Reacting to the statement by the Senate PDP caucus, the APC yesterday described the allegation of a selective anti-corruption fight levelled against the Muhammadu Buhari-administration as unfounded.

In a statement issued by the National Secretary of the APC, Mai Mala Buni, the ruling party said the PDP and their agents do not have the luxury of dictating how the current administration and anti-corruption agencies carries out their legitimate duties.

“The attention of the National Secretariat of the APC has been drawn to a statement credited to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Senate caucus stating that the caucus has withdrawn its support for the government of President Muhammadu Buhari over the administration’s hugely successful war against corruption.

“The PDP caucus must be reminded of their primary responsibility of lawmaking and representation of their constituents at the National Assembly. The APC advises the PDP Senate caucus not to allow political shenanigans to becloud the overall national interest.

“The PDP caucus’ allegations of a selective anti-corruption fight and the ‘belligerent’ stance of the current administration are hogwash and baseless.

“If the PDP and its agents have proof of corruption against anybody, the APC advises that they approach anti-graft agencies constitutionally mandated to handle such cases instead of declaring innocence on newspaper pages and other media outlets.

“For the umpteenth time, the PDP and their agents do not have the luxury of dictating how the current administration and anti-corruption agencies carry out their legitimate duties of investigating and prosecuting cases of corruption, as long as it conforms to the rule of law,” the ruling party said.

APC advised the anti-corruption agencies not to be stampeded and blackmailed by this new plot and continue to employ all legitimate avenues in investigating and prosecuting ongoing corruption cases.

“The generality of Nigerians clamour for all looters of public funds to be brought to book. The APC assures Nigerians that the political will and sincerity of purpose of the current administration to tackle corruption remains resolute,” it said.

However, the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, acting on the mandate of the Senate on Tuesday has summoned the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to appear before it today to explain why the federal government is charging Saraki and Ekweremadu to court over the alleged forgery.
But Saraki in his first official reaction to the allegation of forgery against him, said he knew nothing about how the rules adopted for the inauguration of the Eighth Senate on June 9, 2015 came about.

According to him, the on-going efforts to drag him before the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court for alleged forgery “was just another phase in the orchestrated persecution he has faced since he emerged as Senate President a little over a year ago”.

Saraki, in a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said he was not part of the leadership of the Seventh Senate which he said made the rules, adding that he was merely a senator-elect like all his colleagues and therefore was not in a position to influence the rules that were to be used in the conduct of the election.

“The police in their investigation were conscious that the incumbent Senate President was not in office prior to June 9, 2015 and that was why in their letters inviting some individuals for their investigation, they only mentioned officers of the Seventh Senate.

“The last of the letters was written to the Clerk of the National Assembly on June 7, 2016 and he was not among those invited.

“Those who decided to smuggle the name of the Senate President into the charge sheet after the fact knew perfectly well that only the leadership of the Seventh Senate were invited for investigation.

“But they needed to implicate him in keeping with their declared vow to ensure that even if their current efforts to nail him through the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) fails, they would find other ways to carry out their vendetta.
“This so-called forgery case is another wanton abuse of the judicial process and making a mockery of the institution of justice. As the Senate earlier stated, the sponsors of this plot are not only gunning for Dr. Saraki, what they have just launched with this latest antics is a grand onslaught on the foremost institution of our democracy.

“The only institutional difference between dictatorship and democracy is the presence of the legislature. Therefore, by seeking to cripple the National Assembly, they have declared a war on our hard-won democracy and aimed for the very jugular of our freedom.

“Let us restate the fact that the senators who initiated the police investigation in the first place had raised the same matter on the floor and were overwhelmingly overruled.

“They also filed a civil suit and were told by the court that neither the judiciary nor the executive can interfere in the internal affairs of the legislative arm.

“The Senate President recognises the sundry problems bedevilling our nation today – food insecurity, devaluation of the naira, inflation, unemployment, failing national infrastructure, insurgency in the North-eastern part of the country, restiveness in the oil producing areas, and general insecurity, among others – and believes that finding solutions to them should be the priority at this period for every individual in government, not the pursuit of narrow political objectives.

“That is why these needless distractions will do nobody any good. In fact, it will not help in delivering on the promise of bringing positive change to the lives of our people who voted for the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last elections.

“The Senate President does not see what value this current attempt to shut down the Senate by dragging its presiding officers before a court for a phantom allegation of forgery will add to the attempts to solve the problems confronting the nation.

“Dr. Saraki will however explore all legal options necessary to ward off this fresh case of persecution and distraction,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, the president wednesday transmitted a letter to the Senate, asking it to confirm the appointment of the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Mr. Ibrahim Magu, as the substantive chairman of the commission.

Buhari, in the letter addressed to Saraki late yesterday, urged the senators to treat the confirmation request with dispatch.

Buhari’s request for Magu’s appointment is coming about eight months after his appointment.
Buhari had on November 9, 2015, removed the former chairman of EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, and replaced him with Magu in an acting capacity.

Magu, who is an Assistant Commissioner of Police, was until his appointment, a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption and a former Head of the Economic Governance Unit (EGU) of the anti-graft agency.
He was reportedly recruited into the EFCC by the pioneer chairman of the commission, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, and is believed to be firm and courageous, the qualities which earned him the appointment as the head of the EGU, the unit in charge of investigations of senior public officials.

Magu had reportedly led investigations into high profile corruption cases such as the allegation of money laundering against James Ibori, a former governor of Delta State, who is currently serving a jail term in the United Kingdom.