By Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Deji Elumoye and Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The leadership of the Senate yesterday raised the alarm over alleged plans by the federal government to arrest the principal officers of the Senate and their families by next week.
It also accused the federal government of planning to twist facts regarding Tuesday’s invasion of the National Assembly premises in Abuja by DSS operatives to indict the duo of Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu.
On the same day, the National Chairman of the ruling All Prigressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomohle declared that his party would follow due process to impeach the Senate President.
In his reaction, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed simply said the Buhari government operates with respect for the Rule of law and that only the guilty are afraid of the government.
Saraki and Ekweremadu in a joint statement signed by their media aides, Yusuph Olaniyonu and Uche Anichukwu stated that after receiving the interim report submitted by the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ibrahim Idris, the Presidency yesterday constituted a closet panel to review the report and submit a final recommendation.
They duo alleged that the federal government had therefore commenced the execution of a plot to implicate them and other People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Senators in last Tuesday’s invasion of the National Assembly.
The mandate of this closet panel, the two legislators stated, is to turn facts on the head and blame the invasion of the National Assembly on the two leaders of the red chamber of the National Assembly, who will now be presented as having worked in tandem with the sacked Director General of the DSS, Mallam Lawal Daura, to stage the parliamentary security breach.
“We have been reliably informed that instead of the Presidency to set up a public inquiry or judicial commission to probe last Tuesday’s early morning invasion of the National Assembly as being demanded by the general public, they have commenced a process of manipulation and fabrication.
According to the duo, “The Presidency has set up a closet panel, which would work to a predetermined conclusion in which they will now claim that the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President worked in collusion with ex-DG of DSS, Lawal Daura to stage the invasion.
“They want to shield the fact that the previous night before the invasion and up till the early hours of Tuesday, there was a meeting of the APC senators and that the plan was for them to be moved in a Coaster bus into the National Assembly complex later that morning for them to purportedly remove us and select a new Senate President and Deputy Senate President.
“Their plot only failed because the media, particularly social media, Nigerians and international community responded very swiftly as some legislators, who came into the complex were refused entry by gun-wielding, hooded security operatives.
“Now, they want to turn the facts on its head and blame us for their botched plot against democracy. We are hereby alerting all Nigerians and members of the international community that the present Nigerian government will stop at nothing to destroy, suppress and incapacitate the opposition. This is their new tactic and plot as we approach the period of the 2019 polls.
“We hereby reiterate our earlier position that the coup against democracy as represented by last week’s invasion must be probed through an independent judicial commission of inquiry, which will produce a comprehensive report. We reject any manipulated and fabricated investigation”, Saraki and Ekweremadu stated.
The presiding officers added that they have also uncovered a sinister plot in which the government plans to use the anti-graft and security agencies to incarcerate them and some members of their families from next week, all in a bid to break their will and effect their removal.
Oshiomhole: APC Will Apply Due Process to Remove Saraki
On the same day, the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomohle stated that the party would follow due process to impeach Saraki.
He said that there was no way he would continue to hold on to his position, adding that he (Saraki) would be impeached according to the law.
Oshiomohle also vowed that the leadership of APC would work hard to ensure that Saraki was defeated even in his senatorial election in Kwara come 2019 election.
Oshiomhole made these remarks yesterday at a press briefing where he condemned Saraki’s criticism of the ruling party, saying that even before Saraki defected to the PDP, his leadership of the Senate was designed to frustrate President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts to turn around the fortune of the country.
There have been allegations that the APC plans to remove the Senate President for defecting to the opposition PDP.
However, the APC National Chairman, who insisted that Saraki must be impeached as Senate President, stated: “Saraki’s time is over as Senate President. If he (Saraki) thinks that by saying that he will preempt the APC from having him impeached, he is deceiving himself. I think that the time of Saraki is over, the way he has manipulated the politics of Kwara State, he failed to understand that the Nigerian project is far more complicated than being at the mercy of his own dynasty.
“Go and check the results of the elections that made him a Senator and you will find out that the President got more votes from Kwara Central than Saraki got for himself. So, he can’t claim that the vote the APC got from his Senatorial zone was because of him.
“And that is why his decamping from APC is of no political consequences as far as electoral issues are concerned. We tried to talk to him, not out of fear, but out of conviction that as a presiding officer, there are rules of engagement and we don’t want him to get so emotional as to affect those rules of engagements.”
