The Senate has set up a 10-man ad-hoc committee to meet President Muhammadu Buhari over an alleged attempt by the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, to implicate Senate President Bukola Saraki in a cultism-related case said to have emanated from Kwara State.
This was even as the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan (APC, Yobe), lamented that the issue had caused “needless” disruption to budget consideration.
The resolution to set up the high-powered ad-hoc committee followed a matter of personal explanation raised by Senator Saraki during Wednesday plenary wherein he informed colleagues of an ongoing attempt by the police hierarchy to implicate him and the Kwara State governor, Abdulfattah Ahmed, in a case involving some four cultism suspects arrested in Kwara.
Saraki said: “Distinguished colleagues, just this morning the governor of my state, Abdulfattah Ahmed, called to inform me that certain suspects were arrested on cultism charges in our state and were being prosecuted under state laws but were asked this morning to be transferred to Abuja on the orders of the IGP in an attempts to alter their statements with a view to implicating the state government and particularly myself.
“So, I just want to bring this to the notice of everybody and the international community about what is happening in Nigeria, where we do our work lawfully and as elected representatives of the people and in the process become targets of a political witch-hunt by those whose job it is to protect our rights.”
However, the Senate Minority Leader, Godswil Akpabio (PDP, Akwa Ibom), wondered why an issue as serious as an attempt to frame up the Senate president should just be mentioned in passing without being discussed and decided.
“Mr. President, you just made a cursory remark about four cultists arrested in your state and are being used to implicate you and the state governor.
“Mr. President, that was a serious issue and you are the number three citizen and I feel it’s not just something that you should just mention and keep quiet. I’m surprised that you just mentioned it and you left it like that.
“So, I want to know under which order you came so that we will see if we can discuss it, because as far as I can see, this issue is too weighty an issue to be left un-discussed,” Akpabio said.
But Saraki responded and said: “I just mentioned it as a way of bringing it to the notice of our colleagues so that they’ll know the danger that we face – doing our constitutionally guaranteed duties as elected senators representing our people.
“But if members feel they want to discuss it, there’s no problem, but me as the presiding officer sitting here, I felt I should let the whole house know.”
While Akpabio suggested that the matter be referred to the Senate Committee on Police Affairs for investigation, the Senate Deputy Majority Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah (APC, Kebbi), said it wasn’t a matter to be handled by the Police Affairs Committee.
“Being an interested party in this matter as has been brought to your notice by your state governor in his capacity as the chief security officer of the state, it’s a serious matter.
“So, I suggest that you step down from the chair and allow the Deputy Senate President to preside while you properly present the issue for discussion and a resolution (made),” Na’Allah suggested.
To this end, a motion was moved and seconded as Saraki stepped down from the chair while his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, took over the proceedings.
Contributing to the issue, Senator Gbenga Ashafa (APC, Lagos) suggested that the committee should be a joint one that includes members of the House of Representatives to investigate the matter since the chairman of the National Assembly is the one being targeted.
Shola Adeyeye (APC, Osun) said: “When it comes to setting up of committees that comprise of members from both chambers, the decision must come from both chambers.
“So I suggest that we set up a committee made up of each member from the six geo-political zone and the FCT, making it seven, and then communicate the House, and if they are interested, they will send their own six people, but if they are not – which I believe they are, then the seven people will continue with the task.”
But Kabiru Marafa (APC, Zamfara) begged to differ, saying that the matter in order to have any relevance in the face of ongoing dispute between the Senate and the IGP, President Muhammadu Buhari whom, he said, was not in the picture of some of the things that are happening, be made aware.
“So, I suggest that the committee of eminent members of this institution should see the president and lay bare the issues and tell him who said and did what and where so that he can know where the issues are coming from.
“Because, if we just sit here to invite an IGP that will not come, and if we arrive at a resolution, who do we take it to for implementation? It’s still the police that will enforce the resolution,” Marafa pointed out.
For his part, Emmanuel Bwacha (PDP, Taraba) recalled how his security details were allegedly withdrawn while he was on a trip to his constituency just because he spoke in the media that it was wrong for the IGP not to appear before the Senate.
He said: “While approaching Jos, the mobile police commander from the National Assembly here called my security details and ordered them to withdraw and leave me alone and go to the nearest police station to report.
“I then went to a hotel to take care of myself without letting them know where I was going to sleep, and the next morning, I drove back to Abuja in fear,” Bwacha narrated.
Other contributors such as Isa Misau (APC, Bauchi) as well as Abdullahi Adamu (APC, Nasarawa West) supported the suggestion by Marafa on the need to take the matter directly to President Buhari so as to place it on record that there was an assault on the institution and members of the National Assembly from security agencies.
But for Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan, the development was only a clog in the wheel of progress with regards to the passage of the 2018 appropriation.
He said: “All these that are happening do nothing but cause disruption to our work. Today would have been a day when we walk in here and pass the 2018 budget, but it was not to be.
“However, I want to align with the suggestion of Senator Marafa that we should meet with Mr. President. He is the father of this nation, because some people may be taking advantage of the situation to do things that the president is not aware of.
“However, we will not only send the committee, the leadership and some of our members will join them to visit the president, and this can even be an opportunity for us to resolve other issues with the president.”
Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the issue, said: “The issue has been discussed in a bi-partisan manner and very patriotically, too. This issue has to do with preserving our democracy and the rule of law.
“And we have agreed that we will set up an ad-hoc committee to handle this matter by visiting the president to register the issues and also insist that Mr. President take charge of ensuring that our rights and institutions are protected under the constitution. So I rule that a seven-man ad-hoc committee be set up to visit the president and report back within one week.”
The delegation is to be led by Senate President Bukola Saraki; the Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan; Minority Leader, Godswil Akpabio; the Chief Whip, Shola Adeyeye, and Abdullahi Adamu.
The others are Sam Egwu, Danjuma Goje, Aliyu Magartakada Wamako, Oluremi Tinubu, and Fatima Raji Rasaki. They have one week to report back for further action.