- Senate President leads delegation to meet Buhari
- Police: Inviting suspects to Abuja is routine
Damilola Oyedele, Senator Iroegbu, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Hammed Shittu in Ilorin
The President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Wednesday raised the alarm over a plot by the Inspector General of Police (IG), Mr. Ibrahim Idis, to implicate him and the Kwara State Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed in criminal activities.
According to Saraki, Idris had directed that a group of cultists who were arrested in Kwara State be transferred to Abuja, where their statements would be altered to implicate him and the state governor.
But the Nigeria Police Force immediately debunked the allegation, saying the alarm was a ruse, misleading and amounted to obstruction of justice.
Also in reaction to Sarakiâ€™s charge on the floor of the Senate Wednesday, his colleagues resolved that the Senate President should lead a delegation to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari to inform him about the plot.
Speaking at plenary, Saraki described the plot as an act of desperation, blackmail, intimidation, abuse of office and crude tactics aimed at turning Nigeria into a police state.
â€œIt is also an indication of the level of rascality which happens when efforts are made to ensure that top officials obey the law, follow due process and subject themselves to constituted authority.
â€œLast night (Tuesday), my state governor, Dr. Abdulfatai Ahmed revealed to me information at his disposal that a group of suspects who had been in the police cell for several weeks for cultism and whose investigation had been concluded with prosecution about to commence under the state law, based on the advice of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and the Ministry of Justice, were ordered to be transferred to Abuja this (Wednesday) morning.
â€œAccording to the information available to the governor, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Idris Ibrahim, directed the Commissioner of Police in Kwara State to immediately transfer the men to the Force Headquarters.
â€œThe plan, as the governor was made to understand, is that under duress, the suspects would be made to alter the statements they had already made in Ilorin. They will then be made to implicate the Kwara State Government, and in particular myself in their new statement,â€ Saraki alleged.
The Senate President said the plot was part of the strategy by Idris to settle scores over the Senateâ€™s declaration that he was an enemy of democracy, incompetent and unfit to hold public office, â€œfollowing his usual disrespectful conduct towards lawful authoritiesâ€.
â€œI want to bring this dangerous development to the attention of all of you my colleagues, the entire country and the international community, so that you can be aware of the level of impunity in our country and the danger it constitutes to our democracy,â€ Saraki added.
As the Senate President made to continue proceedings, he was interrupted by the Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who was emphatic that the allegations were too weighty not to be debated at plenary.
Akpabio noted that any plot incriminating the Senate President would affect the credibility of the Senate as an institution.
Since the matter directly affected him, Saraki at this point stepped down for Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu to preside.
Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Bala Naâ€™Allah, in his contribution to the debate, further noted that the allegation was too serious to be assigned to the Committee on Police Affairs and called for the constitution of a panel made up of â€œvery experienced senatorsâ€ to meet with Buhari over the issue.
But while Naâ€™Allah argued that the delegation should be headed by Saraki, as he was directly affected by the plot, the Senate Leader Ahmed Lawan said it was necessary for the Senate President to be part of the group, since other critical matters would be discussed.
Deputy Minority Leader Emmanuel Bwacha, in his remarks, decried the ongoing intimidation of senators. He disclosed that he had also suffered for criticising the IG over his refusal to appear before the Senate.
Bwacha informed his colleagues that when he was travelling to his constituency last weekend, his police security detail were suddenly withdrawn by the Commander of Mobile Police of the National Assembly.
The withdrawal of the policemen happened in an area notorious for kidnapping, Bwacha alleged.
â€œWe have to meet the president and tell him that our democracy is collapsing under his watch,â€ Bwacha said.
Senator Kabiru Marafa (Zamfara APC) also backed the recommendation to meet with the president, since the Senate and the IG already have unresolved issues.
â€œThere is already a problem between us and the IG, so I suggest that we raise a committee as suggested by others, but instead of investigating they should sit down with President Buhari to discuss the matter.
â€œThis is not a joke as it can turn democracy upside down. If we investigate, where are we to take our resolutions to? The committee might end up inviting the IG and what if he still does not appear again?â€ Marafa asked.
Senator Isa Hamman Misau (Bauchi APC) recalled that in January, he had raised the alarm of a plot to implicate several senators for criminal activities.
â€œIt is not just the police, there are other security organisations behind this, and itâ€™s all about the 2019 elections.
â€œWhy should appointees of the government be doing this? For me, we are not running a democracy. Let us know what we are operating in Nigeria because we cannot continue to operate under intimidation. Let us see President Buhari so that it can be on the record,â€ Misau said.
Ekweremadu, in his remarks, said the National Assembly has a responsibility to Nigerians to ensure that democracy is preserved and its tenets upheld.
