- Wamakko, Melaye deny plot as Tinubu, Lagos Central district blast Kogi senator over his crude antics
- Malami defends forgery suit against Saraki, Ekweremadu
Omololu Ogunmade and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The All Progressives Congress (APC) has described the threat by some senators to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Muhammadu Buhari because of the criminal charges instituted by the federal government against Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, for alleged forgery of the Senate rules, as a huge joke taken too far.
The party also described the allegations that the criminal trial instituted against the top leadership of the Senate by the APC-led federal government was politically-motivated as baseless.
However, two senators loyal to the principal officers of the upper chamber of the legislature, Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko and Dino Melaye, have denied that the Senate was in the process or considering impeachment proceedings against the president.
The denials came on the heels of the clarification provided by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami, before the Senate, saying that he instituted the forgery case against Saraki, Ekweremadu and two others in the interest of justice and in the interest of the public.
In a statement issued wednesday by the National Secretary of the APC, Mai Mala Buni, the ruling party asked the senators in question to stop the “huge joke” and concentrate on their primary constitutional responsibilities of lawmaking.
“The attention of the National Secretariat of the APC has been drawn to media reports of a laughable impeachment plot by some senators on President Muhammadu Buhari during Tuesday, July 12, 2016 closed session of the Senate.
“The party advises the senators in question to stop this huge joke and concentrate on their primary constitutional responsibilities of lawmaking and the discharge of their legislative mandates to their constituents at the National Assembly.
“The party reiterates that the senators in question do not have to allow political shenanigans becloud the overall national interest.
“The party will not join issues on the Senate forgery suit and other court cases concerning some members of the Eighth Senate because it will be subjudice.
“We advise the senators in question to tow the same line and allow judicial processes to run their normal and legitimate course.
“Repeated allegations that the court cases are politically-motivated by the president and the APC are baseless. The Muhammadu Buhari administration strictly respects the principle of the rule of law and also adheres to the constitutional provisions of separation of powers between the three arms of government.
“APC urges Mr. President and the entire cabinet to remain focused in their efforts to deliver on election promises and to steer the nation to its deserved heights,” it said.
Wamakko, Melaye Deny Impeachment Plot
Also weighing in on the issue, former Sokoto State governor, Senator Aliyu Wamakko, dismissed speculations that some senators were plotting to start impeachment proceedings against the president.
He also denied a report that meetings were held at his residence to move against the president.
In a statement he personally signed, Wamakko said: “My attention was drawn to a false and malicious story published by an online newspaper that a series of meetings were held in my residence to strategise on the impeachment proceedings of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“To set the records straight, a meeting was only held in my residence towards finding an amicable solution to the frosty relationship between the executive and legislature.
“We have observed the growing disharmony between the two arms, and we resolved that finding an amicable solution to the impasse will move the nation forward and give the president focus to pursue his Change Agenda.”
He said he was too principled as a politician and had no cause to scheme against the president and the party he campaigned for or the cause he believes in.
“Let me once again reiterate that we hold the president in high esteem, and we will do our best towards ensuring that there is a cordial relationship and harmony between the two arms of government,” Wamakko said.
The senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Melaye, also denied media reports that he was the one instigating the impeachment of the president.
Melaye, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), said those spreading the falsehood were people who believe that a “Nigeria that is not led by them must not exist”.
In a statement he issued wednesday in Abuja, Melaye said the allegation was the “narrative of the attack dogs of demagogues who have decided to turn Nigeria upside down for failing to choose leaders for senators”.
He added: “It is pertinent to note that the incredulously machinated misinformation was orchestrated by forces bent on destabilising the upper chamber of the Nigerian Parliament for selfish reasons.
“One of the mushrooms and faceless online platforms used to promote the ill-fated and calumnious write-up has been notorious for serving as the propagandist machinery of political commercialists who are pushing for the extension of their fiefdom to the National Assembly.
“While I remain unimpeachably committed to the leadership of the Senate, I believe the respected arm of government charged with the onerous responsibility of law making should be given the independence to conduct its business.
“It is untrue and malicious; the allegation is the narrative of the attack dogs of demagogues who have decided to turn Nigeria upside down for failing to choose leaders for senators.
