BY AHURAKA YUSUF ISAH
In this report, AHURAKA YUSUF ISAH ponders on issues leading to strained relationship between the senate and the executive.
To say it has been a marriage of convenience, a strained relationship, with no love lost between Executive and the Senate since June 9, 2015, when in what could be described as the perfect coup d’etat, Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon.Yakubu Dogara defied orders of their party, APC by emerging Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively in a contest that was characterized by subterfuge and skillful guile; is perhaps underrating the situation.
The extreme enmity towards or hate for the other could no longer be concealed; and it’s rather thickening to the extent, even a blunt knife can cut through or make slices out of it, yet their lines are growing more and more parallel and wider day after the other with little or no effort for convergence or mend fences for the sole purpose of ameliorating the condition of the masses.
Not even the wisdom in Charles Edward Lindblom’s articles, “The Science Of ‘Muddling Through’” (1959) and “Still Muddling, Not yet through” (1979), came handy in the ‘’popularity contest’’ and competitive struggle to cancel one another before the Nigerian public by senate and the executive.
Lindblom, a Sterling Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Economics at Yale University is one of the early developers and advocates of the theory of Incrementalism in policy and decision-making. This view (also called Gradualism) takes a “baby-steps”, “Muddling Through” or “Echternach Theory” approach to decision-making processes. He observed however, that in ‘’democratic governance, when certain groups of elites gain crucial advantages, become too successful and begin to collude with one another instead of compete, pluralistic view of political elites can easily turn into Corporatism.
But History has also informed that this condition won’t continue adlibitum or without an end, at a material time, or at a time like this, something must always give in or give away, just as nature has a way of taking its course.
One thing is sacrosanct, says Mrs Inya-Okehi Abu Okoko, the Ajaokuta LGA (Kogi state) APC woman leader, ‘’I can’t tell what gives me this unreserved confidence, non-doubtful state of mind, and it has never failed me since I was born, I am highly sure our President Muhammadu Buhari will come back hale and hearty’’. This unarguably is the position or feelings of many meaningful Nigerians, and even so many Africans or friends of Nigerians alike.
While President Buhari is still on sick bed in United Kingdom going through medical treatment, Senate on May 17, 2017 issued a two-week ultimatum to his administration, as a matter of urgency, comply with the provisions of the 1999 constitution (as amended) and section 21 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act by submitting budget details of 38 federal government agencies to the National Assembly for legislative action.
Senate also mandated Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, to investigate alleged appointment of the head of Nigeria’s lottery regulation commission, Mr Lanre Gbajabiamila, by President Buhari. Lawan is to conduct a probe into how Gbajabiamila assumed office without Senate confirmation in line with the law establishing the commission.
What informed the more that Senate was just as well going through books perhaps to find faults with what to cast slur or aspersions on Presidency came to fore in an answer provided by the Senate spokesperson, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi on May 17 while briefing the press on what transpired in the plenary that day. Leadership Correspondent had sought for reasons for senate’s audacious moves against the Presidency for failure of 38 Federal Agencies to submit their budget details by now when similar details were submitted in July last year for the 2016 Budget.
Curiously Senator Abdullahi said senate just wants the agencies to comply with provisions of the law and not the tradition of submitting such details by July in the year. ‘’If they were tolerated last year or in the past, it doesn’t mean they would continue to be tolerated’’.
Senate President Bukola Saraki had in the same vein argued that the senate’s reason to defer the confirmation of Resident Electoral Commissioners of INEC until President Buhari comply with its directive to remove Ibrahim Magu as acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was ‘’just to make a statement’’.
Leadership Correspondent asked Saraki to tell what informed Senate’s sudden change of mind to begin the screening of the RECs it had earlier rejected to confirm until President Buhari removes Magu as acting Chairman of the EFCC while he was briefing the Senate Correspondents during the ‘’World Press Day’’ on May 3,2017.
In his answer, Saraki said, ‘’senate wanted to make a statement and that had been done. Senate’s rejection of some presidential nominees and the decision to stand down the screening and confirmation of the REC-nominees for the INEC, were not enough to conclude that there was a quarrel between the two arms of government.
‘’You cannot examine the relationship based on the NDDC matter, based on the EFCC matter. We have other issues. We have the confirmation of ministerial nominees, we have the budget that is more important; we have INEC, PIB matters that we are going to be working on’’, Saraki said.
