•I’m not behind Ndume’s suspension –Senate President
From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday met separately with Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara inside the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Dogara arrived at noon and Saraki at about 12.30pm for the meeting held against the backdrop of frosty relationship between the executive and the legislature.
The Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to President Muhammad Buhari on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang and the Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives), Samaila Kawu were present in both meeting.
Sakari told journalists that the meeting focused on the 2017 budget among other issues.
“We are working on it (the budget), (We came) just to let the president know how far we have gotten with it. We are on course…Last week, we did ask all the sub-committees to submit their reports to appropriation. All that has been done now. It’s now collation and review, then hopefully, it will be passed very soon,” the senate president said.
He, however, refused to comment on the Senate stepping down the confirmation of 27 Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) nominees for two weeks in protest against Ibrahim Magu’s continued headship of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“As I said, this is a routine meeting, there are many things that are important but there are other things that are even more important to do which is the budget. We talked also about the INEC bill that we have passed. I took the president through some of the areas… so that was something he was really excited about. Some of the new amendments like electronic voting, talks about electronic process for collation, those are landmark achievements that we hope that very soon the House will concur and we all come here for the President to assent. “Some of these other issues will happen but I don’t think it’s a major issue, but we are still moving ahead and still consulting.”
He denied being the mastermind of last week’s suspension of former Majority Leader, Ali Ndume for six months for not “observing due diligence” before filing a petition against himself and the lawmaker representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Dino Melaye.
He said he did not have the kind of powers that were being ascribed to him, saying as president of senate he was first among equals.
“We should try and understand how the parliament works. I wish I had these powers you give me; I wish I had them. The president of the senate or the speaker is first among equals. They are just presiding officers but unfortunately you know the legislative arm is the youngest (of the three arm); people don’t understand. People give us this powers that we have, decision that is taken in plenary is decision of all but I have a role to convey the message. I will convey the message of the governor of Borno who came to see me to the Senate. The Senate is one, we are all one family; there will be issues like that, there is nothing that is sacrosanct or rigid.”
He insisted that the relationship between the legislature and the executive was cordial contrary to the notion that it was frosty.
“You cannot examine it based on NDDC (Niger Delta Development Commission) or based on EFCC. We have other issues. We have ministerial issues that we are going to be working on, we have the budget that is more important, we have the issue of electoral act, the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). We have so many important things and I think it’s a mixture of all that should guide us, don’t let us overheat the polity on some of these issues.”
he okayed the mediation committee set up by the executive and headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to resolve outstanding issues between the two arms of government.
Dogara who also said he was on a routine visit to President Buhari described the Senate’ rejection of Magu as a non-issue.
“You might look at it as crisis but I don’t look at it that way. You know I have always said that as a government our value will be the problems we have solved. We can’t be remembered for avoiding, we can’t be remembered for running away from problems, it is only when we provide solution to some of the things you refer to as crisis and we look at it as opportunities to begin the new that people will now remember us for putting down enduring legacies. But when we run away from challenge, we will not make it.”
Asked if he foresaw a solution to the problem, he replied: “I tell you they will overcome it. I’m not in the Senate and I am not the spokesperson for the Senate, so the Senate will speak for themselves.”
He said the National Assembly welcomed the planned protest tomorrow by some youth groups in support of its recent actions.
Two youth groups, the Movement for the Advancement of National Transformation (MANTRA) and the Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Coalition (CDNDC), warned that Nigeria under Buhari “may descend speedily into the unenviable state of anomie, anarchy, chaos and doom were impunity reigns supreme” if the executive was not checked.
“This is a democracy we are running and we have to open the space to civil society, to everyone who feels aggrieved to be able to air his grievances. So, if they have grievances against the institution of the legislature we will take it. The point is we should never run away from crisis; crisis are always wonderful opportunities for us to set new boundaries, for us to begin to examine things in a new way. So we should welcome crisis. They are the engines that always propels growth and progress. So if anyone thinks he has issues with the National Assembly, let him come and we will have the opportunity to explain.
That is the beauty of democracy.”