John Alechenu, Eniola Akinkuotu and Leke Baiyewu
The All Progressives Congress caucus at the Senate on Tuesday expressed its grievances against the executive at a meeting with the party’s National Working Committee.
It was gathered that at the closed-door meeting, which started at 2.45pm and ended at 5.25pm, the APC senators absolved themselves of blame over the non-confirmation of the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu.
It was learnt that the senators told the party leaders that Magu’s confirmation “died” before getting to the Senate and that the senators only did its funeral.
Investigations also showed that senators, who were loyal to the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, demanded the withdrawal of the suit against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, describing the trial as political.
The meeting, which was held in Room 022 in the New Building section of the National Assembly Complex, Abuja, began shortly after Saraki and the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, led others to the venue at 2.30pm before journalists were sent out at 2.45pm.
In his opening remarks, the Majority Leader of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, said the event was historic as it was the first time the leadership of the party would be meeting with the senators.
“This will be the first meeting of the APC Senate caucus with our National Working Committee. On behalf of my colleagues here, Mr. Chairman, I welcome you to this historic, memorable and very important interaction with the Senate APC Caucus of the National Assembly,” he said.
Odigie-Oyegun, who made reference to the point made by Lawan in his remarks, also described the meeting as historic.
Oyegun calls for ceasefire
Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Odigie-Oyegun called on party stakeholders to “cease fire.”
He said, “My appeal is that as we start now the process of reconstructing relationships and consultations, there should be what I will call a ceasefire in terms of the kind of abuse that is used all round on one institution of government or the other, even principal parties of these institutions.”
Saraki pointed out that whether there were issues or not, regular consultations between the caucus and the party were important.
He stated, “Despite all the noise you heard last week, we still passed an amendment to the INEC law that had been there for over six or seven years.
“By this time next week, our Committee on Petroleum will lay the PIB, which has never been done.”
“It’s unfortunate but the most important thing is that a lot of stakeholders must respect these institutions. These institutions are there now and they are going to be there after, and we should not allow our selfish interests to enable us to try and ridicule the institutions.”
When asked if the suspension of the former Majority Leader of the Senate, Senator Ali Ndume, was raised at the meeting, Saraki replied, “Your question again is distracting from the issues. You have 108 senators here and you have the National Chairman. Let us focus on national issues.”
Why Magu was not confirmed
A senator, who was at the meeting, but spoke on condition of anonymity, said the lawmakers drew the attention of the party leaders to the reports of the Department of State Services that indicted Magu.
It was gathered that the senators took on the national leadership of the APC, accusing the NWC of staying aloof while the crisis between the executive and the legislature was worsening.
The lawmaker, who confided in The PUNCH, said members of the Senate APC Caucus berated the party for failing to advise President Muhammadu Buhari to caution his political appointees.
Magu’s issue dead on arrival
The source said, “We told the leadership of our party that political appointees of President Muhammadu Buhari were using the media against us, especially Magu. We stated to them that Magu (case) was brought in dead; that what we did was to only conduct his funeral.
“We called the attention of the party leaders to the fact that an agency under the executive issues a damning report twice against the nominee under the same executive. We told them we were not to be blamed for what happened to Magu.
“Many reiterated the fact that Magu’s case was dead on arrival at the Senate and there was no way we could have ignored the report and clear him.”
‘SGF, Customs CG, others disrespecting Senate’
According to the source, the senators accused Buhari’s appointees of disrespecting them, the senators said, “We also called for more respect for the institution of the Senate, especially by those under the executive. That was where the cases of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (Mr. Babachir Lawal) and the Director General of the Nigeria Customs Service (Col. Hameed Ali) were cited.”
The senator further said the lawmakers reminded the NWC that the National Assembly caucus of the party was critical to the existence and well being of the APC as the members were the ones who were funding the party.
He added, “We told the party that we have been considerate enough. In fact, we would have rejected about four ministerial nominees but we felt we should not embarrass the President Buhari-led administration.”
When asked about the demands of the APC leadership, the source said the members of the NWC could not refute some of the issues raised by the lawmakers.
The Senator stated, “They also realised that they had not been playing their role. We even asked Odigie-Oyegun if he usually takes directives from President Buhari before taking actions regarding the party. We told him that he did not need to consult with the President before playing his role as the leader of the party. We also warned the leaders that our party might find it difficult to win elections the way things are going.”
Saraki’s men demand withdrawal of CCT case
It was also gathered that some APC senators, particularly those loyal to Saraki, urged the party to ensure that the ongoing trial of the Senate President at the Code of Conduct Tribunal was stopped, describing it as political.
Another source at the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “The APC leaders said we were too confrontational against the President.
“They said the Presidency was not supposed to be finding things difficult with us since we belonged to the same party.
“However, several senators explained that they were not happy with the President’s style. They complained that the President was not giving them due consideration especially. They said most of the people the President was appointing were unknown to them.
“Some of the senators also asked the party leadership to ensure that Saraki’s trial at the CCT was stopped as this would be the perfect way to reconcile the two arms of government.”
It was learnt that the party leaders promised to convey the issues to Buhari while the senators said they would ensure that the 2017 budget was swiftly looked into as well as the screening of the Resident Electoral Commissioners and ministers.
Senate may resume RECs’ confirmation
There were also indications after the meeting that the Senate was set to resume the confirmation hearing for ministers and the RECs nominated by the President. (Punchng.com)