â€œWhat the Senate President has raised today is an expose of some of the things that are wrong with our democracy which we need to halt. We need to ensure there is rule of law and we need to ensure that we respect our various fundamental rights.
â€œWe are a country that is bound by conventions, laws, culture and tradition. So it is our responsibility as a parliament to ensure that we protect the rights of our citizens to ensure that we make progress as a nation, especially on the issues of human rights and democracy,â€ Ekweremadu said.
The Senate consequently raised a 10-man panel led by Saraki to meet with Buhari on the matter, and other issues that had caused confrontations between the executive arm of government and the legislature.
The delegation includes Majority Leader Lawan, Chief Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye, Minority Leader, Akpabio, Senators Danjuma Goje (Gombe APC), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto APC), Adamu Abdullahi (Nassarawa APC), Oluremi Tinubu (Lagos APC), Fatima Raji Rasaki (Ekiti APC), and Sam Egwu (Ebonyi PDP).
The Senate Wednesday also condemned the recent invasion of the Rivers State High Court, which was allegedly carried out by hoodlums linked to a faction of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.
It also mandated its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to investigate the circumstances of the invasion, which was allegedly perpetrated in the presence of the police.
Senator Osinachukwu Ideozu (Rivers PDP) accused the police of failing to provide adequate security to the court complex and the judicial workers, litigants, lawyers and judges.
He also accused the police of preventing legitimate access to the offices, precincts, and courtrooms in an attempt to obstruct and prevent the course of justice.
â€œNearly one week after the attack, the police is yet to make any statement on the ill-intended act and assault on the Rivers State judiciary and has not made any arrests,â€ he said.
Saraki said the development portends further danger to Nigeriaâ€™s democracy â€œif in a court premises, people attack it to try to prevent a court judgmentâ€.
â€œIf it has come to the stage where people are entering the National Assembly and carrying the mace and now go to court to stop judgments, this is a danger to democracy,â€ Saraki added.
Also at plenary Wednesday, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta APC), who had been suspended by the Senate but was reinstated by the court, joined his colleagues without any incident.
The senator who arrived at 10.20 a.m., signed the daily attendance register and left the chamber. He, however, returned before the Senate retreated into a closed-door session at 10.52 a.m.
Omo-Agege had said he would attend plenary on Tuesday in line with the ruling of the Federal High Court, Abuja, quashing his suspension from the Senate.
He, however, did not show up that day even though the Senate had said it would not stop the senator if he decided to resume sitting.
Omo-Agege, Wednesday, was scheduled to appear before the National Assembly committee investigating the invasion of the Senate chamber to explain his alleged role in the April 18 incident.
But the investigative hearing was postponed due to the tight schedule at the Senate Wednesday. A new date for his appearance was not announced.
Kwara Govt Concerned
But it was not just the senators who were concerned over the allegations made by Saraki over the plot by the police to implicate him, as the Kwara State Government also expressed concern about the manner four suspected cult members were transferred from the state Police Command to Abuja.
Addressing journalists at the end of an emergency Security Council meeting at Government House, Ilorin Wednesday, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Mr. Jimoh Adebimpe Mumini, said the offences were state-based and could be tried under the state laws.
The DPP, who wondered why four out of 17 accused persons were transferred to Abuja, observed that there were notorious cases of cultism that had been successfully prosecuted in the state.
He said he was hopeful that the four suspected cultists transferred to Abuja, possibly for further interrogation, will be returned to the state where the offence was committed for trial.
According to him, â€œWe have had cases of notorious and dangerous killers in the state which have been handled in the state. Our hope is that the Nigeria Police Force will return the four accused persons to the state for trial.â€
Also speaking, the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor, Chief Leke Ogungbe, said the State Security Council expressed hope that the transfer was not politically motivated.
He said: â€œAs a government, we were made to understand that the offences for which the accused persons were arrested are state offences. Weâ€™re now surprised that four of the accused were transferred to Abuja. We hope that no political gains are intended.â€
Also weighing in on the issue, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said it was deeply concerned over the allegation made by Saraki of a plot by the police to use suspected cultists, who have been in detention, to implicate him and the governor of Kwara State.
The party, in a statement issued Wednesday by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said it had taken judicious note of assertions by the Senate President that the said plot was allegedly being hatched by the IG â€œto settle scoresâ€ with the Senate over its recent declaration that he was not fit to hold public office.
â€œThe PDP is alarmed by the trend of brazen assault on the institutions of democracy, particularly the National Assembly and the judiciary, in addition to the unrelenting attacks on dissenting voices, especially as we approach the 2019 general election.
â€œNigerians will recall that the PDP had earlier alerted of plots to arrest, harass and detain dissenting voices and opposition members on trumped up charges, as well as intimidate institutions of democracy and pave the way for a one-party state in our country.
