Senate: So, It was all about “Juicy” Committees? 


By Garba Abdulrasaq

“When the dust settles, Nigerians will see clearly that this charge (trial) is nothing but a meretricious trash”. – Sen. Ekweremadu 

I felt so sad, betrayed, and angry with myself as I read comments by the spokesperson of the Senate Unity Forum, Senator Kabiru Marafa, after a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday 21st July 2016. They fooled me and us again, I said to myself.

 Asked by State House Correspondents if the charges against Saraki and Ekweremadu could be dropped now that the Senate President has yielded to their demands for “juicy” Standing Committees, Marafa said: “Yes, as long as the party comes in and the will of the party is respected. We are not at loggerhead with anybody. It is not like we hate somebody. The current Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has been one of my very close friends and senior in the 7th assembly. What you saw happened is what I will describe as loyalty to the party. The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria recognizes only the party, it doesn’t recognize any individual.

 “We didn’t go to court because we didn’t like the faces of those that emerged, but this is the will of our party. During the 7th assembly, we accorded the ruling party at that time the utmost cooperation and we knew the committees that we were given that time. But now, we are in power it is our own time and we should be accorded all the necessary cooperation. We should be seen to respect the party. If the party says withdraw the case, we will go on to withdraw the case”.

 I even felt more aggrieved when a former neighbour in Lagos who now lives on the same street with Senator Marafa in Abuja told me that Marafa even threw an in-house party to celebrate his landing of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), considered by the Unity Forum to be very “juicy”.

 Although many Nigerians raised some ordinarily argued, at the inception of Saraki’s trial, that could he have been arraigned if he had allowed the big heads in his party and presidency to have their way in the choice of Presiding Officers and Principal Officers of the Senate, but my attitude was that Nigerians had suffered enough in the hands of their so-called leaders. As such, whatever soul that sinned or whoever ate pour yam, must face the law.

 Sadly, the wailers and their ranks, which are now growing by the day, now laugh last. It is not about the ordinary Nigerian or about democracy, after all. I mean, to take the whole nation for a long, noisy, windy circus for 14 out of the 48 months of the first (and I pray the last) term of office by this administration, in the face of excruciating economic pains, merely for power sharing and profiteering, is just too ridiculous and atrocious for a party that soared to power on the wings of “change”.

 Regarding the Senate forgery, however, I must admit that I was never really convinced that the invitation/petitioning of the police (an executive agency) by the Senate Unity Forum enjoys the blessing of the constitution because it was just some Senators inviting the police, rather than the Senate as an institution. Justice Gabriel Kolawole’s ruling sometime last year that the issue of Senate Standing Order is purely a domestic legislative affairs was later to reaffirm my opinion.

 He went further to say that the option open to members aggrieved by any breach of its Rules or wrong decision was to muster the number to reverse such decision on the floor or cause the Senate to direct its Committee on Ethics and Privileges to investigate the matter, after which the Senate as a body would decide whether or not to invite the police and/or discipline any erring members.

 But were we not so narrow-minded not to have known before now that we were being fooled and that the whole shenanigan and grandstanding in the Senate was about Committee? It is now that I recall clearly that members of Unity Forum, the plaintiffs in suitFHC/ABJ/CS/651/2015 contesting the authenticity of the Senate Standing Rule 2015, approached the Federal High Court with an ex-parte application seeking to restrain the Senate leadership from constituting the Chairman and Deputy Chairmen of Standing and Ad Hoc Committees pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice”

 In refusing the application, however, Justice Kolawole, insisted that he did not “notice any substantial infraction on the 1999 Constitution”.

 According to him, “The court is not created to supervise the National Assembly in its activities, but can only intervene where there is  substantial infraction on the constitution; where the NASS as the legislative arm of government is alleged to have contravened its own rules, the court as the third arm of government should be wary so as not to be seen as hijacking the powers of the NASS in handling its affairs; Members of the NASS should be trusted to be able to mobilise themselves to address issues on the floor”.

 Now, relating Senator Marafa’s comments and the recent statement by the APC National Chairman, John Oyegun, that “we all find it very, very difficult to accept the emergence of a PDP person as his Deputy Senate President” (even though the APC enjoyed and praised bi-partisan National Assembly leadership under Hon. Aminu Tambuwal and also produced the current Speakers of Plateau and Benue Assemblies where their party is minority), one begins to understand APC’s hypocrisy. What is more, only a few days ago, the APC againproduced the Speaker of Kogi State House of Assembly where PDP is the majority. A long-frustrated and embattled Alhaji Momoh-Jimoh Lawal of the G-15 threw in the towel, while Umar Imam of G-5 was “elected” Speaker.

Much as these serial hypocrisy is condemnable, it nevertheless helps Nigerians to see more clearly why the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, a former legal counsel to the Senate Unity Forum, acted in a manner, which Justice Kolawole considered a “gross abuse of legal process”, “in a desperate haste”, and “not in public interests” in arraigning Saraki and Ekweremadu.

 According to the Honourable Justice, “the said criminal charge dated 10/6/16 and attached as exhibit “B” to the Plaintiff’s ‘motion ex parte’ dated 23/6/16, given the course of these proceedings as I had in detail, highlighted, can only be seen as one that constitutes an ‘abuse of legal process’ to use the very words in section 174(3) of the constitution”.

 He lamented that whereas the AGF, by virtue of the Constitution, is compelled to stop any such abuse of legal process, “The converse situation, which the drafters of the constitution, perhaps never envisaged appears to have occurred in this case as the 2nd defendant (AGF) who is required, by Section 174(3) of the Constitution, to ‘discontinue at any stage before judgment is delivered any such criminal proceedings instituted or undertaken by him or any other authority or person’ where such proceedings constitute ‘abuse of legal process’, is in fact the very person who initiated a criminal proceedings in a matter in which he had, as a private legal practitioner, acted for the one of the ‘interested’ Senators who had petitioned the 1st defendant (Inspector-General of Police) on 30/6/15”. In summary, it is not about us, after all, but about elites’ selfish interest. This is another hope ruthlessly betrayed. In saner climes, heads would be rolling by now, starting with that of the AGF. Of all people on earth, Nigerians are to be pitied most. What a meretricious trash. Apologies, Ekweremadu.

–Abdulrasaq writes from Lagos