77 Senators Pledge Support for President Buhari

By Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

A group of Nigerian Senators numbering 77, on Tuesday declared their unwavering support for President Muhammadu Buhari.

The selected Senators, who are mainly first time lawmakers at the upper legislative chamber, are known as the G-77 Senators and they said they have four objectives for setting up the group.

At a press conference to publicly announce their mission, leader of the group and former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio, told Journalists that they decided to come together for the purpose of shoring up the image of the Senate.

He also noted that they intend to deepen the country’s democracy and ensure good governance through their actions in the Senate.

Senator Akpabio, who is also the minority leader in the Senate, said the G-77 is unhappy with the manner in which the 2016 budget issues were being handled.

According to him, “I want to assure you that all the 77 Senators who make up this group are poised to ensure there is good governance in Nigeria and support President Buhari in dishing out the dividends of democracy to Nigerians.”

” For instance, the lingering issue on the budget is something we feel is embarrassing to Nigeria not only to the National Assembly as a whole and we thought having a group like this would bring the issue to an end.”

Senator Akpabio who is elected under the platform of the PDP also assured Nigerians that the review of the 2016 budget would be concluded by Friday this week in order to get it ready for the President’s assent.

In another development, hundreds of protesters on the aegis of Citizens United for Peace and Stability (CUPS) stormed the National Assembly Complex early today, demanding the immediate resignation of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki on the allegations of corruption levelled against him.

Saraki is currently facing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal-CCT on alleged false declaration of assets, a development that has been threatening his leadership of the upper chamber.

The protesters who donned T-shirts with inscription #Occupy National Assembly had vowed to sustain the protest for Saraki’s ouster in office until he resigns.

They had barricaded the main entrance to the National Assembly complex, thus forcing lawmakers and staff in the legislative arm to make do with the alternative entrance at the back of the complex to resume work.

The placard carrying protesters accused the Senate President of acts of corruption, siting his alleged false assets declaration, alleged padding of the 2016 Budget by legislators and the delay of the Budget assents by the National Assembly as reasons he should resign.

The Protesters alleged that the suffering Nigerians are passing through at the moment owing to refusal by President Muhammadu Buhari to assent the 2016 Budget was partly the making of the National Assembly, which they said have been sympathetic to Saraki.

Speaking on behalf of the protesters, Sadiq Jidda said the Senate President was deficient in integrity and that his inability to live above board as a National Assembly leader has disqualified him from the post.

He said Nigerians need a leader they can always learn from and not the set that will allow corruption to fester, insisting that Nigerians must collectively stand up to demand for immediate resignation of Saraki

Some of the placards wielded by the protesters read, Saraki your time is up resign. “Saraki Must go to stop corruption in NASS”, Enough Is Enough, Occupy NASS to stop corruption”, “Legislation, Yet, Legislooting, No.” To Keep Nigeria going, Nigerians Must Stand Up” and others.

The protesters who started thronging the National Assembly premises as early as 10.30 am were initially seen dancing and singing, while chanting anti-Saraki songs.

For fear of breakdown of law and order, security operatives at the Complex moved swiftly to shut down the giant gates in an attempt to prevent the protesters from gaining entry into the main premises.

Earlier, the Pro-Saraki group had addressed a crowd of supporters while members chanted down the on-going trial of the Senate President which they said has been an attempt to emasculate the Senate.

Senate leaders’ reaction
Meanwhile, leader of the Nigerian Senate, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume has described Tuesday’s protest as a “dangerous precedent that is about to be set by a group of Nigerians.”

Speaking with National Assembly Correspondents shortly after the plenary session, Senator Ndume urged all Nigerians to always adhere to democratic processes whenever they want to pursue any agenda.

“So, if for example, am short of performance and my constituents feel that they even don’t have time to wait, there is clear cut process which is to collect signatures and ask for me to be recalled.”

“That is the democratic way, not by coming here to stand and say you want to occupy the NASS. If you strongly feel that Ndume is not doing well in representing southern Borno, you just go and defeat the man and come here to do better.”

The Senate leader also appealed to Journalists to always support the developmental efforts of the government by educating and enlightening the people on some of the national issues that sometimes appear to be ambiguous.