- Appeal against assets declaration trial adjourned to Oct 6
Tobi Soniyi and Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
Senate President Bukola Saraki monday restated his loyalty to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and reiterated his belief that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration would redeem the electoral promises it made during the 2015 general election.
His statement came just as President Buhari met with former Senate Presidents David Mark and Ken Nnamani, and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives and Katsina State Governor Aminu Masari behind closed doors.
Although no statement was made on the reason for their meeting, speculation was rife that the former National Assembly leaders were on a fence-mending mission to settle the rift between the presidency and the Senate.
There has been no love lost between the presidency and the Senate since the emergence of Saraki as the Senate President and Senator Ike Ekweremadu as his deputy a year ago.
Saraki is currently facing trial for false assets declaration and with his deputy for the alleged forgery of the Senate rules, which both men have maintained were politically motivated by Buhari and his administration to force a leadership change in the Senate.
Also, while the Senate deems the forgery charges as undue interference in the affairs of the legislature, the executive has maintained that they were filed in the interest of justice and that of the public.
There were reports last week alleging that the Senate was contemplating initiating impeachment proceedings against Buhari but this was later denied by the Senate.
A statement by the Senate president’s Special Assistant, New Media, Bankole Omisore, said Saraki reaffirmed his loyalty to the party at the 10th Abuja Housing Show held at the International Conference Centre in Abuja, with the theme: Expanding Access to Affordable Housing in Africa.
The event featured top government officials and prominent stakeholders in the housing sector.
While acknowledging the presence of the APC National Organising Secretary, Senator Osita Izunaso, who spearheaded the discussions at the summit, Saraki said the APC government was absolutely committed to the social welfare of the people while affirming his unalloyed loyalty to the party.
“The Senate and the National Assembly as a whole believe very strongly that we must make a difference in the housing sector,” he said.
The Senate president, reacting to observations that the existing housing laws needed to be repealed and amended, charged the organisers of the summit to take further steps by forwarding a document of laws requiring amendments to the National Assembly.
“I assure you that action will be taken instantaneously,” Saraki promised.
Saraki further said the Senate had commenced the process of reviewing several laws affecting property rights and access to housing in the country.
According to him, the review of the National Housing Fund Act was ongoing and would be completed before the end of the year.
In his submission, Izunaso said housing deficit in Nigeria had been put at 17 million housing units.
“As at today, only 10 per cent of those who dream to own a house in the country can afford it, as against the 92 per cent home owners in Singapore.
“The central objective of the summit, however, is to come up with feasible strategies on how to end the problem of homelessness in Nigeria,” Izunaso said.
Present at the summit were the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola; Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje; Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria, Hakan Çakıl; Trade Union Congress (TUC) President, Mr. Bobboi Kaigama; and several investors.
Even as Saraki reaffirmed his commitment to the party and the administration’s policies, the president met the three former leaders of the National Assembly behind closed doors at the Presidential Villa in Abuja monday.
While Nnamani and Masari arrived together, Mark came later and was accompanied to Buhari’s office by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang.
The Governor of Zamfara State and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) Abdulaziz Yari was also seen going into the president’s office. However, it was not clear whether he was part of the meeting or he met separately with Buhari.
Details of the meeting between Buhari and the former National Assembly leaders were not disclosed.
The executive and the legislature have been at loggerheads since the emergence of the current presiding officers of the National Assembly, especially the Senate. Indeed, the leadership of the National Assembly did not honour an invitation to the breakfast with the president recently.
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal in Abuja has granted Saraki’s prayer to adjourn his appeal challenging the competence of the false declaration of assets charges brought against him by the federal government.
The court adjourned the appeal to October 6 to enable the justices of the court enjoy their vacation.
Though the appeal was slated for hearing, Saraki’s counsel, Chief Godwin Kanu Agabi (SAN), a former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), monday argued a motion praying the court to adjourn hearing of the suit in view of the yearly vacation of the court which began last week.
Agabi told the justices that they deserved their vacation having worked tirelessly in the past one year.
He also argued that since the court would not be able to give judgment during the vacation, there was no point hearing the matter so that judgment in the suit would not be hanging over their heads while on holiday.
Saraki’s stance was however vehemently opposed by the federal government, which claimed that the Senate president had already been granted three adjournments in the matter.
But Justice Abdul Aboki, who was presiding, cut in and demanded to know from the government’s lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), what he stood to lose if Saraki’s request was granted.
Jacobs eventually agreed to the adjournment.
Justice Aboki in his brief ruling agreed with Saraki and adjourned hearing of the appeal till October 6 this year.
Saraki had challenged the competence of the false assets declaration criminal charges brought against him by the federal government, insisting that the charge was politically motivated and in bad faith.
In the objection argued by his counsel, Saraki said the charges could not be sustained in law since due process of law was not observed before it was initiated.
He had asked the court to quash or strike out the charges filed in September last year against him.
The Senate president also asked the Appeal Court to discharge him from the charges on the grounds that they were not competent and lawful in the eyes of the law.