SARAKI: WHY WE DE­FERRED SCREEN­ING OF 27 RECS

Pres­i­dent Should Do His Duty on Magu I am To­tally Loyal to Buhari I Have No Link with Paris Club Funds

Sunday Trust - - FRONT PAGE - By Mah­mud Jega

The screen­ing of Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari’s 27 nom­i­nees for INEC Res­i­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion­ers was not re­jected but was de­ferred for two weeks be­cause a sen­a­tor asked a ques­tion for which there was no ready an­swer, Se­nate Pres­i­dent Abubakar Bukola Saraki has said. Speak­ing ex­clu­sively to Daily Trust on Sun­day in Abuja, Saraki dis­missed in­sin­u­a­tions that Se­nate re­fused to screen the REC nom­i­nees un­til Buhari re­moves Act­ing Chair­man of the Eco­nomic and fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion [EFCC] Ibrahim Magu. He said a sen­a­tor asked if some of the nom­i­nees, who are old RECs, will be al­lowed to re­tain their posts in act­ing ca­pac­ity in case Se­nate refuses to con­firm them. Be­cause there was no ready an­swer to that ques­tion, the screen­ing was de­ferred for two weeks, Saraki said.

The Se­nate Pres­i­dent also clar­i­fied his state­ment last week when he said con­trary to ev­ery­one’s be­lief, the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Pres­i­dency and the Se­nate is not frosty. What he meant, Saraki said, is that the re­la­tion­ship can­not be said to be frosty just be­cause a few agency heads have prob­lems with the Se­nate. He said Pres­i­dent Buhari can­not be held re­spon­si­ble if any agency head de­cides to abuse the Na­tional Assem­bly. Oth­er­wise, he said, the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Na­tional Assem­bly and Ex­ec­u­tive Branch is very cor­dial in the things that mat­ter most. He cited as ex­am­ple the bud­get process, where he said every min­istry is in­ter­act­ing with the Assem­bly with­out any ran­cour.

Dr. Saraki also re­gret­ted that the is­sue of whether or not Cus­toms Comptroller Gen­eral Hameed Ali should or should not wear his uni­form was al­lowed to over­shadow the main is­sue, which is the pol­icy of col­lect­ing im­port duty on old ve­hi­cles. He said whether Ali wears uni­form or not, he should ex­plain to the peo­ple’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives why he came up with such a bad pol­icy when there are bet­ter ways in which Cus­toms’ rev­enue could be en­hanced. He men­tioned im­port duty on milk as one such area.

He also dis­puted the view of some lawyers who said Se­nate had no power to sus­pend Sen­a­tor Ali Ndume for more than two weeks. Saraki said all due process was ob­served in the mat­ter be­cause Ndume raised a mat­ter on the Se­nate floor which was re­ferred to the Ethics Com­mit­tee, which probed ev­ery­one con­cerned and made a rec­om­men­da­tion, upon which Se­nate acted. He knew of no law or reg­u­la­tion that dis­al­lowed this, he said. He how­ever left the door open for Ndume’s re­call, say­ing he knows Se­nate has a large heart. Saraki also re­fused to com­ment on his al­leged 2019 pres­i­den­tial am­bi­tions, say­ing this is the time for gov­er­nance, not for pol­i­tics.

Se­nate Pres­i­dent, do you sleep at all these days, with all the things that are hap­pen­ing? I do, very well. With all the mis­siles fly­ing left, right and cen­ter? It de­pends on the kind of mis­siles [Laugh­ter].

When you con­tested for and be­came Se­nate Pres­i­dent in 2015, did you bar­gain for this kind of sit­u­a­tion, with all the crises and con­flicts?

Well, some of these come with the job and with the kind of pol­i­tics that we play. The most im­por­tant thing is to al­ways stay fo­cused, have an ob­jec­tive, have a goal, and be guided by that. And at every point to ask your­self what changes are you mak­ing to the lives of the peo­ple that voted for us? How are we im­prov­ing their lives? That is my fo­cus. I keep telling peo­ple, pol­i­tics is over and it is the time for gov­er­nance. Un­for­tu­nately, some of the peo­ple who lost do not ac­cept that pol­i­tics is over and it is now time for gov­er­nance. Their strat­egy is to dis­tract you. Most of the noise is not about gov­er­nance but about pol­i­tics.