While giving instances on how the Senate President has frustrated the Buhari-led government, Oshiomohle said he had ensured that national budgets were delayed.
“So, when I said he has never put the interest of Nigeria first, I support this statement by reference to the deliberate delay of the budget and deliberate manipulation of the provisions in the budget in a way that will compromise the capacity of the government to address critical infrastructures.
“It is no longer a secret that as senate President, he tried to conspire with others to create a semblance of division within the ruling party having failed to truncate the convention, when they assembled a handful of people who were neither delegates nor contestants for any office at the convention to purport to have formed a political party. There is nothing for me to add to the illegality of this action and the false foundation that Senator Saraki tried to leave than to adopt the well thought-out presentation of Femi Falana.”
Speaking on the need for the Senate to reconvene and approve the budget of INEC, Oshiomohle said: “Between Tuesday and Thursday, the senate was expected to discuss the supplementary budget for INEC. INEC requirements are not things that you buy from the shelf. You have to order them from the manufacturers and so, time is of the essence. But the Senate under Saraki adjourned without considering the matters before it including the budget for INEC.
“So, if Saraki adjourned the Senate ahead of schedule to resume towards the end of nominations, can that act be said to coincide with national interest? If you decide to frustrate INEC by denying it the funds that it requires, can you be said to be a defender of democracy? If INEC don’t get their funds and therefore are unable to conduct credible election, will that not lead to further consequences for our democracy?”
But Saraki debunked allegations of sabotaging the Buhari government. He said in a statement: “We need to inform this divisive element who now leads APC that if he wants to know why the 2018 budget was delayed, he should ask the heads of the MDAs. We reckon that should be easy for him since he is now their ‘headmaster’, moving around with canes to whip ministers into line.
“Oshiomhole once again demonstrated his lack of sense of history by talking of Buhari winning more votes in Kwara than Saraki. We are sure President Buhari himself will disagree with the APC chairman. We invite the APC chairman to look at the figures of votes secured by the President in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 to know that the difference is clear, like a commercial advert stated.”
Ortom: Those plotting Saraki’s fall are Enemies of Democracy
In a related development, Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom yesterday described those plotting to overthrow the leadership of the National Assembly as enemies of the country’s democracy.
In a press statement issued by the governor’s spokesman, Terver Akasa, the governor urged the persons behind the plot to take a close look at the country’s Constitution, as well as Senate rules to be properly guided.
The Governor stated that though the election of a President of the Senate requires simple majority, removing the holder of the office takes two-thirds of the Senators.
Ortom described the attacks on Saraki, including moves for his impeachment and threats to freeze his accounts as unfortunate developments which must be condemned and resisted by all patriots.
He added that Saraki had demonstrated uncommon capacity to lead the Senate, pointing out that the Senate President had done nothing wrong in defecting from the All Progressives Congress, APC, to the PDP.
Ortom wondered why those who defect from APC become targets for victimisation by Federal Government agencies, while those who move from other political parties to the ruling party are celebrated as ‘saints’.
PDP to APC, Preside-ncy: You Can’t Remove Saraki, Ekweremadu
The PDP has asked the Presidency and the APC to abandon the idea of removing the Senate President and his deputy from office.
The party said APC should stop deluding themselves and come to terms with the reality that they lacked the legislative number and constitutional facilities to impeach them.
In a statement issued by the National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbodiyan, PDP said the Buhari Presidency and APC, having realised that there was no way they could muster the constitutionally required two-third votes of the 109 senators (representing 73 senators), engaged in underhand tactics, including the invasion of the National Assembly, which turned out to be a disgraceful adventure.
The PDP said Nigerians were already aware of moves to use humongous funds to induce lawmakers to trigger crisis in the National Assembly and pave a way for the removal of presiding officers.
“Now that they have discovered that there is no way they can achieve their devious intentions, they have commenced a war of blackmail, distortions of fact and media trial against the Senate leadership, which, of course, will end up as another wasteful venture as Nigerians are aware of the long-drawn desperation of the Buhari Presidency to annex the legislature.
“Even among the ranks of the depleted APC Senators and members of the House of Representatives, there is a huge aversion to the underhand tactics being deployed by the Buhari Presidency and the APC to force out duly elected presiding officers of the National Assembly.”