Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday met behind closed doors with the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.
The meeting was held inside the Presidential Villa, Abuja shortly after Buhari returned from his weekend trip to his hometown, Daura in Katsina State.
At the end of the meeting, Saraki and Dogara told State House correspondents that they reported the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to the President over his handling of the case involving Senator Dino Melaye and his alleged disdain for the National Assembly.
They also said the meeting, which was at the instance of the President, discussed the issue of the 2018 Appropriation Bill still before the National Assembly, the recent invasion of the Senate during which the mace was taken away and the outcome of Buhari’s recent visit to the United States of America during which he met the US President, Donald Trump.
They however said the issue of the impeachment process being contemplated in the National Assembly over Buhari’s payment of $496m for fighter jets before he sought the approval of the Federal lawmakers was not discussed at the meeting.
“We came on the invitation of Mr. President. He wanted to brief us on his trip to the United States and also on the issue of the budget.
“We also talked on the issue of concerns to us: the invasion of the National Assembly, which he showed great concern and he said action will be taken to investigate that,” Saraki said.
When asked when the budget would be ready, Saraki said, “Hopefully, it should be laid this week and if it can be laid this week, it can be passed early next week. We are hoping it will be laid this week.”
Saraki said the President saw the invasion of the Senate as an embarrassment to the country and promised that the incident would be properly investigated because it was not just about the National Assembly but about the country.
When asked what was being done to improve the relationship between the executive and the legislature, Saraki said the National Assembly had always been ready to support the Executive.
“Our being here was the initiative of Mr. President to brief us on his visit to America and to engage on discussions and I think that is a good sign.
“We, at 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 interest of Nigerians and always keep on moving on,” he said.
Dogara on his part said Melaye’s travails formed part of the discussion at the meeting.
He said, “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 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 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 says you should answer it but you just have to utilise the provision of the constitution, the rule of law and this administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has overemphasised it in order to bring people to book.
“But a situation where people are wheeled to court, that doesn’t give 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 sections 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 proper frame of mind.
“As a lawyer, I can tell you, any judge that assesses an accused person not to be in a proper frame of mind, even if the accused person pleaded 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.”
When asked if the leaders of the National Assembly raised the issue of the planned impeachment process, Dogara said, “I don’t think we have the authority to discuss issues of impeachment. Impeachment is a political offence and I don’t think we are there yet.”
When asked if the President raised the issue, he said, “No, never. It wasn’t part of the agenda.”
Saraki also corroborated Dogara’s statement on the Inspector-General of Police.
“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 the first time this is happening and that, that matter needs to be addressed considering the importance of the constitution that gives us investigative powers and that there is need for the police to accept that they too are under the constitution and they must obey that. We raised that concern,” Saraki said.
In all, he described the meeting as a successful one.
“I think it is good that we touched on some of the important issues, as I said, it is a continuous process,” Saraki added.
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