After Ibrahim Magu was roundly rejected by the Senate as chairman of the EFCC, a stance the lawmakers insisted on by threatening to defer the confirmation of REC nominees of INEC, President Buhari made moves to address the impasse when he set up a committee to wade into the feud.
But signs that the bad blood between the executive and the legislature was still in the mix became obvious on May 17 when the Senate ordered all the 38 federal government agencies who were yet to submit their budget to stop further capital expenditures in the current fiscal year until their budget details are submitted for appropriations by the legislature.
This is just as Senate ordered the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC) DG, Mr. Lanre Gbajabiamila on May 18, out of office, saying he must henceforth, not be seen within the vicinity of that office until he is confirmed and an appointment letter is given to him.
On May 15, 2017, Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi west) launched a 600-page book entitled, ‘Antidotes for Corruption: The Nigerian Story,’ at which the anti-graft agencies were curiously absent; all in attempt to spite President Buhari and its anti-corruption drive.
Prominent at the occasion were the Former First Lady, Patience Jonathan, Senate President Bukola Saraki, Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara, and Minister of Labour Chris Ngige.
Also present were Ghali Na’aba, a former Speaker of the House; Anyim Pius Anyim, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation; Idris Wada, a former Kogi State Governor; Attahiru Bafarawa, a former Sokoto State governor; and several senators.
In a speech, Saraki, who is on trial for corruption at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for false declaration of assets, described the “sensationalization” of corruption fight as ‘unnecessary and counter-productive.’
In a dig at the government and the EFCC, he said that corruption must be fought to its roots and foundation, rather than blowing it out of proportion on the pages of newspapers. Saraki argued that the justice system provides for forensic investigation, which, according to him, is lacking in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, trial of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki for false asset declaration before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has entered a dicey stage, lead prosecuting lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) announced the closure of the prosecution’s case after its fifth witness, Bayo Dauda, a bank official concluded his testimony at May 4, 2017’s proceedings.
Led in evidence by Jacobs, Dauda told the tribunal that Saraki obtained loans from GTB three times between 2006 and 2010. He said Saraki got the first loan of N380m in October 2006, the second of N380m on January 30, 2007 and the third, of N375m on February 10, 2010.
Dauda, who read from a bundle of bank documents earlier tendered by the prosecution as exhibits, said Saraki got the second loan of N380m for the purpose of buying property in London, the United Kingdom.
But while Jacobs informed the tribunal that the prosecution was done with its case, instead for Saraki to call his witnesses to enter into defence , his lawyer, Paul Erokoro (SAN) had rather said he will file a no-case submission on behalf of Saraki. Since the trial appeared intended to stay till the next millennium, Erokoro added that his team intends to first, file a formal application, requesting the tribunal’s record of proceedings before filing of the no-case submission.
Before adjourning to June 8 for the adoption of the no-case submission, CCT Chairman, Danladi Umar, directed the tribunal’s Registry to put the records of proceedings together within two weeks. He asked the defence to, within one week; file its written address in support of the no-case submission, while the prosecution is to respond within one week after being served.
If Saraki’s no case submission succeeds, that ends his trial at the CCT, with option to proceed on appeals by the Federal Government. If that application fails, Saraki’s lawyer either proceed on appeals as usual or enter defence in his trial in readiness for final CCT judgement in the matter; which I doubt would be; due to unlimited antics or legal tricks defence lawyers could revert to that the CCT Chairman would gratuitously oblige. But the nuisance value of the trial to Buhari’s administration is that, at least ‘’a big man is standing trial over its anti-corruption fight’’, instead to invoke ‘’nolle prosequi’’ to discontinue it. And this keep on fanning amber of extreme enmity towards or hate for the other between senate and the executive , perhaps until something gives in, gives away or there comes final day of long nights.
The prosecution’s case against Saraki include breaches of asset declaration, to the effect that he, while being a public officer, operated bank accounts outside Nigeria, and failed to declare the foreign accounts to the Code of Conduct Bureau while being governor and a senator during the period.
Saraki is also accused of failing to declare the sum loan which he allegedly obtained from GTB while still being governor, and that he allegedly transferred the £1,516,194.53, which was then an equivalent of one of the loans, to his account with Fortis Bank, London, for the purchase of an “undisclosed property” in London.