In Battle with Police, Senate has Its Back against The Wall

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SATURDAY PEOPLE2PEOPLE STORY

By Oke Epia; Telephone (sms only): 07059850016 Email: o.epia@orderpaper.ng; Twitter: @resourceme

Not a few Nigerians are watching with keen interest the battle of wits and grits playing out between the Nigeria Police Force and the country’s highest law-making institution, the Senate. For purposes of framing, it is agreeable that the contention is not between both institutions of state but between the Police and some senators who have allegedly offended the law and need to be treated according to the statutes. What is however wrong with this narrative is that most institutions of state in Nigeria are built around personalities. So depending on the person at the helms of affairs at a time, an institution could be perceived as national or parochial; strong or weak; popular or unpopular; achieving or under-achieving; and so on and so forth. While both the Police and the Senate (read National Assembly) can be fitted into any of these elastic non-exhaustive poles, the latter bears the unfortunate burden of a perennial unpopularity among the citizens of Nigeria. So even though the brawling between both may be explained within the context of the personalities of Bukola Saraki and Ibrahim Idris as President of the Senate and Inspector General of Police respectively, the legislature unfortunately holds on to the short end of the stick. And this is not entirely because of the coercive powers of state wielded by the law enforcement agency but also about the lack of public trust and confidence in a body of persons citizens ceded their sovereignty to through the ballot. This heavy paradox is a key enabler of what some observers regard as the impunity of the Nigeria Police against the highest law-making body of the land. A parliament that has attracted consistent cynicism and derision from citizens is bound to suffer vulnerability in situations as the Senate has found itself with the Police. Citizens that are perpetually agnostic about the altruistic professions of legislators cannot be expected to side with them in their time of trouble. The Police knows this and is using it to full advantage. It did in its drilling of Dino Melaye, who by the way, draws some public sympathy not because of his status as a senator but because of the narrative of persecution (including from political foes in Kogi home state) that has been woven into his ordeal.

With the Kogi senator semmingly humbled and substantially still within entrapment of the police, the dragnet seems to be moving to Saraki as the President of the Senate himself alerted during the week. The Kwara political overlord told his colleagues while presiding at plenary on Wednesday that the Police was moving to incriminate him by association with a gang of arrested cultists and killers being investigated. He said going by information available to him, “they would find how to alter their statement already made in Ilorin and try and implicate the state government and particularly myself. As we speak now, these suspects are already here in Abuja.” The savvy politician did not stop at that as he went on to weave the usual narrative of persecution into the alleged plot. For emphasis, he described it as “desperation, intimidation or actions to undermine our democracy, a recipe for anarchy,” adding that the Senate is only doing its “work by asking officials to obey the law, due process and subject themselves to constituted authority. I think it is important, I think this dangerous development, to your attention, country and the international authority of the impunity we are undergoing in this country and the danger to our democracy.” And to further underscore the intensity of the ‘threat to democracy’ the announced plot represents, the senate in a show of fraternal solidarity decided to dramatize what is in the realm of speculation. Pronto, the Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, rose and moved a motion for Saraki to step down for Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, to preside and decide on the matter of ‘urgent national importance’ that had been raised. The ensuing debate offered opportunity for more alarm bells to be raised about the police hammer dangling over senators. Sen. Sam Anyanwu, a PDP senator from Imo State and one of Saraki’s henchmen took the floor and railed: “If this matter has to do with the President of the Senate, then all of us are in trouble. As it stands, I can assure you, some of us have been earmarked just because we speak out but, as far as I’m concerned, it’s only one bullet and one life.” Another PDP senator from Taraba State, Emmanuel Bwacha, followed suit and recounted how his entourage of security officials were withdrawn in the middle of a dangerous journey. He blamed the IGP squarely saying “when I heard from the President of the Senate on this dangerous plot, I was humbled. Virtually every one of us stands [to be in] danger of this [kind]. What we should do is to also behave as if we are in the understanding that the President doesn’t know. Let us also go to him [and say] that our democracy is collapsing under [his] watch. On Thursday, I was travelling from Abuja to Jos with Policemen I requested legitimately through a route that is notorious for kidnapping and killings. While getting to Jos, the Commander of the mobile Policemen called them and said, ‘Withdraw from him and go to the nearest Police station. Leave him alone.’ I stopped and asked, ‘What is the matter?’ My simple crime is that I told the media that it is wrong for the IG to not appear before us. They told me that they need to withdraw, that they have the instruction to leave me alone. I stopped there because I was afraid, I decided that let them leave so that they won’t know where I would lodge. So, I left them. They went to the nearest Police station [and] abandoned me there. The next day, I managed to drive back to Abuja in fear.” Having set the narrative that a carefully orchestrated clampdown was being prosecuted against them, the senators resolved to send a 10-member delegation to meet with and plead their cause with President Muhammadu Buhari.

But while the Senate was getting on overdrive with the allegation against the Police, the law enforcement agency responded in a statement by its spokesman, Mr. Jimoh Moshood, accusing Saraki of raising a false alarm and attempting to obstruct the cause of police lawful duties of investigation. “The Nigeria Police Force is shocked at the unbelievable claims, unverifiable allegations and unfounded accusations being peddled against the IGP by the Senate President, accusing the Inspector General of Police, IGP Ibrahim K. Idris, of plot and strategies against him to settle scores,” the statement read, adding as a matter of caution that “the statement credited to Mr. Saraki was capable of underscoring, dissuading and could discourage living victims/deceased families of those who must have been killed by this vicious hired assassin gang from coming forward to give evidence against them.” In deciding to visit Buhari on the ‘impending persecution’ of Saraki, the Senate did not seem mindful of the fact that nothing came off a previous meeting presiding officers of the National Assembly had with the President over the refusal of the IG of Police to respect two consecutive senate summons on Mr. Idris. Indeed, it was shortly after the meeting with the President where the National Assembly leaders reported the conduct of the police boss that the IG ignored the Senate for the third time in a roll. Crest-fallen and humiliated the Senate could only but make an inconsequential declaration that the IGP is “an enemy of democracy” and “unfit to hold public office in Nigeria and abroad.” While some conduct of the Police have fallen short of democratic standards set by the grundnum of the land, the Senate has its back against the wall and unfortunately, lacks popular support of the citizens it represents.

Pix: Saraki.jpg and Ibrahim Idris.jpg