You said two days ago that there is no rift be­tween the Ex­ec­u­tive and the Se­nate but the Ex­ec­u­tive Branch it­self be­lieves there is a prob­lem be­cause they said the mat­ter was dis­cussed at last week’s FEC meet­ing and min­is­ters ex­pressed con­cern over the poor re­la­tion­ship.

What I am say­ing is that there are bound to be prob­lems but just be­cause one agency has an is­sue with the Na­tional Assem­bly, do you put the blame at the doorstep of the Pres­i­dent? Will you hold the Pres­i­dent re­spon­si­ble be­cause one agency, for one rea­son or the other, has a prob­lem? There are so many agen­cies. In­deed, there has been a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in the re­la­tion­ship from where we were a year ago. The is­sues now are spe­cific, not the kind of sys­temic strained re­la­tion­ship that we had last year. To­day you can nar­row down on the is­sues be­cause they are iso­lated. That was what I was try­ing to ex­plain. Of course there are is­sues to­day but the sit­u­a­tion is not ab­nor­mal that an agency will have a prob­lem here and an­other agency will have a prob­lem there. The is­sues can be re­solved, and one should not on that ba­sis con­clude that the Ex­ec­u­tive and the Leg­is­la­ture have a strained re­la­tion­ship. Oth­er­wise, many other things are go­ing on well. In fact the most im­por­tant things are go­ing on well. Bud­get is go­ing on; I mean, if you look at the ran­cour we had in 2015, do you see that kind of ran­cour now? That time there was ran­cour at every stage of the bud­get process but this year, for four months now have you heard that kind of ran­cour? The bud­get process is the real test for Ex­ec­u­tive-Leg­isla­tive re­la­tion­ship be­cause that is where you en­gage with every min­istry and agency in the Ex­ec­u­tive. But when one or two agen­cies have is­sues, that is bound to hap­pen but you can­not judge the re­la­tion­ship of two branches of gov­ern­ment from those par­tic­u­lar in­ci­dents.

I will come to those in­ci­dents. Last week, FEC ap­pointed a com­mit­tee headed by the Vice Pres­i­dent, with sev­eral min­is­ters who were for­mer sen­a­tors, to seek peace with the Se­nate. What has hap­pened since then? I have not heard any­thing.

You have not heard any­thing?

I have not for­mally heard any­thing, ei­ther that there is a meet­ing or any­thing. But when­ever they con­tact us we will be happy to lis­ten be­cause maybe that com­mit­tee can be used to look at some of these iso­lated in­ci­dents, take them up one by one and see how we can ad­dress them. It is a good devel­op­ment and when it hap­pens, we will work closely with the Ex­ec­u­tive to look at the is­sues.

Some sen­a­tors have told re­porters that there are many is­sues that make for the strained re­la­tion­ship but that the num­ber one is­sue is your trial be­fore the Code of Con­duct Tri­bunal. Are you go­ing to make that the num­ber one is­sue in this negotiation?

No, no. I have never made it an is­sue and I do not in­tend to make it an is­sue. When that case started, if you go by the drums at that time, that case now as far as I am con­cerned is al­most gone. The last wit­ness that came be­fore CCB, one by one all the ques­tions they asked him, was this man ever in­vited be­fore CCB, he said no. Is there any­thing in this form that he did not de­clare, he said no. As I said from Day One, that case should never have gone to CCT. EFCC has no busi­ness tak­ing a case to CCT. CCB is say­ing all these things; we don’t know any­thing about them. This is the first time that CCB will take any­one to court with­out first ask­ing him to come and write a state­ment. This is the first time that EFCC will pros­e­cute a case at CCT. So many things in that trial are ab­nor­mal. Peo­ple who have been fol­low­ing that case al­ready know that it has col­lapsed. So I have no fear about it and we will not put it on the table. Cer­tainly we were not pleased by it, to see the head of one arm of gov­ern­ment sent to a trial that is more po­lit­i­cal than any­thing else. That was what those sen­a­tors were talk­ing about. But for the last two years did it stop us from work­ing? We are car­ry­ing on, do­ing our best in work­ing for peo­ple’s wel­fare. So while sen­a­tors are not happy, I don’t think we should mis­in­ter­pret what they said. This trial can­not be the rea­son for any rift be­tween the two arms of gov­ern­ment. When you say this trial is po­lit­i­cal, who or­ches­trated it?

