March 31, 2017

The Senate’s spats

•Buhari: Sets up peace committee, •Saraki: Yellow card for Mr President

The Bukola Saraki Senate has its hands full with spats here and there as the legislative body fights to show muscle against perceived malfeasances by operatives of the executive arm of government

By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor

WHEN senators on Tuesday decided to turn away President Muhammadu Buhari’s 27 nominees for appointment as Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs, they inevitably showed to all that they have had their fill of what many of them have long condemned as the impunity of the president. In turning away the nominees, the Senate demonstrated to all its capacity to cut an ‘imperious’ president to size.

•Buhari: Sets up peace committee,
•Saraki: Yellow card for Mr President

The decision to turn away the RECs was a direct consequence of the failure of the president to act on the Senate’s resolution that Mr. Ibrahim Magu, the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC should not be confirmed as the substantive chairman of the anti-graft agency.

Presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu in an interview with Vanguard confirmed that the president had received the Senate resolution but was still studying it. While still studying the Senate resolution, Mr. Magu has continued to act as chairman of the anti-graft agency to the displeasure of senators who saw the development as undermining its resolution.

The following day, Wednesday, the Senate took its angst further when it suspended its former leader, Senator Ali Ndume for a period of six months. Ndume’s suspension was remarkably a corollary of the fight over Magu.

Senator Ndume who represents Magu in the Senate had pushed his case to the displeasure of senators who whether rightly or wrongly were determined to stop Magu from being confirmed.

Even more, the Senate is also engaged in another battle with the presidency over its failure to respond to its report on the investigation into the crisis in the North East which indicted the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr. Babachir Lawal over alleged abuse of office.

Confiscation of vehicles

The committee had last December asked that the SGF be sacked and prosecuted.

In yet another faceoff, the Senate is also sparring with the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd.) over the confiscation of vehicles supposedly with illegal custom papers. An outcome to that is the Senate’s insistence that Ali should appear before it in uniform, a development that compelled the comptroller-general to seek judicial relief.

In all the Senate is engaged in at least five major battles with the presidency with no hope in sight for resolution.

Remarkably, the ensuing battles have distracted attention from governance putting the primary purpose of government in jeopardy. One of the direct fallouts of the battles is the failure of the Senate to fully engage the executive and bring out the 2017 budget.

Plans to pass the budget in early March and subsequently at the end of the month have been derailed.

Suggestions of inaction by the executive over the spate of crises were partly debunked on Wednesday when the minister of information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed at the end of the Federal Executive Council, FEC meeting revealed the formation of a committee to arbiter over the disputes.

“The executive is also concerned that the relationship between the two arms of government is not as smooth as it is supposed to be.

“In any democracy, it is a continuous struggle for balancing between the Executive and the Legislature because each of them is a creation of the law.

“Just today at the Federal Executive Council meeting, the issue was discussed and a committee is already working on ensuring that we resolve all these outstanding issues.”

However, the prospects for peace in the immediate future are hard to foresee given the extremes some of the leading combatants have already gone.

The battles with the executive arm of government, however, do not in any way underline a unanimity on the part of the Senate. In the process of pushing through the suspension of its former leader, Senator Ndume the Senate inevitably opened the prospect of creating instability in the Senate.

Besides the intra-party crisis between supporters of Saraki and Senator Ahmad Lawan over the leadership contest, the Senate has over the past ten years enjoyed a relative spate of stability in its leadership that some fear could be triggered with Ndume’s suspension.

However, the prospects of Ndume striking problems for the Saraki Senate are muddled by what some describe as the relative unpopularity of the former Senate Leader.