Senate: 12 Controversies In 12 Months - Daily Trust
1 Emergence of Saraki
The emergence of Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki (APC, Kwara Central), as the Senate President on June 9, 2015, in what was described as an “apparent disregard” to the directive of the All Progressives Congress (APC), laid the foundation of the controversies that has enveloped the upper chamber.
Saraki, a former governor of Kwara State, edged out Senator Ahmad Lawan (APC, Yobe North), the preferred candidate of the APC to clinch the Senate’s plum job, after allegedly resting on the strength of senators of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP).
The alliance apparently paved the way for the emergence of Senator Ike Ekweremadu, (PDP, Enugu West), as the Deputy Senate President, a development that dealt a serious blow to the APC’s control of the upper chamber.
2. Wardrobe allowance
A week after the inauguration of the Senate came the controversy of fat wardrobe allowance for the senators. In both traditional and social media, the story of the half million naira wardrobe allowance went viral, thus dominating public discourse in the country.
Each of the 109 senators was given N506, 000 to fill their wardrobe with ‘senatorial attires’. The money was released at a time when many states were finding it difficult to pay workers’ salaries.
3.Rejection of APC nominees
Another issue that created a storm in the Senate was Saraki’s rejection of the party’s preferred candidates for the position of principal officers. In a letter, signed by the party’s national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the party recommended Saraki’s rival, Ahmad Lawan as Majority Leader; Professor Olusola Adeyeye as Chief Whip, Senator George Akume as Deputy Majority leader and Senator Abu Ibrahim as Deputy Chief Whip.
However, the refusal of Saraki to read the letter on the floor of the Senate, which would have clear the way for implementing the recommendation, compounded his problem. Instead, the Senate President went ahead to announce his preferred candidates for the positions. Saraki turned down the party’s request, saying ‘my hands are tied.’
Pundits believe that his refusal to implement the APC recommendation deepened his sour relationship with the party.
4.‘Forging’ of Senate Standing Order
In July, the Senate was enmeshed in “forgery” scandal. It was alleged that its standing orders used for the conduct of the election that brought in Saraki and Ekweremadu as presiding officers was forged.
To this effect, the outgoing Clerk to the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa and others were grilled by the police. The police high authorities have since concluded their investigation and confirmed that the document was truly forged.
Only recently, the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, gave an order that the case be looked into.
5.Probe of Lamorde
The probe of Ibrahim Lamorde, the erstwhile chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), also added to the gale of controversies that the Senate recorded within the last 12 months of the present administration.
The Senate commenced the probe weeks after the wife of the Senate President, Mrs. Toyin Saraki, was grilled by the EFCC, then headed by Lamorde. One George Uboh had petitioned the Senate over alleged diversion of recovered stolen funds amounting to over a trillion naira by the EFCC leadership.
The Senate received knocks over the probe of Lamorde. The probe was seen in many quarters as an attempt to hit back at Lamorde for grilling Mrs. Saraki.
6.Saraki at CCT
None of the controversies exposed the Senate to ridicule like the docking of the Senate President at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, (CCT).
Saraki was docked on a 13-count charge bordering on false assets declaration while he was the governor of Kwara State. His pictures, in court, went viral in the social media and also adorned front pages of many newspapers the following day.
7.Anti-Social media bill
The frivolous petition bill undoubtedly set senators against the peoples, especially the social media public. They were criticised when the bill scaled through the second reading in December, last year.
Sponsored by Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah (APC, Kebbi South), the bill, which was popularly known as “Anti-social media bill” created serious uproar in the polity. The climax of the opposition against the bill was a protest at the entrance of the National Assembly.
However, senators bowed to pressure and rejected the bill as Nigerians, during a public hearing on the bill, vehemently opposed to it.
8.CCB, CCT amendment bill
At the peak of Saraki’s trial at the CCT came a bill to amend the law establishing the Code of Conduct Bureau, (CCB) and Code of Conduct Tribunal, (CCT).
The bill sponsored by Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, (PDP Delta North), passed through first and second reading in 48 hours,hence the suspicion that trailed it.
Although, the debate on the bill was suspended on April 20, it went as the second most controversial bill recorded in the first year of the 8th Senate.
9. Exotic cars for Senators
The move by the Senate leadership to acquire exotic SUVs for senators drew the fury of Nigerians when former President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote a letter to the federal lawmakers in December. In the same month, President Buhari also faulted the move in his maiden presidential media chat. However, the lawmakers ignored the advice and went ahead to acquire the cars in April at twice the market price atthe whooping cost of N36.5m each.
10..Missing of budget
The 2016 budget was like no other as it had generated a protracted controversy between the Senate and the Presidency.
Processing the document was hectic as it lingered from January to May, before it was finally signed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The budget proposal was first “infected” with controversy at the Senate on January 12, when it emerged at end of a 90-minute closed door session that the fiscal document had gone missing. Two days later, the Senate announced that two versions of the document were at the Red Chamber.
On February 8, the issue of padding of the document emerged during a budget defence of the Ministry of Health. Its minister, Professor Isaac Adewole, disowned the budget of his ministry, saying it was doctored.
Afterwards, the issue of passage of the budget by the National Assembly became a serious problem as it was postponed thrice. It was first fixed for February 25, then March 17. It was finally done March 23.
However, the controversy did not end, as days after, the issue of the budget details became another problem. The National Assembly transmitted the budget summary without its details.
It took two weeks for, the summary to be made available to the Presidency.
In April, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, slugged it out with the Chairman of the National Assembly Service Commission, Dr. Adamu Fika, over the appointment of Mr. Mohammed Sani-Omolori, as the acting Clerk to the National.
It all started on April 20 when Fika, in a letter to Sani-Omolori, announced the acting appointment. But Saraki challenged the appointment, saying Mr. Ben Efeturi should be considered for the appointment.
In a letter signed by his Chief of Staff, Senator Isa Galaudu, Saraki said the appointment of Sani-Omolori violated due process but Fika stood his ground. After various machinations, he ‘’defeated’ Saraki as Sani-Omolori assumed duty as the acting Clerk to the National Assembly on May 13.
12..Protests for and against Saraki
For days in April, protesters held vigil at the entrance of the National Assembly, demanding for Saraki’s resignation while another group insisted he must remain in office.
The protesters demanding for his resignation spent 72 hours and three nights at the entrance of the National Assembly. The protesters hinged their request on the CCT trial and the purchase of exotic cars.
Beside these controversies, our correspondent reports that some other controversies recorded in the first legislative year include the hiring of 282 aides, increase in the number of standing committees from 57 to 65 without amending Standing Orders and the attempt to suspend Senator Kabiru Marafa (APC, Zamfara Central) over his utterances.
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