By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Recent brushes between senators and law enforcement agencies of the Federal Government portray a narrative of lawmakers turned lawbreakers.
However, the focus on a group of opposition lawmakers and the inanity of some of the charges raised against some of the lawmakers underpin allegations of political persecution.
Senator Dino Melaye in handcuffs paraded on the floor by the police; Senator Peter Nwaoboshi sent to prison; the outgoing week could not have been worse for the image of the Nigerian Senate.
The next week is not going to be any more heartening. Next Monday, Senator Shehu Sani is expected to report to the police in Kaduna for interrogation over allegations of conspiracy in a murder case.
The week before, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege was flanked by thugs who entered the chambers beat up serjeant-at-arms officials, took up the mace and fled with it.
Another lawmaker, Senator Isah Misau is on bail over sundry allegations of making false reports against the Inspector General of Police.
Has the Senate chamber been turned into a den of criminals? Not in the history of the Fourth Republic has a legislative house been so riddled with tales of criminality.
The narrative of the lawmakers at odds with the law is, however, not a 2018 phenomenon as it is a story that flows from the beginning of the Bukola Saraki Senate.
What was in the opinion of some a political crime committed by Senator Saraki in vying for and winning the office of Senate President has in the opinion of many turned into an orchestrated campaign against criminality against perceived political enemies of the presidency.
Supporters of the legislative house allege that the action of Senator Saraki in setting aside the political permutation of some in the presidency has been turned into an excuse for the persecution of his associates in the Senate.
“You fight for change, and this is the kind of change we are experiencing today. There are proofs, and I know because of what I’ve said, I can be killed,” Senator Mohammed Shittu, APC, Jigawa said last Wednesday after the drama surrounding the arrest, alleged escape and re-arrest of Senator Melaye came to light.
Senator Melaye who was a regular fixture of the 2015 presidential campaign and who regularly denounced the Goodluck Jonathan administration was at the weekend under heavy police guard in the Trauma Ward of the National Hospital after he reportedly fell out of a moving police vehicle transporting him to Lokoja, Kogi State to face criminal charges.
Melaye is accused of among other things illegal possession of guns, gun running and providing false information to the police. The police had paraded some men who claimed to have received guns and cash from Melaye to act as his political thugs.
Indeed the focus of the law enforcement agencies against the lawmakers started from Saraki after his wife, Toyin was quizzed over sundry allegations by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, just weeks after her husband was elected Senate President.
Allegations of financial corruption against Mrs. Saraki, herself, a scion of one of the country’s richest families, the Ojora family were not established, and the investigation was not too long after rested. But not so for her husband who was subsequently charged for false declaration of assets. The case has gone round the mills of the judiciary up to the Supreme Court with the government and the accused appealing and cross-appealing.
The government’s determination to nail Saraki it is claimed is underpinned by the government’s appeal of the dismissal of some of the charges as made by the lower courts and the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT.
Saraki was not too long later joined in the dock by his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu as they were both charged with forgery of the Senate Rules book.
The charges were quietly dropped after both men were docked in October 2016 after a senior lawyer, Mr. Aliyu Umar, SAN engaged by the government as a private prosecutor for the case recommended dropping the charges.
Between political persecution as some of the senators have alleged, and atonement for alleged misdeeds by some senators supposedly committed by the senators before coming to the Senate.
Senator Nwaoboshi, for instance, is being prosecuted over allegations bordering on actions supposedly committed before his emergence as a senator. He is alleged to have fraudulently acquired a property known as Guinea House situated at Marine Road, Apapa in Lagos, between May and June 2014, at a cost N805 million.
The charge stated that the senator and a company related to him through which the property was acquired ought to have known that N322 million out of the purchase price formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act under the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.
Remarkably, his lawyer had pleaded that the case was a purely commercial transaction that did not demand personal liability.
Nwaoboshi like all the other persons who have been found on the wrong side of the law by the Attorney General are incidentally supporters of the Senate President.
Senator Sani a rabid supporter of Saraki who has criticised several policies of his party has been asked to report to the police in Kaduna next Monday over conspiracy in a homicide case.
The commissioner of police in Kaduna State, Austin Iwar, had written the senator and copied the Senate President over the case.
“This is in connection with a case of criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide transferred to this office by 1 Division, Nigerian Army, Kaduna, alongside with exhibit audio CD in which your name was mentioned by the principal suspect,” Iwar said in the letter to Senator Sani.
Sani in his response had claimed a conspiracy to nail him in the same way that Melaye was supposedly nailed by his local political enemies in Kogi State.
“They want to frame me the same way they framed Senator Dino Melaye in Kogi on allegation of arming thugs,” Sani, told a newspaper.
Senator Misau, a former policeman who had in the past made a campaign against corruption in the police and accused the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris of misconduct was subsequently turned into a victim when he was accused of providing false information against a public officer.
He was charged and arraigned in court by the Attorney General of the Federation of “injurious falsehood” made against the Inspector General of Police.
Just like the dismissed charges of forgery against Saraki and Ekweremadu the Federal Government had hired a senior lawyer, Dr. Alex Iziyon, SAN to prosecute the case.
Senator Misau is still in suspense over the case following reported moves by some third parties to arbitrate between the senator and the police boss.