Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The non-appearance of the of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, the ill-treatment being meted to Senator Dino Melaye, the invasion of National Assembly by suspected thugs as well as the passage of the 2018 budget were among the issues that President Muhammadu Buhari discussed with the leadership of the National Assembly.
Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, on Monday afternoon on the invitation of President Buhari, told State House Correspondents that they talked on the key issues of importance to both arms of government.
Saraki and Dogara, arrived the Aso Rock in same car to meet with Buhari, barely two hours after he arrived Abuja from his home state of Katsina, where he had participated in the ward congress of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
Saraki said the President invited them over to discuss with them his recent visit to the United States of America, the passage of the 2018 Budget, and the invasion of the National Assembly by thugs, but they used the opportunity to complain to him their reservations about the non-appearance of the IGP, despite repeated invitations.
They appealed Buhari to make officers of the executive arm of government operate within the ambit of law in their actions.
Melaye, who represents Kogi West Senatorial Zone, had been accused of gun-running and later, attempted suicide, by the police, which eventually arrested him, confined him to hospital and later stretchered him to two different courts to face the charges.
Some hoodlums had on April 18th invaded the Senate and made away with the Mace, the symbol of authority.
Saraki on why they were in the Presidential Villa said, “Well, we came on the invitation of Mr. President, he wanted to brief us on his trip to the United States and also the issue of the budget. We also talked on the issue of concerns to us, the invasion of the National Assembly, which he showed great concern and said action will be taken to investigate that.”
Asked when they are passing the budget, the Senate President said, “Well, hopefully it should be laid this week. If it can be laid this week then it can be passed early next week but we are hoping it will be laid this week.”
On what was the President’s response on invasion, Saraki said, “Of course, he sees it as an embarrassment to the country and that there will be a proper investigation because is something that is not just about the National Assembly, it is about the country.”
On efforts to improve the strain relationship between the executive and the legislature, the Senate President said, “You see we are here today, it was the initiative of Mr. President to brief us on his visit to America and to engage on discussions and I think that is a good sign. We in the National Assembly have always been ready to give all our support to the executive and we will continue to work along those lines. As I said, the presidential system that we operate, we sometimes have the responsibility to check the excesses of the executive, so there will always be times we will disagree but by and large, we will always work for the interest of Nigerians and always keep on moving on.”
On where the issue of Senator Dino Melaye came up in the meeting, Dogara said, “On the issue of Senator Dino, of course anything that happens to one of our members or any member of the National Assembly is of concern to us. And there is no way we can have this kind of meeting without raising that. This is a civilian administration, it is democracy and it is imperative and very very important that all institutions of democracy operate within the ambit of the rule of law.
“There is no where, I have said it before that police will behave in a democracy like a clan of tribesmen, like an upgraded barbarians sort of. So there is need for us to act with civility. We are not saying that anybody should be protected and defended. Once you have committed an offense, our law said you should answer to it but you just have to utilize the provision of our constitution, the rule of law and that this administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has over emphased in order to bring people to book. But a situation where people are wheeled to court, that doesn’t give good image of our democracy. I have not seen a democracy where people are wheeled to court, they are not in the proper frame of mind and they are forced to undergo trial.
“Whatever it is, even if Dino is pretending as some have said it some section of the media, he cannot pretend forever. He is there, he will not run away, he is a senator and he can be tried any time he is in proper frame of mind. As a lawyer, I can tell you, any judge that assesses an accused person not to be in a proper frame of mind, even if the accused person pleas guilty, he is duty bound by law to record a plea of not guilty if he is not satisfied as to the soundness of the mind of the accused person.
“So the emphasis is there and I believe the president being a listening president will definitely take steps and do something about it.”
Asked if the issue of planned impeachment process came up in the meeting, Dogara said, no as it wasn’t part of the agenda of the meeting.
“Well, I don’t think we have the authority to discuss issues of impeachment, impeachment is a political offense and I don’t think we are there yet.
“No, never. It wasn’t part of the agenda.”
Saraki speaking on the non-appearance of the IGP said, “Just talking about the issue of the police, we also raised the issue of the non-appearance of the IG at the senate and felt that they must continue to ensure that he continues to apply obedience to the issue of constituted authority. We are of great concern that this is the first time this is happening and that this matter needs to be addressed considering the importance of the powers of the constitution that gives investigative powers, also gives to us and that there is need for police to accept that they too are under constitution and they must obey that. We raised that concern.”
Saraki said the meeting was a good one as it touched on some of the important issues.