I have to do more in­ves­ti­ga­tion [Laugh­ter]. If you look at the case, it is not a nor­mal case. This was an is­sue that hap­pened 13 years ago even though they say that crim­i­nal is­sues have no lim­i­ta­tion of time. Two, was the man ever in­vited to make a state­ment? If you put all these is­sues to­gether, it raises sus­pi­cion that it is all po­lit­i­cal. But we have gone through the process, we are com­ing to the end of it and I am con­fi­dent that in­sha Al­lah I shall be vin­di­cated. There was an­other case, of forg­ing Se­nate rules and it col­lapsed, so I be­lieve that in this one too the truth will come out.

Then there is the case of Magu. We un­der­stand that Se­nate is in­sist­ing that since he was not con­firmed as sub­stan­tive EFCC chair­man, the Pres­i­dent should re­move him as Act­ing Chair­man and you are even stalemat­ing some con­fir­ma­tions un­til that is done. Is that cor­rect?

Peo­ple are not be­ing fair to the Se­nate. We are in a so­ci­ety that be­lieves in due process. This is a process; pres­i­dent sends a name to Se­nate for ap­proval. The case of Magu and many other nom­i­na­tions that came be­fore

his and that will come af­ter, it is the same process. There was even a se­cu­rity re­port that said he was unfit for the po­si­tion. Sen­a­tors did not be­lieve that he is fit for the po­si­tion. No­body doubted that we fol­lowed due process in this mat­ter. This is the process set out by the con­sti­tu­tion. It is not per­sonal. The other day we re­jected three names nom­i­nated for mem­ber­ship of the Niger Delta Devel­op­ment Com­mis­sion. There was no noise; pres­i­dent brought three new names, and every­thing is mov­ing on. I think this mat­ter is be­ing too per­son­alised. Now, what Se­nate be­lieves is that if a per­son is found unfit to be the sub­stan­tive chair­man, how does he be­come fit to be­come an act­ing chair­man? It is our duty to pro­tect our in­sti­tu­tions and the demo­cratic process. We have ex­pressed our view, we have done our part, we have done the screen­ing, we reached our con­clu­sion, and we leave it to the pres­i­dent to carry out his re­spon­si­bil­ity. We should pro­tect pro­cesses and in­sti­tu­tions be­cause they are the ones that will sur­vive far be­yond our own lives.

But you did not stop there. We un­der­stand that Se­nate stopped the screen­ing of 27 nom­i­nees for RECs un­til the pres­i­dent re­moves Magu as act­ing EFCC chair­man.

No, no. We only de­ferred it for two weeks. You have to un­der­stand a par­lia­ment. Some­body stood up and asked a ques­tion. He said some of these REC nom­i­nees are for reap­point­ment. So what hap­pens if we re­ject some of them? Will they be told to con­tinue as

act­ing RECs? To be hon­est, I had no an­swer to that ques­tion. In par­lia­ment, some­times when you can­not an­swer a ques­tion, what you do is to say ok we note it, let us step it down and come back later to look at the is­sue [Laugh­ter], hop­ing that some­where along the way you will find an an­swer. You can see the con­cern, I mean. We have the con­sti­tu­tional power to con­firm Mr X but even though we did not con­firm him, he is still hold­ing the po­si­tion. Now I have an­other con­fir­ma­tion for Mr. Y and as­sum­ing I don’t con­firm him, will he still hold the po­si­tion? So there is an is­sue there.

