There are strong indications that the National Assembly is on the war path with President Muhammadu Buhari over the prosecution of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, for alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Rules 2015.
Saturday PUNCH gathered on Friday that although some of the legislators were uncomfortable with the anti-corruption war of the President, the relationship between the two arms of government came to a head with the senate forgery rules suit filed by the Federal Government.
It was learnt that many National Assembly members had concluded plans to frustrate any request by the President because of his anti-graft war.
Besides the senate president, who is standing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, eight senators, including the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje, and a former Plateau State Governor, Senator Joshua Dariye, are being prosecuted for corruption related offences.
Goje is standing trial at a Federal High Court, Jos, for allegedly awarding contract for the purchase of N1bn dictionaries without due process, while Dariye is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on a 23-count charge bordering on money laundering and diversion of the state’s ecological fund.
It was gathered that among the plans of the anti-Buhari senators, consisting of members of the Peoples Democratic Party caucus and their others colleagues in the All Progressives Congress sympathetic to Saraki, was to delay approval for Buhari’s appointments.
Investigations by Saturday PUNCH showed that those who could be affected by the hard stand of the National Assembly included the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, whose appointment had not been confirmed by the Senate.
Others in this category, it was learnt, included ambassadors, who would mainly be politicians. An APC senator, who is sympathetic to Saraki, confided in Saturday PUNCH that the National Assembly would be strict in its oversight functions.
He said, “As part of the measures to reveal to Nigerians that there is corruption in the executive too, we will be strict in screening appointees and in our oversight functions.”
Following the frosty relationship, it was learnt that the lawmakers had vowed to ensure that the principle of separation of powers was enforced between the two arms of government.
One of the Like Mind senators, who preferred anonymity, alleged that the Presidency, in collaboration with some APC leaders, had made up their minds to get Saraki and Ekweremadu out at all costs.
Like Mind senators, consisting of the PDP members and their colleagues that are supporting Saraki, were instrumental to his emergence as senate president last year.
The senator, who spoke with Saturday PUNCH, said, “When the Presidency and some of these party leaders discovered that they could not remove Saraki and Ekweremadu on the floor of the chamber, they are now trying to carry out their agenda using the court.
“Their intention is to ensure that both Saraki and Ekweremadu are arraigned in court on Monday (next week) and make sure that they are remanded in prison afterwards so that we would be forced to change our leadership.”
The senator from the North Central geopolitical zone vowed that all legal and constitutional means would be explored by his colleagues to ensure that the Presidency was paid back in its coin.
Efforts to get the reaction of the senate spokesperson on the issue were futile as of the time of filing this report.
The PDP senators during the week announced the withdrawal of their support for Buhari’s government over what they called, “unwarranted threats to the legislative arm of government.”
But 16 members of the APC, led by the Chief Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye, addressed journalists on Thursday under the aegis of APC Senate Caucus and expressed their support for Buhari.
In the House of Representatives, there are also signs of a deepening frosty relationship between the executive and the legislative arms.
On Friday, some members called on Buhari to adjust his administration’s “style of approaching issues relating to the National Assembly.”
Members of the APC caucus and the main opposition PDP shared the same view, noting that there was a drift to military style of leadership.
The members stated besides ignoring the resolutions of the National Assembly, the ongoing move to prosecute Saraki and Ekweremadu for alleged forgery of the Senate’s rules was a step taken too far.
Some of the APC members opted to speak on condition of anonymity for fear of being accused of fighting the President.
One of them said, “Truly, we are worried that things are beginning to go wrong; the President has to start making corrections.
“This issue of hounding everyone all over the place as if our laws or courts are no longer functioning is creating anxiety.”
Speaking on the development in the Senate, another APC lawmaker stated, “The feeling of members is that the executive is taking the National Assembly for a ride. The President and, especially some of his ministers, treat our resolutions with levity.
“If we say we have a democracy, we have to ask questions. Look at the case of Kogi State House of Assembly crisis.
“There was a joint resolution of the Senate and the House that the National Assembly should assume control of that Assembly until calm would have returned there. We were ignored because a particular minister had overriding interest. “
Call your errant ministers to order, House tells President
The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, also told Saturday PUNCH that members were feeling that certain actions of the executive were not necessary, if the Presidency expected any cordial relationship to thrive.
He explained that while the feeling of members did not mean that they would withdraw support for Buhari, they believed that he could adjust.
He said, “The prosecution of the senate president and his deputy is unnecessary, especially considering that this is an internal affair of the Senate.
“At the last dinner we had with Mr. President, he even reiterated that he would love to improve on the executive-legislature relationship. That is what we are expecting.
“Again, the actions and utterances of some ministers portray them as constantly being at loggerheads with the National Assembly.
“We want some actions to be taken in this regard. We in the House in particular, we are not saying we are withdrawing our support for Mr. President, but we are committed to improvement in our relationship.”
Asked what actions the House would take should the executive continue to ignore the resolutions of the legislature, Namdas replied that the House would wait to see how the executive behaved henceforth.
“We have passed our resolution and we will wait and see how those in the executive, especially some ministers, will react henceforth,” he said.
Members of the PDP caucus in the House said they had yet to withdraw their support for Buhari unlike their counterparts in the Senate.
But they stressed that they would not support any decision that did not promote democracy.
The Minority Leader of the House and leader of the caucus, Mr. Leo Ogor, advised Buhari to draw the line between democracy and military dictatorship.
Ogor said, “We are not supporting whatever the President is doing that is not in the interest of democracy. That is not the same thing as saying that we have withdrawn our support for the Federal Government.
“There is a difference between democracy and military dictatorship. What we see happening seem to us that due process is no longer being followed.”
The Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, could not be reached as of the time of filing this report.
Text messages sent to him were also not replied.
But a source told Saturday PUNCH that Gbajabiamila had regularly preached “patience” to his colleagues.
Buhari won’t slow down anti-corruption war despite criticism –Presidency
The Presidency said Buhari would not slow down his administration’s anti-corruption war despite the recent criticism by some federal lawmakers.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, told one of our correspondents that Buhari would not slow down the anti-graft war in view of the criticism that had trailed the Federal Government’s decision to file forgery charges against Saraki and Ekweremadu.
Adesina said, “The anti-corruption war will not be slowed down for any reason whatsoever. Let me refer you to what the President said on Wednesday while addressing Presidency staffers. The war on corruption will never be slowed down.”
He also said Buhari was not in any way entertaining any fear that he would be finding it difficult getting Senate approvals for some of his appointments and policies because of the development.
He said, “The President is not here to serve himself. If the lawmakers are also not out to serve themselves, then nothing should frustrate the process of getting approvals.
“The President will always maintain cordial relationship with other arms of government since the purpose of being elected is to serve.”
We are reaching out to PDP senators –Enang
When contacted, the Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, said, “On the purported withdrawal of support by distinguished senators of the PDP, all hands are on deck to ensure that the executive maintains the cordial relationship that exists between it and the legislature.”