In this report, AHURAKA YUSUF ISAH clinically examines issues that turned asunder, the rosy and camaraderie relationship between Senators Bukola Saraki and Ali Ndume which saw them becoming Senate President and Senate Leader, respectively, and concludes that it is a fallout of the Senate – Presidency feud.
On March 29, 2017, the Nigerian Senate suspended Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume (Borno South, APC), for six months for raising a motion on the floor of the Senate, to demand for an investigation into media reports alleging that the Senate President, Bukola Saraki imported a bullet proof range rover with fake documents; while Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi west) forged Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria first degree certificate.
Senate said the suspension of Ndume, who backed Saraki’s coup deta’t against his party (APC) to grab senate president seat on June 9, 2015, will serve as deterrence to others against raising allegations without due diligence, caution and patriotic zeal thereby bringing senate members and senate as an institution to disrepute.
On a lighter mood, the travail of Ndume, who resumed on November 15, 2017 after serving out 90 legislative days of suspension, reminds one of Alfred Nobel after his invention of dynamite. Nobel invented dynamite as a safer, more stable construction explosive to nitroglycerin, which killed his younger brother, Emil. Nobel hoped that by adding stabilisers to the nitroglycerin, he would create an invention to end war, not create it. Sadly, that was not the case, as armies quickly realised the weaponized potential of dynamite explosions. Dynamite explosions caused many deaths, so much so that when a French newspaper accidentally published Nobel‘s obituary, they celebrated. The headline crowed “Le marchand de la mort est mort (The merchant of death is dead).” They continued, writing, “Dr Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.” Nobel was upset by that, and didn’t want his legacy to be one of death. That’s why he devoted the bulk of his inheritance to establish the Peace Prize.
In Mary Shelley’s Gothic story, Victor Frankenstein, a fictional character, builds the creature in his laboratory through an ambiguous method consisting of chemistry and alchemy that also punished him for his acts, with his creation (Frankenstein) turning on him and making his life miserable.
After his emergence as Senate President, Saraki, of course began to explore ways to mend fences and reconcile with President Muhammadu Buhari who is grieved as the APC party leader. Saraki enlisted Ndume, who is from the north-east, most especially as the Presidency is highly populated with people of the north east extraction. It was equally one of the reasons for which he supported him for senate leader’s position.
The story has it that Saraki started believing the rumours when he discovered that all attempts by him to see President Buhari did not succeed despite Ndume’s assurances.
Initially, Ndume wanted to be Senate President, but dropped that along the line to support Saraki and settled for deputy senate president (DSP). Ndume contested for the post of DSP, but Saraki opted for Ekweremadu, who he perhaps, feels safer with in the long run. This might have informed Ndume’s back-stabbing of Saraki in the Villa; rather than mediating between him and the Presidency.
Saraki, who thereafter opted for confrontation, as peaceful settlement between him and the Presidency failed, marshaled the Senate behind him and on December 15, 2016, turned down a request from the Presidency that Ibrahim Magu be confirmed as Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). It cited “security report”. The report accused Magu of lacking the integrity to head the anti-graft agency, and engaging in questionable dealings.
But four days after the Senate’s initial position, Ndume told journalists at the State House on Monday December 19, 2016 that Magu was not rejected. He said the Senate merely stepped down Magu’s confirmation hearing until integrity issues raised in the SSS reports are resolved.
But in a counter reaction, Abdullahi Sabi, the Senate’s spokesperson, on December 20, 2016 reaffirmed the Senate’s position. “This is the official position of the Senate,” he emphasised.
“We are unable to proceed and confirm the nominee, Magu, to the office of the executive chairman of EFCC, and I said accordingly, ‘the Senate hereby rejects the said nomination and returns the nomination to Mr President for further action.’ He added that Ndume is majority leader of the Senate with clear cut responsibilities, which cannot be inter-changed with his (Saba’s) own assigned duties as the official spokesperson of the Senate.
Due to the fraternity between Ndume and the Presidency that has become obvious and open, Senate leadership and even the senate, no longer feel comfortable or safe while conducting official or private discussion or transaction with Ndume in attendance. They all believe Ndume is presidency’s mole in their midst.