“I am a responsible Nigerian, role model and a champion of anti-corruption and equity which my party (APC) stands for. I therefore urge the general public to discountenance the libelous publication, as I will continue to respect the history, culture and excellence of my Kogi West people on the floor of the Senate.
“The true threats to the current Republic are those who believe that a Nigeria that is not led by them must not exist.”
Tinubu, Lagos APC Blast Melaye
However, Melaye failed to address his outburst and alleged threat to beat up and impregnate Senator Remi Tinubu during an altercation at a closed-door session of the Senate on Tuesday, prompting the full weight of the wrath of Senator Tinubu’s husband and a National Leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu, and leaders of the Lagos Central Senatorial District, which Remi represents.
Reacting to the threat on his wife, the former Lagos State governor described Melaye as a “disgrace to the Senate”.
Tinubu, in a statement by his media aide, Sunday Dare, dared the lawmaker to carry out the threat and see if “nothing will happen”.
“Dino Melaye sunk to the lowest ever. From this point, it is downhill for him. A disgrace to the Senate of the Republic,” Tinubu’s spokesman wrote on Twitter.
“And if Dino thinks nothing will happen if he dare beats up another senator, then he must be living in a fools paradise. Things will happen,” Tinubu’s spokesman said.
In another statement, the leadership of the Lagos Central Senatorial Zone said: “We the leaders of the Lagos Central Senatorial District have monitored the developments in the Nigerian Senate closely for well over a year now.
“We have kept abreast of the under currents of the issues and the political alignments within the red chamber.
“We are mindful of the divisions that exist and thus we are in full support of those efforts to get all the senators working for the larger interest of Nigeria and the reforms needed to give birth to a more just and prosperous nation.
“Thus, we were taken aback and shocked by the events of Tuesday, July 12, 2016 during the closed executive session of the Senate when Senator Dino Melaye launched a derogatory attack against a ranking senator, Oluremi Tinubu.
“We condemn in very strong terms Dino Melaye’s attacks on our distinguished Senator Oluremi Tinubu.
“We demand an investigation of the incident and the motives of Senator Dino Melaye. The Senate must look into her laws and find appropriate sanctions to prevent future attacks.”
The statement signed by Chief Tajudeen Olusi; Mr. Fouad Oki, APC state vice-chairman, Lagos Central Senatorial District; and Hon. Hakeem Bamgbola, the acting secretary of APC in Lagos, said it considered Melaye’s behaviour as unbecoming of the exalted office he holds and reminded him that he cannot muscle a colleague and a ranking senator.
“The right of every senator is guaranteed and Dino cannot seek to circumscribe it. The founding fathers of our democracy left behind a tradition of discipline, decorum and selfless patriotism. We hope the Eighth Senate will uphold this tradition.
“We stand behind Senator Oluremi Tinubu and firmly support her activities in the Senate. We salute her courage and consistent defence of democratic principles and the rule of law.
“Senator Oluremi Tinubu, a ranking senator has a tradition of speaking truth to power and never one to be cowed. Lagos State regards Senator Dino’s attack as an affront on Lagosians and its political leadership,” the senatorial zone stated.
Malami Defends Forgery Trial
Meanwhile, the AGF and justice minister wednesday told the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters that he instituted the forgery case against Saraki and Ekweremadu in the interest of justice and in the interest of the public. He also added that the case predated his appointment as the AGF.
Malami, who appeared before the committee 24 hours after he apologised to its members and Saraki for not honouring the committee’s invitation twice last month, explained that the suit was predicated on the outcome of the investigation of the forgery allegation against the suspects by the Nigeria Police.
Malami explained that prior to his appointment as the AGF in October last year, two cases on the alleged forgery had been instituted by some senators, one of which he said was filed by Senator Gilbert Nnaji (Enugu East) on July 23, 2016.
He explained that the criminal suit with reference number FHC/ABJ/CS/646/ 2015 was filed on July, 23 2015 alongside a report of the investigation carried out by the police.
“I was appointed on the 12th day of November 2015, that is precisely about four months. As at the time I came to office, the report was concluded,” he said.
Malami further said as the AGF, he was obliged to charge the accused persons to court in his commitment to sustain democracy and the rule of law.
