Se­na­tors threaten to im­peach Buhari Reps di­vided over im­mu­nity for Saraki, Dog­ara, oth­ers

Daily Trust - - FRONT PAGE - By Is­mail Mu­dashir & Musa Ab­dul­lahi Kr­ishi

The two cham­bers of the Na­tional As­sem­bly had tur­bu­lent ses­sions yes­ter­day for dif­fer­ent rea­sons.

At the Se­nate, there was com­mo­tion when a se­na­tor sug­gested the im­peach­ment of Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari at a closed ses­sion.

Se­na­tors who at­tended the ses­sion which lasted for 1.15 min­utes told our cor­re­spon­dent that the im­peach­ment was sug­gested dur­ing a dis­cus­sion on the Se­nate rules forgery suit.

Both the Se­nate Pres­i­dent, Bukola Saraki and his Deputy, Ike Ek­w­ere­madu and two oth­ers are stand­ing trial over the forgery of Se­nate Rules.

It was gath­ered that the sug­ges­tion was made by Se­na­tor Enyin­naya Abaribe (PDP, Abia South) when the Chair­man of the Se­nate Com­mit­tee on Ju­di­ciary, Hu­man Rights and Le­gal Mat­ters Se­na­tor David Umaru read the re­port of his Com­mit­tee on the sum­mon­ing

of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral of the Fed­er­a­tion, Mr. Abubakar Malami over the Se­nate Rules forgery suit.

Se­na­tor Umaru re­port­edly told his col­leagues that the AGF re­fused to hon­our their in­vi­ta­tion.

“A Se­na­tor sug­gested that the In­spec­tor Gen­eral of Po­lice, Ibrahim K. Idris be man­dated to ar­rest him but some of our col­leagues said the IGP will not carry out the or­der be­cause the mat­ter is be­ing in­flu­enced by the Pres­i­dency, “a Se­na­tor told our cor­re­spon­dent.

He added: “It was at this point that Abaribe stood up and said, ‘we should go for the jugu­lar.’ When he was asked to ex­plain what he meant by the ‘Jugu­lar’, he said meant the process of Im­peach­ment of Buhari shoud com­mence.”

An­other se­na­tor who cor­rob­o­rated the sug­ges­tion en­raged mem­bers of the rul­ing APC re­sult­ing in an­gry ex­changes with their coun­ter­parts from the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP).

The sources said the rowdy ses­sion lasted for about 30 min­utes and it took the in­ter­ven­tion of for­mer Se­nate Pres­i­dent, David Mark.

Abaribe couldn’t be reached last night.

Also at the ses­sion, Se­na­tor Dino Me­laye (APC, Kogi West) re­port­edly threat­ened to as­sault Se­na­tor Oluremi Tin­ubu (APC, La­gos Cen­tral) who chal­lenged his sug­ges­tion that se­na­tors who went to Court over the forgery of Se­nate rules be sus­pended.

Me­laye was quoted as say­ing: “Since they are not ready to with­draw the case, they should be sus­pended. They were around when res­o­lu­tion was passed that our rules book was not forged.”

When con­tacted on phone, Me­laye denied call­ing Se­na­tor Tin­ubu names, say­ing, “I only cau­tioned her for men­tion­ing my name in her pre­sen­ta­tion dur­ing the closed ses­sion be­cause when I made my pre­sen­ta­tion I didn’t men­tion any body’s name.”

Our cor­re­spon­dent re­ports that at the end of the ses­sion, the Se­nate Pres­i­dent, Bukola Saraki dis­cussed is­sues af­fect­ing the smooth run­ning of the Up­per Cham­ber.

Chair­man Com­mit­tee on Ju­di­ciary, Hu­man Rights and Le­gal Mat­ters, Se­na­tor David Umaru re­ported that the At­tor­ney Gen­eral Fed­er­a­tion, Abubakar Malami did not ap­pear be­fore his Com­mit­tee.

In re­sponse Saraki said: “But it ap­pears from what you are say­ing is that the At­tor­ney Gen­eral is re­quest­ing for one more chance to be given to ap­pear be­fore you.

“So, you will re­port back to us be­fore the end of the week to let us know the sta­tus of that sit­u­a­tion. And if that does not hap­pen, we will go ahead and go in line with the Con­sti­tu­tion very clearly.”