The two weeks’ de­fer­ment is nearly up al­ready, so did you get any feed­back?

When Se­nate re­sumes we will sit down and re­view the sit­u­a­tion. Some­times you take a po­si­tion just to ex­press how you feel, and sen­a­tors may have al­ready achieved that and may de­cide to move on.

Two min­is­te­rial nom­i­nees were also sent to Se­nate. Are they also go­ing to be af­fected by this stale­mate?

No, no. We are wait­ing for them to bring their CVs and se­cu­rity re­ports.

What about Cus­toms Comptroller Gen­eral Col Hameed Ali? He has not yet ap­peared be­fore you in his full uni­form. Are you still ex­pect­ing him to come, for that mat­ter in his uni­form?

I think that was an is­sue in which we all al­lowed an unim­por­tant is­sue to over­shadow the more im­por­tant is­sue. That was un­for­tu­nate. Our job in par­lia­ment is to look at the in­ter­est of Nige­ri­ans. That pol­icy in­tro­duced by Cus­toms is very bad and is com­ing in very dif­fi­cult times and it needed a re­view. That was the main is­sue. Un­for­tu­nately, the nar­ra­tive of the uni­form was given more promi­nence. As at to­day, I am not even sure whether that Cus­toms pol­icy is still in force or it has been sus­pended. All any­one re­mem­bers is the is­sue of uni­form. I think we all have a role to play here in not al­low­ing some of these pedes­trian is­sues to sub­merge the more sub­stan­tive is­sues. The ad­vice we gave him was to sus­pend this ac­tion and carry out more con­sul­ta­tion, and let’s talk about other ways in which Cus­toms rev­enue can be in­creased. There are many other ways. For ex­am­ple, I am sur­prised that when we are talk­ing about en­hanc­ing agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion, Cus­toms has re­duced the duty of dairy prod­ucts. It used to be ten per­cent duty, now it is five per­cent. That is pol­icy in­con­sis­tency; you say you want to sup­port lo­cal farm­ers to pro­duce milk and you reduce the duty on im­ported milk. When I was chair­man of the Nige­ria Gov­er­nors Forum, I also chaired a pres­i­den­tial com­mit­tee on rais­ing rev­enue and one of the things we did was to raise duty on milk prod­ucts. Milk pro­duced in Nige­ria is more ex­pen­sive than im­ported one from Europe or Aus­tralia. The milk duty we have in Nige­ria is the low­est in Africa. In Uganda milk duty is 15-20%. I wanted to push for 25% duty here, but now it is down to 5% when we want to sup­port agri­cul­ture. That drop alone is worth bil­lions be­cause we spend close to $1bn a year to im­port milk prod­ucts. Five per cent of that is about N15 bil­lion. That is a bet­ter way to raise rev­enue. Par­lia­ment is like a three-hour day, and some­times you find that at­ten­tion is not given to the rel­e­vant is­sues. The is­sue of whether he can wear or can­not wear uni­form, that can go on un­til when­ever but whether he is in uni­form or not, let him do the right pol­icy [laugh­ter]. This pol­icy is not good and since it af­fects ev­ery­body, there should be wide con­sul­ta­tion. We are in a demo­cratic set­ting and since par­lia­ment rep­re­sents the peo­ple, come and ex­plain what you want to do, why and how you want to do it.

Why did you sus­pend Sen­a­tor Ali Ndume for six months when ac­cord­ing to some lawyers the rules pro­vide for no more than two weeks’ sus­pen­sion?

