For Ridiculing Saraki, Melaye, Senate Slams 6-month Suspension On Ndume

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The Senate yesterday slammed a six-month suspension on former Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, over what it described as his penchant for bringing the Red Chamber as an institution and his colleagues to unbearable disrepute.
For the second time, the hammer of the upper chamber fell on the lawmaker from Borno south for insisting that allegations of degree certificate forgery against Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi west) and importing of a bullet proof range rover jeep with fake documents involving Senate President Bukola Saraki should be investigated.
The first time was when he was removed as Senate Leader by the All Progressives Congress (APC) caucus in the Red Chamber, a development he claimed was as a result of his insistence that the Senate did not follow the proper procedure before rejecting the nomination of Ibrahim Magu as substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Ndume had told State House correspondents that going by Senate standard procedures and practice, Magu had not been rejected because there was no confirmation hearing for the nominee to defend claims made against him.
The Senate said yesyerday’s suspension of Ndume will serve as deterrence to those who are fond of raising allegations without due diligence, caution and patriotic zeal thereby bringing lawmakers and the Senate as an institution to disrepute.
He was suspended for six months with effect from yesterday till September 28, instead of one year originally recommended by the committee, which is contrary to Senate Rules that prescribe 14 legislative days of suspension for a senator with serious offence.
Rule 67(4) states that “when a senator is named by the President of the senate, if the offence is a minor one, the President of the Senate may order the Senator to withdraw for the rest of the Legislative Day, but if the matter appears to the President of the senate to be of  a more serious nature, the President of the senate shall put the question on motion being made, no amendment, adjournment or debate being allowed, that such suspension being for any time stated in the motion not exceeding 14 legislative days”.
But Senator Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf (Taraba south) reminded the senate that the suspension of Ndume will run contrary to wishes and aspirations of the people of Borno south senatorial district who elected him.
“Whether he is of good or bad behaviour has nothing to do with his representation of his people in the Senate. Borno south people will not forgive the Senate if it goes ahead to suspend their only representative in the Senate. Moreover, he is a first offender, as he has not been found wanting in this chamber in the past”.
Yusuf who acknowledged, however, that Ndume had done “a wrong” to Messrs. Melaye and Saraki suggested that the former Senate Leader be suspended from committee activities, not plenaries, and that he should be asked to apologise to the duo who were his allies in the struggle to win the Senate leadership at the expense of Senator Ahmed Lawan who was backed by the All Progressives Congress.
Not satisfied with Yusuf’s explanation, the upper chamber insisted that Ndume failed to conduct due diligence by bringing the matter to the floor of the senate, adding that as a former Senate Leader and a ranking Senator, he was expected to have weighed the consequences of the allegation and carefully investigate it before presenting it.
Chairman of the ethics and privileges committee, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, while reading the recommendations of his committee before the plenary said, “That having failed to cross-check facts before presentation at plenary, he could not be said to be a patriotic representative of the senate, and should be penalized to serve as deterrent to others”.
‘’That the Senate do suspend Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume for bringing Senator Dino Melaye, his colleague, and the institution of the Senate to unbearable disrepute at this time of our National life when caution, patriotism, careful consideration and due diligence should be our watchwords”.
Anyanwu whose committee convened investigative hearing on the matter on Monday cleared Melaye  of any breach, saying Melaye obtained a first degree in Geography from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
“That the name of the Senate President, Senator Dr. Bukola Saraki was not mentioned anywhere in the Bill of lading or any document whatsoever connected with the importation or purchase of the SUV Range Rover vehicle”, he submitted.
During the investigative hearing, Ndume had informed the committee that he did not make allegations or raise a petition against the duo of Melaye and Saraki but only raised the issues, having read them in the newspaper. He said the matters had made the Senate subject of public ridicule, thereby calling for probe.
Clearing Saraki and Melaye of any wrongdoing in the matters, Anyanwu said the car importer and dealer confirmed that Saraki or the Senate was not involved in the importation of the vehicle in 2015 and that the allegation against the senate president was made up.
Senator Peter Nwaoboshi justified Ndume’s suspension on the floor of the senate on the ground that the former senate leader was not a first offender.
He said, “Mr President, I am supporting this but I want to give reasons. I want to make this point that Senator Ndume is not just a first offender. We took a decision on the secretary to the federal government, he went outside and maligned the senate.
“We took the first decision when we came here in our executive session and I want the records to be put. When the report of the DSS was read, he rose here and started begging all of us that please we should send Magu back to the president for president to take a decision on him.
“He was begging everybody here and out of respect for him as Leader at that time, this senate obliged him. After that, he went out to malign the senate but he did not tell the public that he was the person who begged us, and he even went further and said we should invite him and tell him why we cannot. He is moving as a saint”.
Against the recommendation of the committee that Ndume should go on one year suspension, Senator Matthew Urhoghide moved for six-month suspension, which eventually became the resolution of the Senate.
Saraki who presided over Wednesday’s plenary yielded the seat to Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, when the proceedings progressed to the consideration of the probe committee’s report.

