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Uproar in Senate over alleged forgery trial

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh and Segun Olaniyi, Abuja
13 July 2016   |   4:28 am
It was a rowdy session at the Senate yesterday as it became a theatre of the absurd.At a closed-door session, Senators who could not agree on how to resolve image problems confronting the upper legislative chamber...
Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu

Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu

• Tinubu, Melaye, others in shouting match
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It was a rowdy session at the Senate yesterday as it became a theatre of the absurd. At a closed-door session, Senators who could not agree on how to resolve image problems confronting the upper legislative chamber on grounds of the trial of Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, resorted to insults and use of obscene language.

It was gathered that the trouble began when Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West, APC) suggested that members of the Senate Unity Forum who sent a petition to the police that eventually resulted in the trial be suspended from the chamber.

The Senate has also invited the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), David Babachir Lawal, to provide explanations on statements credited to him to the effect that the federal authorities would not implement constituency projects.

Adopting ‎a motion sponsored by Senator Mattew Orhoghide (Edo South, PDP), the Senate asked its committees on Appropriation, Finance as well as the one in charge of Ethics and Privileges to interrogate the SGF on the comments attributed to him and submit report before the end of the week.

Deputy Leader of the Senate, Bala Ibn Na’Allah, cautioned the chamber against the tendency to reply to comments made by an improper authority on budget matters.

He also asked the Senate not to take comments ‎made by the SGF as representing the position of President Muhammadu Buhari.Senate Deputy Minority Whip, Biodun Olujumi, described the SGF’s comments as irresponsible, urged the chamber to halt a situation in which appointees of the President would talk carelessly about the legislature.

The chamber also said it would explore all its constitutional powers to compel the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), Abubakar Malami, to appear before it to answer questions on the trial of Saraki and Ekweremadu over alleged forgery of Senate Rules.

The Senate has equally expressed concern over the over the persistent failure of state governments to pay teachers’ salaries. It tasked the federal, state and local governments to immediately take necessary steps towards the payment of all outstanding salaries owed teachers.

The resolutions were the aftermath of a motion by Melaye in which he observed that basic education was a concurrent issue and responsibility of both the states and local councils but currently requires the prompt intervention of the Federal Government to avert a collapse of the nation’s educational system.

The SGF and the Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, also yesterday told the Senate that the list of 47 ambassadorial nominees forwarded to it last month by President Muhammadu Buhari could not be amended as it was his prerogative ahile the envoys do not need to cut across the 36 states as it is with ministers.

The duo spoke while appearing before the Committee on Foreign Affairs which summoned them over alleged lopsidedness in the list that excluded nominees from Ondo, Bayelsa, Ebonyi and Plateau states.

They, however, assured that the four states would be compensated in the non-career list that would soon be forwarded to the Senate.Efforts by the committee members to grill the SGF and the minister further over the controversial list were not allowed by the chairman, Senator Monsurat Sunmonu (APC Oyo Central), who ordered for a closed-door session.

Before the rowdy session, the Senate had gone into a closed door session that lasted over an hour to discuss crucial issues affecting its image and operarions. But when the meeting ended, no word was heard from the Senate President who presided over the session as was the practice.

This prompted suspicion about what might have happened.On investigation, it was revealed that some members of the Like Mind ‎Group of senators who were in the meeting rallied round Melaye.Similarly, the Unity Forum‎ Senators went behind Oluremi Tinubu who had come under alleged verbal attacks and threats by Melaye.

Tinubu was said to have opposed the suggestion that Senators Kabiru Marafa, Othman Hunkuyi and other Unity Forum members be sent on immediate suspension for their roles in the forgery trial.

Immediate past President of the Senate, David Mark, was asked to take up the challenge of restoring peace among the two warring groups after what looked like an uneasy calm returned.The source‎ said that AGF who has been invited severally to appear before the Senate was also part of what caused the commotion.

While Melaye and his supporters were said to have insisted on the need for the Senate to launch an onslaught against him and other Presidency officials, Tinubu and other unity forum senators suggested the contrary.

It was further learnt that the confusion that ensued prevented the Like Minds senators who were in the majority to carry out the suspension plan.The Like Minds senators were said to have met on Monday and resolved to get key leaders of the Unity Forum suspended from the Senate.Many senators simply refused to participate in open session debate after the closed door meeting was over.