■ Saraki, Ndume draw battle line ■ ‘I’ll open can of worms’
■ Senate leadership keeps mum
By Fred Itua, Abuja
THE crisis currently rocking the Senate may be far from over, as the three key actors involved, namely, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Dino Melaye from Kogi State and the immediate-past Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, have returned to the trenches.
The crisis, which began late last year when the Senate rejected a $29.9 billion loan request sent to it by President Muhammadu Buhari, may eventually lead to the suspension of Ndume, who is not ready to throw in the towel yet, despite the gathering storm against him.
Ndume had soon after the Senate rejected President Buhari’s loan request protested against the resolution. He was said to have visited the Presidential Villa where he held series of meetings with top government officials on how to prevail on the Senate to rescind its decision on the budget issue. Ndume’s move, it was learnt, angered Saraki and his loyalists, who were understood to be uncomfortable with that. Ndume was reportedly warned but did not take heed.
The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the first rejection of Ibrahim Magu, the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by the Senate.
A day after the Senate took the decision, Ndume told State House correspondents that the Senate was yet to take a position on Magu. While the controversy lasted, he reportedly made efforts to woo lawmakers loyal to Saraki to support his new move. But upon resumption from the Christmas break, Saraki’s loyalists led by Melaye, gathered signatures from All Progressives Congress (APC) caucus members in the Senate against Ndume. He was eventually removed as Leader and was succeeded by Ahmad Lawan.
Since his removal as Senate Leader, Ndume has been fighting to take his pound of flesh, particularly from Saraki, who is believed to have covertly sanctioned his removal and Melaye who executed the deal.
Sunday Sun gathered that Ndume, who hails from Borno State and is currently facing trial over his alleged links with the dreaded Boko Haram, is making overtures to elements within the Presidency, who are perceived to be unrepentant enemies of Saraki. It was learnt that even though he appears to have lost support from his former ‘lieutenants’ in the Senate, he is threatening to spill the beans on what he knew while his relationship with Saraki lasted.
For instance, it was reliably gathered that Ndume is planning to mount pressure on the leadership of the Senate and the National Assembly, where Saraki holds sway as chairman, to release details of the budget of the legislature, which has been a bone of contention for years. There were claims in some quarters recently that the Offices of the Senate President and Deputy Senate President spend at least N1 billion monthly on operational cost.
In February, Ndume openly condemned the secrecy associated with the budget of the Senate. He noted that lawmakers were not privy to the contents of Senate budget and called on Saraki, who doubles as chairman of the National Assembly, to make it public.
Ndume had said: “We are here to pass the budget without seeing the details. This is a government of change and this must change. The details of the budget report should be considered holistically. Last year, we had several issues with the budget. In fact, to some extent, it was very embarrassing.
“Some of us do not know what was/is in the budget because the details of the budget have never been provided and this should be done this year. Senators do not know the budget of the Senate.
It should be known this year and this is very important because we cannot be taking blames or hold credit for what we do not know.”
Last week, Ndume made another daring move when he instigated the Senate to probe Saraki over the purchase of a Range Rover Sport vehicle, which was seized by Customs officers, and Melaye over certificate forgery saga.
Saraki, who is believed to have finally secured the friendship of President Buhari, is not leaving anything to chance. Sunday Sun reliably learnt that efforts are in top gear to instigate a suspension move against Ndume.
Melaye, who is also having a running battle with Ndume, is believed to be spearheading the suspension move.
In the coming days or weeks, one of Saraki’s loyalists is expected to move a motion on the floor of the Senate and call for Ndume’s probe over allegations that he has been disparaging the Upper Legislative Chamber.
The issue will be referred to the Senate committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions and a hurried report would expectedly be submitted, which would be used to nail Ndume and possibly suspend him for at least six months.
Sunday Sun also learnt that another motion may be sponsored by another Senator to urge the Senate to probe links of some lawmakers to Boko Haram.
The prime target, it was gathered, is Ndume who is currently facing trial over the same issue. There are fears, however, that Ndume may be standing alone as members of North-east caucus have switched camp and are currently supporting Lawan, who hails from the same geopolitical zone.
Spokesman of the Senate, Senator Abdullahi Sabi, could not be reached on how the Senate intends to resolve the lingering crisis. Series of calls to his mobile phone number were not answered.
Similarly, the Senate Leader, Senator Lawan declined to see the Sunday Sun correspondent when he made frantic efforts to get his reaction on how the Senate leadership intends to solve the tussle in the Red Chamber.