The Nigerian Senate has on Sunday accused the President Muhammadu Buhari led government of plotting to remove the principal officers of the Upper Legislative Chamber of the National Assembly, and then imprison them at Kuje.
“(This) is a return to the era of impunity and lack of respect for due process which we all fought to abolish,” the Senate said in a statement signed by its spokesperson, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi.
The Senate also described the forgery case against its President, Bukola Saraki and Vice, Ike Ekweremadu as a violation of principles of separation of powers and abuse of checks and balances.
A nine-paragraphed response to the case, through Senator Abdullahi, the chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, made available to Senate Reporters read:
“After reading in the national newspapers and online platforms of the planned charges of forgery and conspiracy preferred against the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki; his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu; immediate past Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa and the Clerk of the Senate, Mr Ben Efeturi and reviewing the circumstances leading to the filing of these charges, we are compelled to alert the good people of Nigeria and the international community that our democracy is in danger.
“An attempt by the Executive Arm of the Federal Government to muzzle the legislature and criminalise legislative processes, in order to cause leadership change in the National Assembly is a return to the era of impunity and lack of respect for due process which we all fought to abolish.
“We urge President Muhammadu Buhari to, please, call his Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, to order. The Senate of the Federal Republic voted freely to elect its leadership into office and continuing attempts to change that leadership through the wanton abuse of judicial processes cannot stand in the eyes of the world. It is clear that the Attorney-General and party leaders behind this action either lack the understanding of the underlining principles of constitutional democracy, the concept of Separation of Powers, checks and balances and parliamentary convention or they just simply do not care if the present democracy in the country survives or collapses, in their blinded determination to get at Saraki and Ekweremadu by all means necessary, including abuse of office and sacking the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The Nigerian people have enough economic hardship at this time requiring the full attention and cooperation of the three arms of government, instead of these attempts to distract and politicise governance. We are in a state of economic emergency, such that what the National Assembly needs at this time are executive bills and proposals aimed at resolving the crises of unemployment, currency depreciation, inflation, crime and insecurity. What the National Assembly needs now are executive bills to build and strengthen institutions to earn revenues, fight corruption and eliminate waste. Instead, we are getting hostile actions aimed at destabilising the National Assembly, distracting Senators from their oversight functions and ensuring good and accountable governance.
“We must make it clear here to the individuals in the Executive arm and party leadership behind these plots not to mistake the maturity and hand of co-operation being extended to the Presidency by the legislature as a sign of weakness.
“This latest plot is directed at forcing a change of leadership in the Senate or, in the extreme case, ground the Red Chamber of the National Assembly. Or how does one interpret a move in which the two presiding officers are being set up to be remanded in Kuje Prison or incapacitated from sitting at plenary through a day-to-day trial on a matter that is purely an internal affair of the Senate.
“This obviously is a dangerous case of violation of the independence of the legislature, undue and unnecessary interference in the internal affairs of the Senate and blatant abuse of the judicial process. The matter now being criminalised was brought to the plenary of the Senate-in-session over a year ago. And because it had no support, it was overruled and roundly defeated in chambers.
“To now take a matter that was resolved on the floor of the Senate to the police and then make it form subject of a criminal prosecution of freely elected legislators beats imagination of free thinking men all over the world. The implication is that any matter that fails on the floor of the National Assembly will now be taken to the police, thereby endangering every senator and assembly member.
“This current move clearly runs contrary to the Doctrine of Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances which are fundamental to the successful operation of the Presidential System of government. It runs counter to the principle outlined by the Supreme Court in the Adesanya Vs Senate case, where it was held that nobody should seek to use the courts to achieve what he or she has failed to push through on the floor of the National Assembly.
“This present efforts, therefore, is clearly a coup against the legislature with the ignoble aim to undermine its independence and subject the law making institution to the whims and caprices of the executive. It is a plan to return Nigeria to the dictatorial era, which we have, as a nation, voted to reject. It is a dangerous trend with grave implications for the survival of our democracy and the integrity of the component institutions. This rule of men as against the rule of law is also the reason the War Against Corruption, one of the cardinal objectives of the present administration, is losing credibility because people perceive it to be selective and, in most cases, aimed at settling political or partisan scores.
“We, therefore, urge all Nigerians and the international community to rise and condemn this blatant attempt to subject the legislature to the control, whims and caprices of the executive. If the Legislative arm falls, democracy fails, as there will be no other institution empowered by the constitution to check and balance the enormous powers of the Executive. We also call on the judiciary as the last hope to save our constitutional democracy and stand for the rule of law, by doing that which is right in this case.”