When he was put under pressure to explain if his action did not constitute a threat to democracy, Malami said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the matter because it was already subjudice, citing Section 53(5) of the Senate Standing Rules to buttress his position.
He reminded the committee that Section 53(5) of the Senate rules state that when a matter is pending before a law court, it will be overreaching for him to insinuate or comment on it.
But the chairman of the committee, Senator David Umaru, said the purpose of the meeting was not to look at the matter pending before a law court but was in compliance with Sections 62, 88 and 89, which among others, confer on the legislature the power to summon any officer to give evidence as the case may be.
The chairman also questioned Malami’s insistence on filing a criminal case on the alleged forgery of the Senate rules when he was aware of an ongoing civil case on the matter, as well as the ex parte order of a Federal High Court in Abuja.
In the same vein, Senator Chukwuka Utazi (Enugu North) said whereas Section 174(3) of the amended 1999 Constitution empowers the AGF to institute a case against anybody in the public interest, he demanded an explanation from the AGF as to if the forgery suit was not an abuse of office.
Utazi also cited Section 30 of the Legislative Houses, Powers and Privileges Act which he said gave parliamentarians the powers to handle their own matters, just as he asked the AGF to determine if he was not infringing on that provision.
Another member of the committee, Senator Babajide Omoworare (Osun East), also expressed displeasure over the decision of the AGF to ignore the invitations of the committee, saying it was the responsibility of the AGF to collaborate with the committee as a required synergy to move the nation’s judiciary forward.
But the AGF cited Section 60 of the constitution, which he said gives the Senate the powers to regulate its own proceedings as the motivating factor for the suit, explaining that the amendment of the Senate Standing Orders 2011 was a violation of the provision.
According to him, the amendment was not done in observation of Senate rules as envisaged in Section 60 of the constitution, pointing out that the Senate rules are regulated through votes and proceedings, motions and resolutions and since none of these were observed in the amendment of the rules, the constitution had been breached and as the chief law officer, it was his responsibility to protect the constitution.
Malami further added that the amendment could not by any means secure legal protection because it was done in flagrant disregard to the Senate rules, and since it “came within the purview of criminality”, he had no option than to contest it in a law court.
“Certain people amended the rules without following due processes. Definitely, something was wrong and I had to do something about it in the interest of justice and public interest. There was need to show responsibility and it behoved me to initiate a suit in line with Section 174 of the constitution because it was a breach of Section 60 in the interest of justice to ensure that things are done within the procedure of the Senate,” Malami added.
Malami also said he did not deliberately stay away from the committee’s invitations, explaining that it was not in his character to ignore invitations to social events, much more those from constituted authorities.
But Utazi contested his earlier submission, drawing the attention of the AGF to Section 64(1) of the constitution which provides that each house of the National Assembly stands dissolved upon the expiration of a four-year tenure.
Utazi told the AGF that the argument that the Senate Standing Orders 2011 was forged was not tenable, claiming that the Standing Orders used in the Seventh Assembly automatically expired with that assembly.
However, the committee was divided, as Omoworare alluded to the unfettered powers of the AGF to charge anyone to court, citing the submission of the late Justice Kayode Esho that “the AGF was a law unto itself”.
But Umaru further read the submission of Esho on the powers of the AGF in the same document to the extent that the powers of the AGF as unfettered as they may be, are not absolute as submitted by Omoworare.
He observed that the AGF could be dragged to court if it was found that he had erroneously damaged somebody’s reputation by wrongly invoking Section 174 against anyone.
Omoworare, however, reminded the AGF of the submission he earlier made that the matter was already subjudice, a comment which was protested by Utazi that Omoworare was attempting to stop the AGF from responding to his question on Section 64(1) of the constitution through that advice.
However, Senator Joshua Lidani (Gombe South) reminded the AGF that Saraki and Ekweremadu were not invited by the police, neither did they make any statement before they were charged. He therefore asked the AGF to provide proof that the document was forged.
The senator warned the AGF that the forgery suit would amount to a disservice to this country if in the end, the court finds out that the rules were not forged.
But the AGF said he had no comment on Lidani’s question that he should provide proof of forgery and restated his earlier stance that the matter was subjudice.