Again, we fol­lowed the process. He came on a mat­ter of priv­i­lege. The mat­ter was re­ferred to Ethics Com­mit­tee, which is our body that looks into be­hav­iours, pe­ti­tions, etc. They re­viewed it; we all went and made our case be­fore them, they lis­tened to ev­ery­body and reached their con­clu­sion. They sub­mit­ted their re­port, it was de­bated, and a de­ci­sion was taken. I do not know of any law or any rule that was dis­re­garded by the Se­nate. Due process was fol­lowed. It is not the first time that a mem­ber of the Se­nate or the House was sus­pended. I think right now there is a mem­ber of the House who is on sus­pen­sion for a year or so, so when peo­ple get up and say no­body can be sus­pended for more than two weeks...Of course there are al­ways in­ter­ests. If I am from Borno South, of course I want my rep­re­sen­ta­tive back but if you give a com­mit­tee an as­sign­ment and they do it and Se­nate takes a de­ci­sion based on it, I think we should re­spect that.

But by rais­ing the is­sue and get­ting it re­ferred to Ethics com­mit­tee, Ndume gave Dino Me­laye and you a chance to clear your­selves of the al­le­ga­tions so you should be grate­ful to him.

No, I don’t think so be­cause the is­sue of the car, when it came up, the man­age­ment is­sued a state­ment. When gov­ern­ment ap­pointees buy an of­fi­cial car, it is not their car. Gov­ern­ment pro­vides a car to you by virtue of your job. The Na­tional Assem­bly Man­age­ment said no car was im­ported in Sen­a­tor Saraki’s name, and Sen­a­tor Ndume knew that. Even if you think that your col­league is not qual­i­fied, did he call him and say ‘Col­league, is it true that you don’t have a gen­uine cer­tifi­cate?’ There are many ways of ad­dress­ing these is­sues. Com­ing to the [Se­nate] floor es­ca­lated the whole is­sue. What the com­mit­tee was say­ing was did you check this thing very well be­fore you came to the floor and said your priv­i­lege was... So it is not that he gave me an op­por­tu­nity to prove it be­cause the man­age­ment had al­ready said that no car was brought in un­der my name, and Ndume knew it. He brought the is­sue to em­bar­rass both my­self and the in­sti­tu­tion. I am not an im­porter. I don’t agree with you that he gave us a chance to clear our­selves be­cause we had al­ready been cleared. So where is this car right now?

We will only know where it is when it is de­liv­ered but hon­estly, for now, I don’t know where it is.

Are you likely to for­give Ndume be­cause peo­ple are even demon­strat­ing to the gate of the Na­tional Assem­bly?

I wish I have all these pow­ers. I am only the pre­sid­ing of­fi­cer. I was not the one who ap­proved his sus­pen­sion with a memo, like they do in the Ex­ec­u­tive Branch, so you can­not send an­other memo to me and say, ‘Please re­view it.’ He was sus­pended at the Se­nate ple­nary, so all the sen­a­tors must sit again and look at it. All I can say is that this Se­nate has a large heart. We used to have dis­sent­ing voices be­fore but we are now back as one fam­ily. Sooner or later we may have a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion some­where and Ndume may be back in the fold.

That’s an­other thing peo­ple are say­ing. That those sen­a­tors that once op­posed to you, you gave them juicy com­mit­tee as­sign­ments and they are silent now. Is that a ques­tion or what? Peo­ple are say­ing that in the so­cial me­dia.

No. You see, in the 8th Se­nate ini­tially there was in­ter­fer­ence from out­side but we all re­alised the need to come to­gether. You

