President Muhammadu Buhari has remained in office in the last one year because the Senate does not feel like rocking the boat of the nation’s democracy through commencement of impeachment proceedings against him.
Rather, the Senate has overlooked his numerous infractions and moved on, behaving with maturity in saving the nation’s democracy from collapse.
In making the clarifications, the upper legislative chamber, however, warned the executive arm of government not to push the patience of the legislature to breaking limit, but rather, face all the numerous economic challenges bedevilling the nation and find solutions to them.
The Senate also alerted the nation and the international community to what it considered as the manifestation of dictatorial tendencies in the current administration which, it noted, will spell doom for the nation’s democracy.
The Senate gave the warning in a statement issued by its spokesman, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, reacting to news of the desire of the executive to prosecute the Senate President, Bukola Saraki; his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, and two other National Assembly bureaucrats for allegedly forging the Senate rule prior to the inauguration of the parliament last year.
Aside the Senate President and his Deputy, the duo of immediate past clerks to the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa and the clerk of the Senate, Mr. Ben Efeturi, were invited by the police high command last week as part of investigation into the alleged crime.
However, the Senate in a strong worded statement issued on Sunday said the ongoing investigation into the matter is a pure violation of the power and rights of the legislature and the erosion of its independence in a government that works checks and balances.
According to the Senate, the ongoing investigation is a disservice to the tenets of democracy, saying further that “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 and that the attempts 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”.
To avoid the looming crisis, the Senate “urges President Muhammadu Buhari to please call his Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, to order”.
The upper legislative chamber stated emphatically that it was aware that the latest attempt to drag its presiding officers into another round of court case is an attempt at forcing a leadership change in the parliament.
The Senate, however, noted that such an idea will remain a pipe dream.
The parliament insisted that the moves by the presidency at ridiculing the leadership of the Senate is an affront on the integrity of the upper chamber that has been playing the maturity game in the last one year to sustain the nation’s democracy in view of the mistakes of the executive which it had consistently overlooked.
“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 power, 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 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.
“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 cooperation being extended to the presidency by the legislature as a sign of weakness.
“The National Assembly bent backwards to accommodate various infractions and inefficiencies in pursuit of inter-arms cooperation and national interest.
“We did not follow up the various infractions because we believe there are bigger issues which the government has to attend to in order to ensure that every Nigerian has food on his table and live comfortably in a secure environment. We know that the country is actually in a state of economic emergency and all hands must be on deck.
“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 do 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 statement noted.
The parliament noted that the issues being raised by the executive had appeared on the floor of the Senate and it had been trashed out.
The recent attempt to reopen it, it said, is unthinkable, as it has the tendencies to show that the parliament has lost its independence.
“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 the chambers.
“To now take a matter that was resolved on the floor of the Senate to the police and then make it form the subject of a criminal prosecution of freely elected legislators beats all 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 House member.
“This current move clearly runs contrary to the doctrine of separation of power 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 effort, 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 why 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.
“The rules of the Senate and how the institution elects its leadership are internal affairs. The rules of a new Senate are provided by the National Assembly bureaucracy. It has always been so since 1999. After the inauguration of the Senate, if senators have objections to any part of the rules, they can follow the procedure for changing it. Senators of the eighth Senate have no control on the rules applied in the elections of June 9, 2015 because until after their inauguration, they were only senators-elect and therefore mere bystanders in the affairs of the Senate.
“We, therefore, urge all Nigerians and the international community to rise up and condemn this blatant attempt to subject the legislature to the control, whims and caprices of the executive.
“If the legislative branch falls, democracy fails as there will be no other institution empowered by the constitution to check and balance the enormous powers of the executive branch.
“We also call on the judiciary as the last hope to save our constitutional democracy and stand up for the rule of law, by doing that which is right in this case”, the statement added.