Some People Want Saraki Removed At All Cost – Nwogu | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Some People Want Saraki Removed At All Cost – Nwogu

Posted: Aug 5, 2015 at 12:25 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Senator Olaka Nwogu, representing Rivers South-East Senatorial district in this interview with IGNATIUS OKOROCHA, speaks on the none passage of PIB by the 7th Senate, 2015 Senate Rules controversy and Buhari’s bailout to states among others. Excerpts:

Are you aware of the purported plot to oust Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu as the President and the Deputy President of the Senate respectively, as being propagated by certain sections of the media?

 

Saraki

Saraki

There is a wish by some people that Saraki should be removed. They probably do not have a wish for him to be Senate President, and they want him out but they are not Senators; so, they do not vote. And the Senators who vote have not expressed such a wish. Our democracy is vibrant, you can’t stop people from having their wish and their desires, and it is also part of the democratic process. And nothing is wrong; if you say you don’t like Saraki, it is within your rights not to like him. It is also within the rights of the Senate to choose its own President and sustain him when they want to, and change their mind when they do not want to. And if this moment, there is nothing suggesting to any of us that the Senate is in such a mood; the mood of the Senate is to stabilize and to start working for the Nigerian people.

Aware that the most important thing to Nigerians today is not personality; is not individuals but the nation, at a time of serious economic challenge, at a time when a significant party that was ruling this country has just been voted out, the people of this country are passing a message, and the message is, do the major things, leave the minor things; focus on those things that concern us but unfortunately we continue to be distracted by these battles, and they are actually the minor things: who is what, who should be favoured by who and from where? Those are the things this Senate is determined to go beyond. And when we resume, we expect that we will be asking the questions the Nigerian people want us to ask.

For instance, our currency continues to fall everyday; what can we do about it, our economy is in shambles, what can we do about it; our states are now debtor states, what can we do about it? We expected these states to be growing into self sustaining states but they are growing into feeding bottle. When you don’t feed them every month they will not survive. There are demonstrations in states over non-payment of salaries. In Osun State, the people are demonstrating for the impeachment of their Governor because of salaries and other things that are due to them. There are more critical things that threaten both our states and our democracy that we want to face. The least on our mind is the impeachment of a presiding officer that was elected barely a month ago and has committed no known crime to us but to just satisfy some persons, we will not do that.

 

 On the issue of bail-out to states, some people have been kicking against the release of the money by presidential fiat, without actually getting the National Assembly’s approval. What is your take on this?

I am at a loss too because nothing came to us up till now. I have been asking people about the sources of the fund because at some point, people thought that it was from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) but they say that the Account is intact. The one they shared recently which wasn’t bailout, they say it was from the profit of Nigeria liquified natural gas, NLNG. But the Constitution is very clear; it says that all funds should go to the Consolidated Revenue Account (CRA) and from there you share. This did not seem to have passed through that route. So, we don’t know; was the President acting out of exigency based on the fact that states and indeed Nigerians were in dire stress and he needed to take urgent action. If that was the case, without justifying it, I think he should also do the needful by still sending it to the National Assembly and get a ratification for it. It will be unfair to our political process and our democracy if you allow impunity to start creeping in: I will do what I want to do and I owe nobody explanation.

There has been silence from the Executive may be because the National Assembly is on break, I don’t know. But I am advising through your medium that we should not pass a body language that gives the impression that democracy is who has the power because once the President does it, all the states will copy it; the local governments will do it, parastatals will start doing it, and everybody will just act as if they are gods unto themselves. But let what has been a culture over this period persist; inform Nigerians the sources of this money. Ordinarily, that would have been debated before that money was given. Why do you need to debate it, you debate it so that public consciousness will come into it. Even the person collecting the money will know how difficult it was before it was given and that people are aware. Democracy is driven and fed by public participation, information sharing, involvement. Everything people debate educates the people, and you find that it refines the quality of decisions the leaders make because some things you think you have conclusions on, when other people speak, then you hear other opinions, some times in your favour but coming from different angles that you become richer for it. Your knowledge and wisdom on the matter becomes even better and bigger than it was. So, I urge Mr. President to talk to the Nigerian people, put this thing before the Nigerian people to discuss. The Parliament is the official floor by which representatives of the people can do this, and then the people will feed in through the media. Allow that to happen; it will help us.

 

You served in the House of Representatives for twelve years before coming to the Senate; so you have a lot of legislative experience. Now that the 2015 Senate Standing Order is contentious, could you tell Nigerians whose duty it is to produce the document and how?