said some peo­ple got juicy com­mit­tees but even those that did not get juicy com­mit­tees, we are all united and are work­ing to­gether. It is not ev­ery­body that can get what you are call­ing a juicy com­mit­tee. We all re­alised that there is an ob­jec­tive we want to achieve and we can only achieve it by work­ing to­gether har­mo­niously and if we achieve it, the credit goes to all of us. And we are see­ing the re­sult of this har­mony. A day af­ter Ndume’s sus­pen­sion we passed a ma­jor bill, the Elec­toral Act. The Chair­man INEC came to­day [last Thurs­day] and ex­pressed ap­pre­ci­a­tion that for the first time, Elec­toral Act was passed two years be­fore elec­tion. You can see that we are not dis­tracted. These is­sues are not af­fect­ing Se­nate’s pro­duc­tiv­ity. And to­day we are lay­ing the PIB [Petroleum In­dus­try Bill], which has never hap­pened be­fore. I am say­ing some things will hap­pen be­cause of pol­i­tics here and there, but it has not af­fected our pro­duc­tiv­ity. I can un­der­stand if be­cause of these is­sues, ma­jor bills are still wait­ing and we have not passed them. Last year we prof­fered a way out of the eco­nomic prob­lems. Three weeks ago we moved a mo­tion on the Se­nate floor that led to the big­gest anti-cor­rup­tion case, where we said there was theft of close to N140 bil­lion in petroleum prod­ucts and gov­ern­ment agen­cies then moved in. It was not any an­ti­cor­rup­tion agency that dis­cov­ered it but the Se­nate, and we are happy that the DG SSS moved in and ar­rested the man. So please judge us by our re­sults, though the pol­i­tics is go­ing on. We know some peo­ple are not happy with the pol­i­tics, but that pol­i­tics has come and gone. Let us serve Nige­ria now and when 2019 comes, then you start again. But we can­not have pol­i­tics all the time. When gov­ern­ment wanted to in­crease elec­tric­ity tar­iff, who in­ter­vened? It was the Na­tional Assem­bly. When gov­ern­ment brought re­quest to bor­row $31bn, peo­ple were say­ing ‘Na­tional Assem­bly re­fused to ap­prove’ but it made gov­ern­ment to look at a bet­ter ap­proach with proper break­down, e.g. $1.5bn sup­port for 2016 bud­get. It be­came much bet­ter when you can break it down and say, this is for this and this is for that, in­stead of ap­prov­ing a to­tal loan pack­age with­out break­downs. So, when we take po­si­tions like that, it is not against the gov­ern­ment. We are all work­ing for the same pur­pose.

The peo­ple who are say­ing that this Se­nate Pres­i­dent is against Pres­i­dent Buhari, I say to them, when Pres­i­dent Buhari was away for two months and ru­mours were fly­ing ev­ery­where as to the real sit­u­a­tion, Pres­i­dent Buhari re­ceived many guests [in Lon­don] but who was the per­son who came out and said, ‘Pres­i­dent Buhari is fine and is com­ing back home’? Tell me, who was it? Se­nate Pres­i­dent. Loy­alty is not what peo­ple do in front of you. It is what they do be­hind your back. This pro­pa­ganda is just to cause head-on collision and we know why they are do­ing it. When the time comes, we will

tell you why they are do­ing it [laugh­ter]. Who are they and why are they do­ing it?

When the time comes, I will tell you. We know them and we are watch­ing them.

News­pa­pers re­ported that EFCC dis­cov­ered N3.5bn out of Paris Club re­fund to states was di­verted to your aides and that they laun­dered it. Is that true?

It is all lies. I have chal­lenged EFCC, not once, not twice. Mel­rose was ap­pointed as a con­sul­tant to the Gov­er­nors’ Forum, along with oth­ers. Be­cause the gen­tle­man is some­body that I know, he has done his job. The peo­ple that gave him the job, the Gov­er­nors’ Forum, he has a con­trac­tual agree­ment; they are not com­plain­ing that the man did not do the job. The con­tract fee is fixed; the man­date is fixed, so how am I in­volved in this? But be­cause of the pol­i­tics that is go­ing on, you feel you must jam me into this... I am not the one who does not clear peo­ple! I only pre­side! The peo­ple who gave him the con­sul­tancy job, please go and ask them whether he stole their money. In­stead they have searched my ac­count, turned it up­side down. All these things are not true. I have been through this be­fore. I was a gover­nor for eight years. When I fin­ished, I never had any prob­lem with EFCC. The only time when I have prob­lem with EFCC is when there is an is­sue that is po­lit­i­cal. When I got up in the Se­nate and raised the is­sue of N1.3tril­lion fuel sub­sidy, I quickly got a let­ter from EFCC, that I should come. If truly there were is­sues with my gov­er­nor­ship, why didn’t I get in­vited within one month like some of my other col­leagues? In 2011 when I de­cided that I was go­ing to con­test for pres­i­dent, pram! I got

EFCC in­vi­ta­tion. Anytime I get an in­vi­ta­tion from EFCC, you can at­tach it to a po­lit­i­cal is­sue. At the end of the day, noth­ing comes out of them. Are you go­ing to con­test for Pres­i­dent in 2019?