Senate Invites Sagay Over Comments On REC’s Confirmation
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday invited the chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN) to appear before it over his comments on the suspension of the Resident Electoral Commissioners’ (REC) confirmation by the Red Chamber on Tuesday.
Specifically, the upper Chamber ordered its ethics, privileges and public petition committee to investigate Sagay for describing its call on Buhari to sack the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, in two weeks as childish and irresponsible.
Deputy senate leader, Ibn Na’Allah came under orders 15, 16 and 18 of the Senate Rules to draw attention of of his colleagues to a newspaper in which Sagay was said to have made certain denigrating remarks against the them.
Na’allah said Sagay, an aide to President Muhammadu Buhari had described the Senate’s action on Resident Electoral Commissioners’ (REC) confirmation on Tuesday as childish and irresponsible, adding that the Senate is filled with people with questionable characters.
He said, “I want Sagay to be invited to come and name the senators with questionable characters. If due diligence is followed, Sagay would not have been appointed as chairman.  I, Bala Ibn Na’allah, is not of questionable character. I don’t think there is any senator here who is of questionable character.
“There sits Retired General Jeremiah Useni who spent most of his life time serving the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Sagay must be invited to appear before Ethics, Privileges and Public Petition Committee to name senators who are of questionable characters”.
Supporting Na’allah’s motion, Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan said, “What this government requires is cordiality between legislature and executive. It behooves on all aides of Mr President to behave responsibly to encourage and sustain cordiality between executive and legislature.
“We were elected just the way the president was elected. We are not saying the public cannot call us to order if the need arises. But I take exceptions if an aide who never went through electoral activities decides to go out of his way to bring an institution to ridicule.
“The Presidential aide has no such rights to call us names. He must be treated in such a way to serve as an eye opener to those who have not said anything yet but that may wish to say something later on”.
However, Senator Peter Nwaboshi (Delta state, PDP) advised that the Senate should not waste its time on the person of Professor Sagay because that has been his way of life, to thrive in confusion, adding that from Sagay’s past, he doesn’t thrive well where there is peace.
“Let us just leave him because that is his trade mark. He is almost 80 years of age and he can never change. No action meted on him now by us will change him”, Nwaboshi pleaded.
But Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said the matter should be referred to Ethics, Privileges and Public Petition Committee to investigate and report in four weeks.
Sagay, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, had told a reporter while reacting to the suspension of RECs confirmation for two weeks that Buhari would not be cowed by the Senate’s action, which he described as an affront to the Presidency.