On January 10, 2017, Saraki read on the floor of the Senate, the letter he claimed was sent to him by the APC members of the Senate saying Ndume had been removed as their leader. The APC caucus in the senate, he said, further elected to replace Ndume with Senator Ahmed Lawan, as Senate majority leader.
Addressing journalists after the Senate’s plenary that day, Ndume said he knew what led to the decision and where the meeting was held to remove him. Of course, Ndume’s predicament is unconnected with the rejection by the Senate of Ibrahim Magu as chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
However, on March 15, 2017, the Senate again, rejected Ibrahim Magu as the EFCC Chairman; making it the second time. On that day, at the Senate’s plenary, majority of the Senators rejected his confirmation of Magu as the EFCC boss through popular vote. But Ndume, in a pont of Order, protested the non-confirmation of Magu and states that Senate received two letters. He agreed that Majority will have its way but minority must have its say. To this, Saraki said “We should not rubbish the entire institution because of an individual.”
Ndume addressed the press outside the plenary saying, ‘’if Magu could be rejected due to allegations of corruption, then Senate President, Bukola Saraki should not be occupying the position because he has also been accused of same.”
An online news portal, Sahara Reporters, carried a report published on March 18, 2017, that the Nigerian Customs officers in Lagos had on January 11, 2017, intercepted and impounded a Range Rover SUV with estimated value of N298 million with an estimable custom duty of N74 million. According to the report, this vehicle which carried documents that claimed its chassis number was “SALGV3TF3EA190243’’, displayed a measly customs duty of N8 million paid on the car, that were found to be fake. The seizure of this Vehicle, according to the report, allegedly belonging to Saraki, was the reason why the Senate was moving against the Controller General of the Nigerian Custom Services (NCS), Col Hammed Ali (retd.).
Sahara Reporters had also, in another report, alleged that Melaye did not graduate from the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Kaduna State, but was parading a fake certificate.
Ndume, who was already bearing grudges against Saraki, brought this report for a debate of whether senate should investigate it or not. Ndume said previous certificate scandals involving members of the National Assembly were probed by the lawmakers.
Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary, referred the matter to the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, which was asked to report back to the lawmakers in two weeks
On March 29, 2017, the chairman of Senate Committee on Ethics and Privilege, Senator Samuel Anyawu who presented report of their finding, cleared both Ndume and Melaye of allegation raised against them which was adopted by Senate.
Anyanwu committee report stressed that Ndume lacked concrete evidence to have petitioned Saraki and Dino. The Committee said that the action of the former leader of the Senate dragged the name of the Senate and its president to disrepute and as such should be punished, therefore recommended that the senator be suspended for 181 legislative days, equivalent of one calendar year
However, Senator Matthew Urhoghide pleaded that the penalty be reduced to six months rather than one year. Senator Peter Nwaoboshi seconded the motion to review the duration of the suspension to six months. The Senate thereafter adopted the review and suspended Senator Ndume for six months.
Ndume later approached the Federal High Court, Abuja, which delivered judgement in the matter on November 10, 2017. The Court nullified the suspension, describing it as illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional.
Delivering judgment in the suit, which was marked FHC/ABJ/CS/551/2017, Justice Babatunde Quadri, held that the suit has merit and as such, succeeded in part. He said: “The suspension of the plaintiff is hereby declared illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional. The purported suspension contained in the letter of March 30, 2017, is hereby set aside.
Meanwhile, the senate has kicked against the judgment, vowing to file an appeal on Monday, November 13. In a statement issued by its counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), shortly after the judgment, the senate said it disagreed with the judgment. “The notice of appeal is ready and would be filed unfailingly by Monday morning. An application for a stay of execution of the orders of the court will also be filed same time’’, Ozekhome said.
By the time Ndume resumed on November 15, Saraki was in Ilorin for the 5th anniversary prayer of his late father, 2nd Republic Senate Leader, Olusola Saraki.
Senate, which was presided over by Ekweremadu, resolved that day to allow Ndume to resume because he had served out his suspension of 90 legislative days and not to prejudice recent court pronouncements.
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