President Meets Saraki, Dogara, Says N’Assembly Invasion an Embarrassment

0

• Leadership of legislature reports IG to president, discusses Melaye’s ordeal
• Senate President: Budget to be passed next week

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja and Yekini Jimoh in Lokoja

President Muhammadu Buhari has frowned upon the recent invasion of the National Assembly by unknown persons who carted away its mace, describing the development as an embarrassment and promising to investigate the incident.

Buhari, whose reaction came at a private meeting he held with Senate President Bukola Saraki and his House of Representatives counterpart, Yakubu Dogara, reportedly said the development was not only an embarrassment to the legislature but also to the entire country, adding that a proper investigation to unravel the masterminds was imperative.

Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting, the Senate President said the meeting was summoned at the instance of the president with the aim of briefing them on the outcome of his trip to the United States and also to find out the state of the budget.

According to him, they reported the invasion of National Assembly to him, pointing out that the president expressed concern over the development, describing it as an embarrassment and promised to ensure that it is 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 issues of concern 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, it is about the country,” Saraki said.

On when the 2018 budget will be passed, 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 (IG) 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 in 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 the constitution that gives investigative powers to us and that there is the 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 touch on some of the important issues, as I said it is a continuous process,” Saraki stated.

Also in his briefing, when asked to comment on the impeachment threats looming over the president, the Speaker, House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara said himself and Senate President Bukola Saraki had no authority to discuss the impeachment of President Buhari.

Dogara’s comment that they had no authority to discuss the president’s impeachment looked shocking, coming few days after both chambers of the National Assembly had threatened him with impeachment over his decision to withdraw $496 million from Excess Crude Account (ECA) to buy Tucano aircraft without authorisation.

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 don’t think we have the authority to discuss issues of impeachment. lmpeachment is a political offence and I don’t think we are there yet,” he said.

On whether the president expressed his feelings about the threat, Dogara said: “No, never. It wasn’t part of the agenda.”

Dogara also said they expressed their displeasure to the president over the manner of Senator Dino Melaye’s arraignment in Lokoja last week and described the experience as uncivilised and uncalled for.

Dogara, who said they did not say the law should not take its course if Melaye is found wanting under it, insisted that a situation where the police behaved as “upgraded barbarians” 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 a 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, 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 a need for us to act with civility. We are not saying that anybody should be protected and defended.

“Once you have committed an offence, our law said you should answer 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-emphasized it in order to bring people to book.

“But a situation where people are wheeled to court, that doesn’t give a good image of our democracy.

“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 a 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.

Melaye’s Bail Application for Thursday

The Kogi State High Court sitting in Lokoja Monday adjourned Senator Dino Melaye’s bail application for further hearing to Thursday.

Melaye is standing trial on a seven-count charge bordering on illegal possession of firearm, among other charges before the court.

The trial judge, who is also the Chief Judge of Kogi State, Justice Nasir Ajanah, gave the ruling at the resumed hearing of the motions in Lokoja.

He said the adjournment was to enable the defence file its affidavit on the bail application.

Ajanah said the adjournment would also enable him to study the counter motions to be able to adjudicate on the matter judiciously.

The prosecution led by Dr. Alex Izinyon (SAN) urged the court not to grant the application, arguing that the senator would jump bail if his application was granted as he had once escaped lawful custody.

Izinyon said that the senator while in police custody as he was being taken from Abuja to Lokoja for arraignment, jumped out of police bus and escaped.

He argued that there was no guarantee that Melaye would make himself available for trial if granted bail, adding that his conduct in the alleged escape from lawful custody did not portray him as someone that will not jump bail.

However, counsel to Senator Melaye, Chief Mike Ozekhome, in the bid to sway the court in favour of his client in a counter affidavit explained the circumstances that led to the alleged escape.

He pointed out that initially the same police told Melaye that they will take him to a High Court in Abuja for prosecution, but decided to head towards Lokoja for prosecution.

According to him, while they were in the vehicle, the police teargassed Melaye twice when he was protesting vehemently why they were taking him to Lokoja instead of Abuja.

He explained further that while the vehicle carrying the senator came to a standstill at Area One intersection roundabout in Abuja, Melaye forced the door of the vehicle open and jumped down because he was gasping for breath so that he will not suffocate and die.

Melaye was earlier arraigned on a stretcher along with others before a Lokoja Senior Magistrate’s Court which ordered his remand in police custody.

He however had the ruling of the magistrate varied and was remanded in the National Hospital, Abuja by Justice Ajanah who slated Monday for hearing in the bail application.

The senator, along with Kabiru Seidu, aka Osama and Nuhu Salihu, aka Small are standing trial on a seven-count charge bordering on illegal possession of firearms, criminal conspiracy and illegal dealing in arms.