Reps in rowdy ses­sion

At House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives a bill seek­ing to give im­mu­nity to four top lead­ers of the Na­tional As­sem­bly trig­gered a rowdy ses­sion.

The spon­sors of the bill have pro­posed to amend Sec­tion 308 of the con­sti­tu­tion, which pro­vides im­mu­nity for the pres­i­dent, vice pres­i­dent and state gov­er­nors and their deputies.

The bill in­tro­duced by House Mi­nor­ity Leader, Leo Ogor now seeks to ex­tend sim­i­lar im­mu­nity to Se­nate Pres­i­dent, House Speaker, Deputy Se­nate Pres­i­dent and Deputy Speaker.

Also in­cluded are speak­ers of the 36 state houses of as­sem­blies and their deputies are also in­cluded.

Speaker Yakubu Dog­ara sin­gle-hand­edly passed the bill for sec­ond read­ing but many mem­bers faulted the pro­ce­dure say­ing the bill had not been put to vote nor had the clerk been called upon to read it for sec­ond time as re­quired by the rules of the House.

Sec­tion 308 (1) (a) pro­vides that “no civil or crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings shall be in­sti­tuted or con­tin­ued against a per­son whom this sec­tion ap­plies dur­ing his pe­riod of of­fice,” while (b) pro­vides that, “a per­son to whom this sec­tion ap­plies shall not be ar­rested or imprisoned dur­ing that pe­riod ei­ther in pur­suance of the process of any court or oth­er­wise,” and (c) says “no process of any court re­quir­ing or com­pelling the ap­pear­ance of a per­son to whom this sec­tion ap­plies shall be ap­plied for or is­sued.”

Con­se­quently, sub­sec­tion (3) pro­vides that “This sec­tion ap­plies to a per­son hold­ing the of­fice of Pres­i­dent, or Vice Pres­i­dent, Gover­nor or Deputy Gover­nor; and the ref­er­ence in this sec­tion to ‘pe­riod of of­fice’ is a ref­er­ence to the pe­riod dur­ing which the per­son hold­ing such of­fice is re­quired to per­form the func­tions of the of­fice.”

How­ever, Ogor in his bill said Sec­tion 308, sub­sec­tion (3) be al­tered by ad­ding “the words Se­nate Pres­i­dent, Speaker, Deputy Se­nate Pres­i­dent, Deputy Speaker, im­me­di­ately af­ter the word “Vice-Pres­i­dent” and also to in­clude Speaker of a State House of As­sem­bly, Deputy Speaker of a State House of As­sem­bly im­me­di­ately af­ter the word “Deputy Gover­nor.”

He said the amend­ment was purely for the in­de­pen­dence of the leg­is­la­ture as an arm of gov­ern­ment, say­ing the on­go­ing forgery case against Se­nate Pres­i­dent, Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ek­w­ere­madu, was an act of in­ter­fer­ing with the in­de­pen­dence of the leg­is­la­ture, hence the need for im­mu­nity.

Let’s de­fer it – House leader

How­ever, lead­ing the law­mak­ers op­pos­ing the bill, House Leader, Femi Gba­jabi­amila, said as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of over 160 mil­lion Nige­ri­ans, they could not af­ford to make a law to take care of the in­ter­est of few in­di­vid­u­als.

“Mr Speaker, we’re here to leg­is­late. We’re here for the pur­pose of the mem­bers of our con­stituen­cies. If we throw this bill to the peo­ple, will they sup­port it? The an­swer is no. This bill has a very wrong tim­ing. Tim­ing is a very sen­si­tive in­gre­di­ent in leg­is­la­tion,” he said.

Gba­jabi­amila said there was no need for im­mu­nity for the Na­tional As­sem­bly lead­ers and chal­lenged the pro­po­nents of such to bring ev­i­dence where such ob­tains in any democ­racy around the world.

“There’s no way we can con­vince Nige­ri­ans that this amend­ment is not about what is hap­pen­ing in the Se­nate. I want the spon­sor of this bill and the pro­po­nents to tell me any coun­try in the world where the heads of the leg­is­la­ture en­joy im­mu­nity.”

He said as a law­maker, who has been in the House since 2003, he was not aware of any speaker that en­joyed im­mu­nity or suf­fered from the lack of it.

“So, let’s do the right thing. I don’t be­lieve there’s any need to have im­mu­nity. I’m not aware that any mem­ber of the ju­di­ciary en­joys im­mu­nity. On that note, I urge that we de­fer this amend­ment.”

