Senators clash over S’Court ruling on Saraki’s CCT trial

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The verdict of the Supreme Court which validated the trial of Senate President, Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, has triggered a showdown between Saraki loyalists and the Senate Unity Forum ahead of the resumption of plenary next Tuesday.

Investigations by our correspondent revealed that trouble started when some senators who are loyal to Saraki, held a meeting on Sunday evening and decided to issue a statement declaring their full support for the embattled Senate President.

But the senators incurred the wrath of their colleagues in the Senate Unity Forum following their statement declaring the support of the entire Senate for Saraki. The statement signed by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, indicated that it was the position of the Senate to support Saraki and judged him innocent of charges levelled against him by the Code of Conduct Bureau.

The statement partly read, “Following a meeting held in Abuja yesterday (Sunday) by some senators and the wide consultations with our colleagues in which we reviewed last Friday’s decision of the Supreme Court in the appeal on the preliminary matters filed by the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, on the charges filed against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), we hereby resolve as follows:

“That from the beginning of the trial last September, we have declared that this case is not about any fight against corruption; it is simply a case of political vendetta.

“Our position remains the same. We still believe that the case is politically-motivated.

“We also noted that the decision of the Supreme Court given last Friday was on preliminary matters arising from the commencement of the trial.

“The trial proper has yet to begin. And since the fundamental principle in our legal system is that a defendant is deemed innocent until proven guilty, we have decided to patiently observe the proceedings until the case runs its full circle in the nation’s final judicial forum.

“It is on this ground that we want to state categorically that there is no basis for the call on the Senate President to resign until after the matter is decided in that final judicial forum. Such a call at this time is premature, mischievous and unwarranted.

“We therefore reiterate our support for Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki as the President of the Senate. We stand by him as he goes through the trial at the CCT where we believe he will be able to prove his innocence.

“We also call on members of the public to ignore the ranting of a few senators who having failed to get the wish of their sponsors done on the floor of the Senate are now launching media campaign against the leadership of the Senate.

“We want members of the public to know that the Senate under Dr. Saraki has achieved stability in the legislative institution and we do not need any negative distraction at this point.

“The focus of the Senate is on the objective consideration and timely passage of the 2016 budget and we will want all Nigerians to support us as we concentrate on this important assignment.

“We also want to say that we will not make any further statement on this case until the matter has been decided in the final judicial forum.”

But the spokesperson for the SUF, Senator Kabir Marafa, expressed shock at the contents of the statement, saying it was the position of a few senators.

He insisted that his position and that of other members of the SUF on the issue remained unchanged.

He said, “In as much as I want the whole world to know that members of the SUF do not have any personal problem with the Senate President, we believe that as lawmakers, we should respect the law. I am not aware of any meeting of senators where that decision was taken and we are not part of it.”

Another member of the SUF from the North-Central, said the group would make its position known at the appropriate time, following the normal legislative procedure.

He said, “We will definitely pass our message across to the Senate using the normal channel. We will not take issue with anyone on the pages of newspapers.”

Also, a ranking senator from the South-West, who is also a strong member of the SUF, told our correspondent on condition of anonymity that the statement did not represent the position of the Senate.

The senator, who said the South-West caucus would react officially at the appropriate time on the issue, accused the Senate spokesperson of abuse of office as he was only expected to make public the resolution of the Senate taken at plenary by either simple majority or two-thirds majority.

He said, “This statement is obviously a gross abuse of office on the part of the Senate spokesperson. How can you meet with a handful of senators in a private home and issue a statement on behalf of the entire 109 senators?

“The Senate has its own procedure. Such position could only be taken at plenary through a motion. I am aware that there was no emergency meeting since the Senate has suspended plenary.

“So, what is the basis for issuing the statement? Was there a motion? Who sponsored it? Our position is that Senator Saraki should resign and face his trial and we are committed to it.”

PUNCH.

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