You are not the first and you will not be the last per­son to ask me this ques­tion. We won elec­tion in 2015. We have not yet de­liv­ered. Ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple who should be talk­ing about how we are go­ing to de­liver, they are talk­ing about 2019. This is time for gov­er­nance. When it is time for pol­i­tics, it is time for pol­i­tics. If I give any an­swer to your ques­tion, I am also help­ing to over­heat the polity. Ev­ery­body should leave that is­sue of 2019 so we can con­cen­trate on gov­er­nance. When we formed APC in 2013 and peo­ple asked if I was go­ing to con­test for Pres­i­dent, I said count me out. You have many ques­tions; keep this one in your pocket, when we get to 2019, you can come and ask me about that. What you should be ask­ing me now and what I am go­ing to an­swer now is is­sues re­lated to gov­er­nance. Many of the dis­trac­tions that we are suf­fer­ing in the Se­nate is be­cause of 2019, from forces from out­side.

For many months af­ter you be­came Se­nate Pres­i­dent, Pres­i­dent Buhari was not meet­ing with you, though you are meet­ing a bit more fre­quently these days. What is your re­la­tion­ship with him like?

We have a very good re­la­tion­ship.

You call it very good when the

Ex­ec­u­tive is say­ing that they are at log­ger­heads with the Se­nate?

You should sep­a­rate is­sues. Are you blam­ing Pres­i­dent Buhari for any agency head that has mis­un­der­stand­ing with Se­nate? If any agency head de­cides to abuse the Na­tional Assem­bly, do you blame Pres­i­dent Buhari for it? You asked, what is my re­la­tion­ship with Pres­i­dent Buhari? You must sep­a­rate that from any head of an agency that de­cides to abuse the Na­tional Assem­bly and cause a prob­lem [Laugh­ter]. Was it Pres­i­dent Buhari that said, go there and abuse them? I am sure it was not so. I don’t think Pres­i­dent Buhari told any­one to get up and say that all sen­a­tors are armed rob­bers. Those peo­ple de­cided on their own that that is the way they want to re­late with Se­nate, so we must sep­a­rate that from Pres­i­dent Buhari.

What is your mes­sage to APC sup­port­ers es­pe­cially in the North who are say­ing these days that Saraki and Se­nate have grounded Buhari’s gov­ern­ment?

There is a lot of mis­in­for­ma­tion out there. From Day One I took a po­si­tion, and some very pow­er­ful peo­ple don’t like the po­si­tion. When you want to know who is loyal to you, it is dur­ing your try­ing mo­ments. Go back two months ago. Who was it who stood up res­o­lutely and said Mr. Pres­i­dent will be back and there is no cause for alarm? I don’t think a man who is not loyal to you will do that. We know some peo­ple who went to Lon­don and saw Pres­i­dent Buhari, but they just left. They did not say any­thing. My mes­sage to all our party’s sup­port­ers is that I am com­mit­ted, that what­ever we promised Nige­ri­ans, we will de­liver. For some of us, this gov­ern­ment can­not be al­lowed to fail. We left one party with our sup­port­ers and em­barked on this jour­ney. We must be able to go back to them and tell them that that jour­ney was worth it. If God for­bid this gov­ern­ment fails, what will I go back and tell them? It is in my per­sonal po­lit­i­cal in­ter­est to see that this gov­ern­ment suc­ceeds.

Se­nate Pres­i­dent Bukola Saraki

Saraki: “If a per­son is unfit to be a sub­stan­tive chair­man, how does he be­come fit to be­come an act­ing chair­man?”

Saraki: “Iso­lated is­sues should not be a ba­sis to con­clude that the Ex­ec­u­tive and the Leg­is­la­ture have a strained re­la­tion­ship”

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