By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North, Henry Umoru & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA— MEN of the Nigeria Police from the Force Criminal Investigation Department, FCID, Abuja, stormed the National Assembly, yesterday, as part of investigations into the alleged alteration of the Senate Standing Rules just before the leadership contest.
The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP alleged on Sunday was a target of the investigation, was not in Abuja at the time of the visit and the men left a directive for him to report today.
The seven-man police squad led by a Commissioner of Police, whose identity was not revealed, arrived the National Assembly complex around 1.30 p.m.
On arrival, the team went directly to the office of the Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa, where they had a meeting behind closed doors for about 15 minutes.
Following that, the policemen proceeded to the office of the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, but did not meet him, following which they proceeded to the National Assembly annex buildings, where the administrative offices of the National Assembly are located.
Vanguard gathered that while at the annex buildings, the team met with some principal officers of some departments.
Although details of what transpired during the visit were not disclosed, Vanguard gathered that the team was availed with some information on the Senate Standing Rules.
A source in the office of the Deputy Senate President said the police officers left a written message inviting Ekweremadu to a meeting today at the Force Criminal Investigation Department, located at Area 10,in Abuja by 10am.
“They told us they merely came to discuss with oga and probably to invite him for a meeting tomorrow (today) in their office,” the source said.
It was believed that the detectives were availed both copies of the 2011 and 2014 Senate Standing Rules besides some documents considered vital to the investigation.
Ekweremadu, NASS clerk fingered
Meanwhile, the Deputy Senate President and the Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa, may be sacrificed over the roles they played in the emergence of the principal officers of the NASS on June 9, 2015.
Some of the Senators are angry that the two men allegedly amended the rules regarding the election of the principal officers of the NASS and gave the impression that the action was undertaken by the 7th Senate.
One of the senators, who is familiar with the business of the NASS, confided in Vanguard that the Senate Standing Rules in relation to the election of principal officers were amended for purely selfish reasons.
The Senator, who is preparing to confront both men in the days ahead because of the controversial NASS principal officers’ election, challenged both men to explain to Nigerians why rules of the NASS were altered.
The Senator, who is from the south pointed out that Ekweremadu and Maikasuwa had moral burden on their hands to explain to Nigerians why the rules of the Senate were amended just a few days to the election into the 8th National Assembly.
The Senator made it clear that the two men were aware that the Constitution did not make any provision for anyone other than the Senate to alter the rules of Senate.
The Senator pointed out that if the Clerk of the National Assembly, who is a civil servant, could take a wrong decision, the Deputy Senate President should know better .
7th NASS didn’t approve new rules
He pointed out that contrary to the claims that the 7th NASS approved the new rules used in electing the 8th NASS principal officers, no such action was undertaken before the dissolution of the Senate.
The Senator said: “If anyone claims that the rules used in electing the principal officers of the 8th NASS had been approved before the dissolution of the 7th NASS, let them produce the votes and proceedings for Nigerians to see.
“It is the sacred duty of the Senate in plenary to have approved the rules but that did not happen till they left. At no time did the 7th Senate take the decision to alter its Standing Rules with regards to the emergence of principal officers for the 8th Senate.
“He, the Deputy Senate President and the Clerk of the National Assembly should be ready and able to explain to Nigerians who altered the rules of the Senate in relation to the election of new officers of the upper chambers of the NASS or step aside. Nigerians deserve to know the truth in the light of what has happened in the NASS since June 9.”
Another senator defends Ekweremadu, Maikasuwa
But another Senator defended both the Deputy Senate President and Clerk of the National Assembly, saying that the rules of the Senate are often changed before the new set of members is sworn in.
The Senator said: “Neither Ekweremadu nor Maikasuwa should be blamed for what happened because it is a tradition that a new set of rules be made available for the election of members of NASS.
“As at the time Saraki and Ekweremadu came into the Senate to be elected as principal officers, none of them knew what they were given as the standing rules of the Senate in a sealed envelope.
“What I can say is that it is a tradition for the Clerk of the National Assembly to bring up new rules to deal with the election of new officers of the NASS and the last one was not an exception.”
It was learnt that apart from the petition sent by some aggrieved Senators against Ekweremadu, Maikasuwa had been sighted at the Presidency last week, during which he might have spilled the beans over what transpired at the Senate on June 9.
That notwithstanding, he is yet to make a public statement following the raging controversy over his role in the emergence of Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara as Senate President and House of Representatives Speaker.
Although the provisions of the 7th and 8th NASS Standing Rules are not substantially different, there are claims that the one that covered the June 9 election was forged and tailored to produce a premeditated outcome.