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Monday, 28 September 2015

#Sarakigate; Senators Set for Showdown Tomorrow

There are indications that Senators that are opposed to Dr. Bukola Saraki's leadership of the Senate are poised to ask for his resignation when the upper federal legislative chamber re-opens on Tuesday (tomorrow).

The anti-Saraki Senators are citing the trial of the Senate president by the Code of Conduct Tribunal for alleged false asset declaration as a reason for Saraki to go while his supporters are saying the man should not be proclaimed guilty before he goes through the judicial process.

The Senate will resume plenary on Tuesday. The lawmakers have been on break since August 13.

Investigations by our correspondents in Abuja on Sunday indicated that both anti-Saraki Senators and those supporting the Senate president are poised for a showdown when they return to the chambers.

While the anti-Saraki Senators are said to be resolute in their plot to end his leadership of the Senate, the pro-Saraki members are said to have vowed to ensure that the man is not forced out of office.

Curiously, the Senate president's "enemies" are mostly members of his All Progressives Congress while his "loyalists" are from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.

A strong member of the anti-Saraki faction of the Senate, under the aegis of the Senate Unity Forum, who spoke with one of our correspondents in Abuja on Sunday, explained that his colleagues were determined to restore the integrity of the upper chamber by ensuring that a senator standing trial for corruption would not continue to preside over their affairs.

The APC senator from the North-East geopolitical zone, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, "Posterity will judge us if we continue to condone corruption in the legislature instead of distancing ourselves from it"

"It is our intention to reach out to more senators who had yet to see things from the same perspective like us and we will play our role and leave the rest for Nigerians to judge.

"The Senate president may rule us out of order while his supporters may also make noise and shout us out but we will say our own and allow history to be the judge.

"Nigerians know what is going on and majority of our people now have access to the mass media more than ever before, so they will also know the role that each senator plays in the whole saga.

"We are not assuring Nigerians that our efforts alone would get Saraki out of office but we will do the needful as responsible lawmakers and would encourage Nigerians to take it up from where we stop."

Another APC senator from the South-West geopolitical zone, who also craved anonymity, argued that it would be better for the Senate president to step aside to face his trial at the CCT.

Some Senators of Like Minds, being the name of the pro-Saraki Senators' group, who spoke with The PUNCH said they were aware of the plot by some of their colleagues in the SUF "to blackmail the Senate president" over his current trial at the CCT.

One of them, an APC Senator from the North-Central, who would also not want his name mentioned, said that his colleagues were fully prepared to tackle any "externally motivated motion on Tuesday"

According to him, the Senate president has more than enough loyalists in the upper chamber "to kill any politically-motivated motion sponsored by any godfathers outside the Senate."

The Senator said, "We have a tradition in the Senate; anybody is free to air his or her view on any issue while the Senate president will in his wisdom rule in favour of the strongest argument.

"We equally wish to warn our colleagues on the opposite side to be careful with the way they are going about the whole issue because any Senator who connives with an external body to run down his or her colleague, would in the shortest possible time bite his fingers in anguish"

A PDP Senator from the South-East geopolitical zone clarified that any motion targeted at calling for the impeachment of Saraki or asking him to step aside would not sail through because the Senate would not discuss on any matter before the court.

The Senator said, "Any anti-Saraki motion on the floor on Tuesday based on his trial at the CCT will fail because all of us know that we can't discuss any issue before the court.

"The Senate president will definitely not rule on any case before the court so nobody should bother to bring such an issue before him"

Another PDP senator confided in one of our correspondents on Sunday that members of the SUF had been reaching out to some opposition lawmakers to seek their support to sack Saraki by supporting   an impeachment motion.

The Senator from the South-South said, "I have been called by a Senator from the South-West geopolitical zone who is my friend but I told him that some leaders of the APC were using Saraki's trial to get at other senators, which would be disastrous"

Efforts to get an official reaction from the spokesperson for the SUF, Kabir Marafa, failed as he said he was just returning to the country when our correspondent called him on Sunday.

He said, "I am just returning to Nigeria from an overseas trip and it will be difficult for me to comment on an issue that my colleagues had not discussed with me. I am still studying the situation because I have been out of circulation for some time now," he said.

Also the Senate spokesman, who also doubles as the coordinator of the Like Minds senators, Dino Melaye, failed to pick his call or respond to a text message sent to him on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Campaign for Democracy on Sunday joined those calling for the resignation of Saraki as senate president. The CD called on Saraki to resign as a respect to his person and the integrity of the nation.

The CD, in a statement by one of its zonal coordinators, Ifeanyi Odili, noted that the apprehension over the ongoing crisis at the nation's legislative arm was capable of consuming the nation's democracy.

The statement reads in part, "The lingering crisis at the Senate is beginning to be seen as a diversion aimed at dissuading Nigerians from the recovery of our loots from the past government.

"CD noted that since the Bukola Saraki's saga started, no one has heard about the probe of the former ministers and the Niger Delta amnesty programmes. Up to this moment, nothing has been heard about the investigation, let alone the prosecution of the EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde.

"While we agree that false assets declaration is a criminal offence, we are more concerned about the recovery of our looted money,that is what is expected of President Muhammadu Buhari.

"In a normal society, the Senate president ought to have resigned from the exalted seat before entering the witness box at the Code of Conduct Tribunal."

In a related development, Senator Aliyu Wamakko (APC, Sokoto) on Sunday said there was no plot to oust the Senate president.

Wamakko, one of Saraki loyalists, described reports that Saraki would be removed based on his ongoing trial by the CCT as the handiwork of "political rabble-rousers."

Wamakko, who spoke to journalists in Abuja, described as untrue reports that members of the PDP were plotting a takeover of the Senate on account of the Senate president's ordeal.

Wamakko said, "I see Mr. President, Saraki and Senators holding a meeting very soon on how to salvage democracy, which certain elements have been trying to subvert. They will find time to meet to stop our opponents from progressing with acts to sabotage our democracy.

"Once the President and the Senate leadership sit on a round table with a resolve to re-oil the wheels of democracy for national progress, the cynics, the political rabble-rousers and those who never meant well for the APC government will go to sleep."

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