Dog­ara said the nor­mal thing to do was to re­fer the bill to the spe­cial ad-hoc com­mit­tee on the re­view of the 1999 con­sti­tu­tion headed by Deputy Speaker Yus­suff Sulei­mon La­sun.

Dog­ara’s com­ment how­ever led to a rowdy ses­sion that lasted about 20 min­utes with ma­jor­ity of the law­mak­ers shout­ing “No im­mu­nity! No im­mu­nity!”

Dur­ing the pe­riod, mem­bers were seen con­sult­ing with one an­other as they re­sisted every at­tempt for the bill to go be­yond that point.

The chair­man, House Com­mit­tee on Ap­pro­pri­a­tion, Ab­dul­mu­min Jib­rin (APC, Kano), one of those op­posed to the bill dis­played an in­scrip­tion on a piece of pa­per, say­ing “No to Im­mu­nity.”

It was ob­served that the law­mak­ers were sharply di­vided along party lines with mem­bers of the rul­ing All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC) ve­he­mently op­pos­ing the bill, while law­mak­ers of the op­po­si­tion Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP) openly sup­ported it.

When the House even­tu­ally calmed down, Rep Aliyu Sani Madaki (APC, Kano) came with two points of or­der, first was the law of con­science and the sec­ond was un­der the House rules.

He said: “we all know that this amend­ment is wrong at this time. Again, based on our rule 81, a bill is sup­posed to be de­bated be­fore the speaker puts the ques­tion for its sec­ond read­ing.

“No­body in Nige­ria should en­joy im­mu­nity. We should pro­tect our in­tegrity. What they want to do is un­godly and un­jus­ti­fi­able. Every mem­ber in this House knows that the amend­ment is wrong at this time. They want to use this amend­ment to sat­isfy the self­ish in­ter­est of an in­di­vid­ual.”

But at this point, Dog­ara tried to ca­jole the law­mak­ers on the mat­ter to al­low the bill scale through, say­ing “We should know that the bill be­fore us is seek­ing to amend a sec­tion of the con­sti­tu­tion. A bill of this na­ture is usu­ally re­ferred to the spe­cial ad-hoc com­mit­tee. The bill can die at the level of the com­mit­tee.”

Dog­ara there­fore in­vited the act­ing chair­man of the rules and busi­ness com­mit­tee, Rep Ola­bodeAy­orinde (APC, Ondo) “to ed­u­cate the House” on what their rules say.

Quot­ing Or­der 8, Rule 98 (3) of the House, which deals with a bill on con­sti­tu­tion amend­ment, Ay­orinde said upon the sec­ond read­ing, a bill shall be com­mit­ted to the spe­cial com­mit­tee on con­sti­tu­tion re­view.

Our cor­re­spon­dent re­ports that dur­ing the sec­ond read­ing of a bill, the pre­sid­ing of­fi­cer puts a ques­tion to which the law­mak­ers con­duct a voice vote be­fore the pre­sid­ing of­fi­cer rules. If ma­jor­ity of the law­mak­ers agree for its pas­sage for sec­ond read­ing, the pre­sid­ing of­fi­cer calls on the clerk to read it for the sec­ond time be­fore it is re­ferred to a rel­e­vant com­mit­tee.

Our cor­re­spon­dent re­calls that bills on con­sti­tu­tion amend­ment that came pre­vi­ously were all sub­jected to voice votes be­fore their sec­ond read­ing and sub­se­quent re­fer­ral to the ad­hoc com­mit­tee.

How­ever, Dog­ara went straight to re­fer the bill to the ad­hoc com­mit­tee on the con­sti­tu­tion re­view with­out putting a ques­tion or call­ing on the clerk to read the bill for a sec­ond time. This did not go down well with most of the mem­bers.

‘Bill can­not scale through’

Rep Madaki later told Daily Trust that “I can as­sure Nige­ri­ans that wher­ever the bill goes, it will come back to the House, and it can­not scale through. For any­body to look for im­mu­nity, it means the per­son isn’t clean. Why should we look for im­mu­nity?”

Photo: Macjohn Akande

„ Sus­pected kid­nap­pers of Sierra Leonean en­voy pa­raded at the Po­lice Head­quar­ters in Abuja yes­ter­day. See story on page 3>>>

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