â€œNigerians will further recall the invasion of the Senate chambers by thugs who disrupted proceedings and carted away the mace. Only last Friday, hoodlums violently attacked a High Court in Rivers State with guns, in a bid to stop the judiciary from making pronouncements on an electoral matter,â€ the PDP stated.
The PDP charged the National Assembly to defend the nationâ€™s democracy by sparing no energy in pursuing its resolution of engaging the president on these assaults, in addition to putting in motion all the legislative instruments available to it, to curtail all excesses in government before the situation gets out of hand.
Police: Itâ€™s a Ruse
Reacting to the allegations, the Nigeria Police Force promptly debunked the alarm raised by the Senate President that the police were about to implicate him using cultists who had been coerced into making false statements against him and the Kwara State governor.
The police said the alarm was a ruse, misleading and amounted to an obstruction of justice.
The police also expressed shock at what they described as â€œunbelievable claims, unverifiable allegations and unfounded accusationsâ€, by the Senate President.
â€œThere is no iota of truth in the allegation and false assertion by the Senate President of a plot against him by the IG to implicate the Kwara State Government and the Senate President in any criminal matter.
â€œUntil an investigation is concluded, any person (s) or group(s) who tries to interfere in the investigation process by action or utterances is committing an offence,â€ the Police spokesman, Jimoh Moshood, said.
Moshood explained that the Kwara State Police Command on May 11 had paraded six suspected hired killers, all from Ilorin, who he said had admitted and confessed publicly to killing innocent persons in Kwara State and other states of the country.
â€œThe victims, according to the suspects, were targeted and killed on the instructions of their sponsors,â€ Moshood stated.
The suspects were identified as Abolaji Safti Ojulari, Lanre Mohammed Soliu, a.k.a Askari, Azeez Moyaki, Suleiman Babatunde, Yusuf Habeeb and Umar Yahaya, all from various quarters of Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.
The police also listed the 11 victims of the alleged hired assassins as follows: â€œThe victims, according to the suspects, were targeted and killed on the instructions of their sponsors. Find attached names of victims killed in cold blood: (i) Bukola Ajikobi killed on 18/01/2016 at Ajikobi Area in Ilorin (ii) Azeez Lawal killed in February, 2018 at Oja Oba area of Ilorin (iii) Lateef (Surname unknown) killed February, 2018 at Ode Alfa Nda area of Ilorin (iv) Jamiu (Surname unknown) killed in February 2018 at Idi Ape area, Ilorin (v) One Segun (Surname unknown) killed in September, 2017 at Kankatu area of Ilorin (vi) Wasiu (Surname unknown) killed in September 29, 2016 at Shao garage of Ilorin (vii) Musiliu (Surname unknown) killed in February, 2018 at Shao Area Ilorin (viii) Bayo Ajia killed in January 18, 2018 at Taiwo Road, Ilorin (ix) Another Lateef killed in January 2016 at Baboko Area of Ilorin (x) Abbey, a student of Kwara Polytechnic killed in April, 2017 at Niger Road, Ilorin (xi) Lanre (Surname unknown) killed on 23rd August, 2015 at Isale Aluko Area of Ilorin.
â€œConsequent upon the public confessions of these vicious and notorious killer squad to the killings in cold blood of more than 11 innocent people in Kwara State and other states of the federation, the statutory procedure and practice in the force is that such a heinous crime and capital offence is transferred to the force headquarters for further investigation. This is to enable a thorough and discreet investigation into the crime.â€
In ordering the transfer of the case, the police spokesman denied any vested interest by the IG.
He said the interest of the IG was to ensure that â€œjustice prevails in the matterâ€.
â€œNobody, no matter how highly placed would be allowed to interfere or obstruct police investigation to pervert the course of justice,â€ Moshood said.
He also claimed that the transfer of the suspects was consistent with their investigative tradition.
According to him, â€œSuspects arrested over the mayhem and killings of innocent people in Ile-Ife, Osun State and those arrested in the Southern Kaduna crisis in Kaduna State, and suspects arrested in connection with Zaki-biam killings in Benue State, were all transferred to the Force Headquarters, Abuja, for further investigation before they were arraigned in courts of competent jurisdiction.
â€œTherefore, transferring this hired assassin gang masquerading as cultists in Kwara State to the Force Headquarters, Abuja, for further investigation is in accordance with police investigative procedures.â€
The police warned that with the red-herring statement credited to the Senate President, the families of the victims could be discouraged from coming forward to give evidence against them.
Moshood implored the public to disregard and discountenance the claim of a plot by the IG against the Senate President as a ruse, unfortunate and an attempt to divert police investigation into the killings of more than 11 innocent people from kwara State and other states of the federation in the recent past by the killer squad which operates under the guise of a cult group.
He said the police will leave no stone unturned and will do everything within the ambit of the law to ensure justice in this matter, no matter whose ox is gored.