They Have No Power To Summon Me- Sagay
In a swift reaction, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN) said the summons issued on him by the Senate is of no moment because the lawmakers have no power under the law to invite or summon him.
He asked the senators to read sections 82 to 89 of the 1999 Constitution if they may wish to know how limited their power of invitation of persons are.
The professor of law said, “I have received many calls on this issue but I must quickly say that I have not receive any invitation or summons from the Senate on this matter. But my reaction is this: the Senate has no power to invite or summon me.
“It seems they have  exaggerated opinion of their powers. I will advise them to ask their legal Adviser to look at Section 82 to 89 of the 1999 Constitution so that they may know how limited their power of invitation of persons are. I don’t come into the category at all. So, it is a very  serious mistake on their part and they should save themselves of the embarrassment of being proven wrong.
“I believe and stand by what I said in that interview. I was only expressing my opinion about what the Senate did and the constitution guarantees my right to express that opinion. So if anybody is offended by what I said, they know what to do and it is certainly not to summon me before the Senate.
“They are not a court of law; so, they cannot summon me and I cannot summon them. As far as this is concern, our powers are equal”.
Corroborating Sagay’s position, Mohammed Fawehinmi, the son of the late legal icon, Gani Fawehinmi, described the action of the Senate as highly irresponsible.
He said that for the Nigerian Senate to have taken the decision without recourse to the interest of Nigerians which they claim to represent shows that they are a selfish group and a bunch of blackmailers.
Fawehinmi said, “We all watched with rapt attention the screening of Ibrahim Magu and it was obvious to most Nigerians that there was a premeditated and orchestrated decision to reject him.
“Having rejected Magu, the President deserves the right whether to re-appoint him or appoint someone else. The decision of the Senate rejecting Magu and recommending to the President to sack him, is merely advisory and not compulsory.
“The Senate cannot under any law in practice today compel the president to abide by any decision coming from them. It is a very selfish and insulting decision to state that because the president has refused to sack Magu they would not screen the Resident Electoral Commissioners of the 36 states and Abuja sent to them by the President, which is their constitutional duty.
“I have a lot of respect for Senator Shehu Sanni (Kaduna), but I must state categorically that with this attitude of the Senate, we are wasting Nigeria’s revenue on salaries and allowances on these Senators. Each Senator earns a minimum of 36 million Naira per month. This seems to be a waste because so far, this 8th Senate has not done anything significantly better than the 7th Senate. I think Nigerians should be given the option to decide whether we need the Senate or not.
“I believe the president should put this to a referendum on whether we need to fund such an expensive Senate. They are the highest paid in the whole world and they are the laziest. I believe the Federal House of Representatives are much more responsible and responsive to the needs and the plight of Nigerians.
“If the Senate does not within the next one week start with the screening of the Resident Electoral Commissioners, then I am inclined to believe that the Senate should be locked down, because they have refused to perform their constitutionally appointed duties”.
But a Professor of law at the University of Lagos, Prof  Gbenga Ojo, in his reaction justified the action of the lawmakers.
He noted that if that was the only way they could get the executive arm of government to obey the law and their resolutions, then they should go ahead.
Prof Ojo said though the National Assembly has a lot of baggage but in this case, they are right to insist that Magu must clear his name before he could be confirmed.
The lawyer said, “I am not saying Magu is guilty or not guilty but my point is if the DSS report is good enough to be acted upon by the executive during the judges saga it should also be good enough for them to act upon now.  Magu must be arrested and prosecuted just like the judge and if he is cleared by the Judiciary the Director General of the DSS should  resign.
“Until this is done the lawmakers should not attend to anything from the executive because this is the only power they have to put the president in check and force him to do the right thing”.

PMB Sends Names Of 2 Ministerial Nominees
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has sent the list of two ministerial nominees to the Senate for confirmation.
The ministerial nominees are Prof. Stephen Ikani Ocheni from Kogi State and Suleiman Zanna Hassan from Gombe State.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, read Buhari’s communication to the lawmakers on the floor of the Red Chamber during the plenary.
Ocheni is to replace the late Barrister James Enejo Ocholi former, Minister of State for Labour and Employment who died in a ghastly motor accident along Kaduna-Abuja road on March 6, 2016, while Hassan is replacing Mrs. Amina Mohammed, former Minister for Environment who stepped down from Buhari’s cabinet to take up the post of deputy secretary general of the United Nations last month.
Hassan was one of the non-career ambassador-designate confirmed last week by the senate before the Gombe State government reportedly nominated him for the ministerial position.

FG Set Up Committee On Senate-Magu Rift
Following the seeming rift between the executive and legislature over the rejection of Ibrahim Magu as the substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the federal government has set up a committee to wade into the feud.
The committee will be chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, with all ministers who are former National Assembly members, the president’s National Assembly liaison officers and members who have relationship with the lawmakers as members.
This was disclosed by the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, after the Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa yesterday.
The information minister expressed concern that the relationship between the executive and legislature was far from being ideal.  He said, “The executive is also concerned that the relationship between the two arms of government is not as smooth as it is supposed to be. In any democracy, it is a continuous struggle for balancing between the Executive and the Legislature because each of them are creatures of the law.
“We must strive at all times to ensure that there is that balance, amity and smooth relationship. Just today at the Federal Executive Council meeting, the issue was discussed and a committee is already working on ensuring that we resolve all these outstanding issues”.

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