CCT trial: Senate caucuses meet, discuss Saraki’s fate
Members of the Senate met separately at various caucus levels on Monday to discuss the fate of Senate President Bukola Saraki, who is to resume his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal over alleged false declaration of assets.
It was gathered that the lawmakers discussed the issues peculiar to their interest, especially the likely effect of the trial of Saraki at the CCT.
The Supreme Court had on February 5 ruled that Saraki should face his trial over false asset declaration.
There are fears among senators, who resume plenary on Tuesday (today), which they suspended two weeks ago, that there could be another move to challenge Saraki’s leadership at the Senate over his trial.
It is further feared that Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, may be removed if they are found guilty by the CCT.
Investigations by one of our correspondents revealed that the Peoples Democratic Party caucus in the upper chamber met in the house of one of their leaders and resolved to support the Saraki/Ekweremadu joint ticket.
A PDP senator, who craved anonymity, told one of our correspondents on Monday that his colleagues had agreed to maintain decorum in case the All Progressives Congress Senators, who are against Saraki’s leadership, decide to create any scene on the floor today.
The Senator from the South-East geopolitical zone, said, “As members of the opposition, we are ready to pass another vote of confidence in Saraki because he is truly a stabilising factor in the nation’s legislature.
“He commands a lot of respect among majority of members. He is accessible and he carries everyone along, not minding your political party or group affiliation within the Senate.
“So, as PDP senators, we believe that the Senate President should be given the benefit of the doubt as he pleads his case before the tribunal.”
However, one of our correspondents learnt that the Senate Unity Forum, the group that pushed for the emergence of Senator Ahmad Lawan and George Akume as Senate President and deputy respectively, also held another marathon meeting at an undisclosed location on Monday.
None of the members spoke on record but one of them from the South-West said they met to perfect their strategy to produce the next Senate President in case Saraki was indicted at the court.
The lawmaker added, “We have been meeting as members and strategising on an individual basis. I can assure you that we have our game plan, which we will keep to ourselves.”
Asked whether the nation should expect a rowdy or stormy session during plenary today, the Senator said, “We are senior citizens, we can’t fight on the floor. We are already winning the battle; very soon, you will see us in action.”
The leadership of the Senate was also said to have engaged in another round of strategic meetings on Monday, which allegedly led to an emergency meeting between the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, and President Muhammadu Buhari at Aso Villa.
But Ndume told journalists in his office that his visit to the Villa on Monday had nothing to do with Saraki’s case as he ruled out a possible rowdy session during plenary on Tuesday (today).
He said, “I have been a friend of President Buhari for a long time and had continued to visit him and will not relent. As the Leader of the Senate, there are lots of consultations that are necessary between the executive and the legislature.
“I am happy to be seen or called a mediator: I am the Senate Leader and we do consultations, I go to do consultation and we should be doing that more often. When the President was in Kaduna on retirement, I was one of the few persons who would go to visit him; so this time round, it will not change.”
Ndume had, last Tuesday, met with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo alongside some of his colleagues while Buhari was on vacation.
SUNDAY PUNCH had reported exclusively that the visit of Ndume and his delegation to Osinbajo was part of the ways the embattled Senate President was seeking the Presidency’s intervention in his case before the Code of Conduct Tribunal over alleged false declaration of assets.
He, however, told State House correspondents at the end of his meeting with Buhari on Monday that he was at the Presidential Villa to consult with the President ahead of Tuesday’s resumption of the Senate.
He said there was nothing unusual about his visit except that he had been embarking on similar visits in the nights.
Ndume said, “I hope you people know that I am the Senate Leader and this is an APC (All Progressives Congress) government. So if the Senate Leader comes to see the Vice President or the President in the Villa, is it supposed to be a surprise?
“I guess it is because most often, I come in the night but this time, I came in the afternoon and it becomes very strange.
“There are issues that are really on the ground. One is the budget. We also have two bills before the Senate that we need to start working on when we resume tomorrow: the Money Laundering Bill and the Criminal Information Sharing Bill.
“There are issues other than those ones that are really on the ground. This is how we are supposed to be doing it earlier. That is, coming to the Villa to consult and guide the proceedings in the Senate appropriately.
“Other than that, I don’t want you to see it as an unusual visit. I will be doing this often because this is how it is supposed to be.
“Again, I was consulting the President on a personal basis long before he became the President, so it is not unusual.”
When he was asked to comment on the report that he was serving as an intermediary between Saraki and the President, Ndume said, “I am not the Senate President. The question should be directed to the Senate President.”
When probed further, the Senate Leader said, “You are asking me what I do not know. I consult and if I have to mediate on anything, there should be a problem. I do not know of any problem.”