Our procedure actually puts the cat before the horse. When we reconvene next week, I have an amendment to propose. It has always been on my mind but now it is becoming very germane. You see, our rules prescribe that on the first day of our sitting, from 1999, the bureaucracy brought a set of rules, and it was on the basis of those rules that elections of presiding officers were conducted on that first day in 1999. Then we, subsequently now took those rules, set up a committee to amend it and give us what we are giving to ourselves. So, it was no longer what the bureaucracy gave us that we lived with thereafter but what we wanted. Now at the end of each House, the critical question, which now is in the air is, during that period who has right over the rules because it was the bureaucracy that gave us? The argument of some is that it is still within the purview of the bureaucracy to give you the rule. Now, the amendment that I see is this, that Senators-elect should have some form of power to meet and first of all be sworn in collectively and become Senators. Then if they so choose based on the rules before them, they can decide that they are satisfied with these rules and we do our election in this manner. Why do I say that? On the day of election, you will not be allowed to say a word until the bureaucracy is through with the election of presiding officers. Now, are you going to say they are wrong, that will be difficult and wrong to say because you voted; they didn’t vote, they did not produce any leadership. So, if you are worried by leadership brought by open voting or close voting but you voted, and there was no indication that the votes were subversive. At least in saraki’s case he was even unopposed. If a candidate had stood against him, these things become germane but nobody stood against him. So, as far as I am concerned, all those people who are bickering over rules don’t even have locus but for the members who are bickering, who have locus, come to the Chamber and propose amendment to the rules. The beauty of our rules is that they are self-given and Parliament self-regulates. The Parliament has power to suspend any part of its own rules; amend any part or sustain any party. Parliament has the power to self-regulate. Parliament has power to make and unmake. In the British Parliament those days, they said the only thing Parliament could not do was turn a man into a woman; they could do all things. Nothing indicates that what the bureaucracy brought was not within their power to be in existing framework. It is within their power. If you didn’t like it, they just did election; you should have come.

For those who went to do another conference when a proclamation has been issued and election was going on, and then they expected that Clerk would not show up, go to equity with clean hands now. How can you come and expect to subvert the system? President issued a proclamation then on your own you went and gathered somewhere, and you were shocked that the Clerk was not with you, who has a national duty. You wanted him to subvert the national duty, stop the proclamation and inauguration of the Nigerian Parliament because you want to hold a party or private meeting. Even the mere admission of that is an insult to all Nigerians. Nigerians should be offended by the suggestion because Parliament is the symbol of your democracy; it is source of the power of the Nigerian people. It is the only check on the executive and impunity and dictatorship to make sure that neither the Judiciary nor the Executive can rule by itself especially the Executive. Parliament speaks for the people; then you decide to stop the inauguration of Parliament for your own private purposes after proclamation, a legal and formal document has been issued. That is subversive to our democracy. But people keep talking about the process.

 

I think those who want to subvert our democracy should not take our quiet for liberty and should just keep quiet and anybody who feels anything about the rules of the House go as a member of the House and say the areas you want amended. Parliament will sit and look at it. If the bureaucracy was wrong, and the quorum of the Parliament was formed, and it took an action and the next day they read the votes and proceedings, and that same Parliament ratified the votes and proceedings, technically, all the defects in the previous day’s act, assuming they exist but we are not conceding they exist, have now been made right, they have been legitimized by the mere approval of the votes and proceedings, as representing the actions, activities and records of Parliament.

 

Some group of aggrieved Senators reportedly petitioned the Inspector-General of Police over alleged forgery of the 2015 Senate Standing Orders. Does the Senate have internal mechanism to handle such matter, and is a Senator or group of Senators permitted to take internal matters of the Chamber outside for settlement?

The visit of the IG’s team was unnecessary and again a failure for us to recognize the lessons of history. We know how the attempt to stop Tambuwal back-fired and didn’t work well for the executive. Now the executive has come out just as it happened then to deny that they had anything to do with the action of the Police. Now tell me, which Senators have the clout to move the IG against the President of the Senate or Deputy President of the Senate. Then you will know that it did not come from the Senators. We know it didn’t come from the Senators because there is nothing the Senators would have done and moved the IG against the leadership of the National Assembly and the Senate. So, we should learn; executive should know that there is a limit to their interference because it does not work. The Senate and the House of Representatives both have internal mechanisms to deal with their issues. The job of the  Committee on Ethics and Privileges is, any member who is in breach, for instance, if there is a standing order and you go and mutilate it, the matter will be brought to the Senate, debated and passed over to the Ethics and Privileges Committee, which will now investigate and come out with its findings and recommend appropriate punishment, including prosecution. It is the job of the Committee on Ethics, and not the job of external law enforcement. Some of these things are clear but you know what is happening. They are signs but they are dangerous signs. And let these ominous signs be things that people attempted and discarded but let it not be things that will metamorphose into bigger actions. May be because you kept quiet on the smaller things then the big ones are yet to come.

We are watching to see which direction this country will go. And our fervent prayer is that people realize that democracy and its practices have come to stay and that the liberties by which we run our system of government and our nation, our country men and women is something we will not allow anybody to erode or take away. If you have an office, you will be allowed the privileges and protection of the office. So, in Parliament you have the rights and privileges of Parliament, and we will not allow any executive to deprive the Parliament or members of Parliament these rights and privileges, even if it is brought in a subterranean mood or made as if it is other members of Parliament that are driving it. Executive must remove its hands and allow the Parliament operate.