Melaye’s arraignment, IGP’s recalcitrance, invasion of Senate chamber, Â budget, visit to US among issues discussed
By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari Monday met with Senate President Bukola Saraki and House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara at the State House Â in Abuja. At the meeting held behind closed-doors, issues discussed included this year’s budget currently before the National Assembly, invasion of the Senate chamber by some thugs recently, the manner Â in which Senator Dino Melaye was arraigned in court, IGP Ibrahim Idris’ recalcitrance and the President’s trip to the United States were among issues discussed.
Answering questions from State House Correspondents after the meeting, Dogara said at the meeting, Â they expressed their displeasure to the president over the manner of Senator Melaye’s arraignment in Lokoja last week,which they viewed as uncivilised and uncalled for.
Dogara who said they did not say the law should not take its course if Melaye is found wanting, insisted that a situation where the police behave as “upgraded babarians” in a democracy is unacceptable.
“On the issue of Senator Dino, of course, anything that happens to one of our members or any member of the National Assembly is of concern to us. And there is no way we can have this kind of meeting without raising that.
“This is a civilian administration. It is democracy and it is imperative and very very important that all institutions of democracy operate within the ambit of the rule of law.
“There is nowhere,Â I have said it before, that police will behave in a democracy like a clan of tribesmen, like an upgraded barbarians sort of. So, there is need for usÂ to act with civility. We are not sayingÂ that anybody should be protected and defended.
“Once you have committed an offence, our law said you should answer for it but you just have to utilise the provision of our constitution and the rule of law and this administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has over-emphased it in order to bring people to book.
“But a situation where people are wheeled to court, that doesnâ€™t give good image of our democracy. Â I have not seen a democracy where people are wheeled to court, they are not in the proper frame of mind and they are forced to undergo trial.
“Whatever it is, even if Dino is pretending as some have said in some section of the media, he cannot pretend forever. He is there, he will not run away. He is a senator and he can be tried any time he is in proper frame of mind.
“As a lawyer, I can tell you. Any judge that assesses an accused person that is not in a proper frame of mind, even if the accused person pleads guilty, he is duty bound by law to record a plea of guilty if he is not satisfied as to the soundness of the mind of the accused person.
“So, the emphasis is there and I believe the president, being a listening president, will definitely take steps and do something about it,” he submitted.
Also speaking, Saraki said the meeting was called by the president with the aim of briefing them on his trip to the United States and also find out the state of the budget.
He said they reported the invasion of National Assembly to him and the president expressed concern over the development, described it as an embarrassment and promised to ensure it was investigated.
“Well, we came on the invitation of Mr. President. He wanted to brief us on his trip to the United States and also the issue of the budget. We also talked on the issue of concerns to us – the invasion of the National Assembly, which he showed great concern about and said action would be taken to investigate that.
“Of course, he sees it as an embarrassment to the country and that there will be a proper investigation because it is something that is not just about the National Assembly. lt is about the country,” Saraki said.
On the budget, he said the Appropriation Committee would submit its report to the Senate this week and the Appropriation Bill would be passed next week.
“Well, hopefully it should be laid this week. If it can be laid this week, it can be passed early next week but we are hoping it will be laid this week,” he added.
On the cat and mouse relationship between the two arms of government, Saraki who said the National Assembly was ready to give the required support to the executive, disclosed that they reported the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris’ perceived penchant for disobedience to constituted authority to the president.
According to him, the meeting was a good one because it gave them the opportunity to touch all issues of concern.
“You see, we are here today. It was the initiative of Mr. President to brief us on his visit to America and to engage on discussions and I think that is a good sign.
“We as members of the National Assembly have always been ready to give all our support to the executive and we will continue to work along those lines.
“As I said, the presidential system that we operate, we sometimes have the responsibility to check the excesses of the executive. So, there will always be times we will disagree but by and large, we will always work for the interests of Nigerians and always keep on moving on.
“Just talking about the issue of the police, we also raised the issue of the non-appearance of the IG at the Senate and felt that they must continue to ensure that he continues to apply obedience to the issue of constituted authority.
“We are of great concern that this is not the first time this is happening and that matter needs to be addressed considering the importance of the powers of theÂ constitution that gives investigative powers to us and that there is need for police to accept that they too are under the constitution and they must obey that. We raised that concern.
“Yes, of course. I think it is good that we touched some ofÂ the important issues, as I said it is a continuous process,” Saraki stated.While responding to a question earlier on whether the meeting discussed the reported move to impeach the president over his approval of the release of funds for the purchase of Tucano aircraft without the nod of the National Assembly, Â Dogara said they had no authority to discuss the impeachment of Â the President.
Dogara who said neither the president nor themselves raised the matter of impeachment, added that impeachment was a political offence and nothing called for that now.
“Well, I donâ€™t think we have the authorityÂ to discuss issues of impeachment. lmpeachment is a political offence and I donâ€™t think we are there yet,” he said.
On whether the president expressed his feelings about the threat, Dogara said: “No, never. It wasnâ€™t part of the agenda.”