Nigerian Senate dissociates budget delay from Saraki’s trial

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

The Nigerian Senate has once again, reaffirmed its position that the ongoing trial of the Senate President is not related to the delay in the processing of the 2016 appropriation bill.

A member of the Senate committee on appropriations, Senator Matthew Urhoghide stated at the investigative hearing into the alleged misconduct of Senator Kabiru Marafa.

The Senate is currently investigating Senator Marafa for granting an interview to a local newspaper in which it accused the lawmaker of misinforming the public on certain issues concerning the 8th Senate.

In his testimony at the Senate committee on ethics, privileges and public petitions, Senator Urhoghide recalled the fact that, the trial of the Senate President had been on long before the 2016 budget issues emanated.

He described as mischievous, Senator Marafa’s allusion that the trial of the Senate President at the code of conduct tribunal is the reason for the delay in the passage of the 2016 appropriation bill.

“I painstakingly read the interview. After going through the interview, it only took my mind back to the very, very wrong misconceptions that were expressed on the pages of newspapers.

On January 27, 2016 the electronic media was filled with the accusations that were made on the senate and the House of Representatives that is the National Assembly by former President of this country, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

In fact, the pronouncement credited to him, I saw it as an affront; of course facts that were misplaced. I felt demeaned by his pronouncement because I could see the deliberate attempt to malign this 8th National Assembly, to give it a bad name and of course to bring it to public odium in Nigeria.

“The statement he made that day was clear that he was saying that the National Assembly is very corrupt, that the National Assembly stinks; it means that all the members of the National Assembly, distinguished senators of the federal republic of Nigeria and of course members of the House of Representatives are corrupt.

After going through the interview, the first thing that was very clear was that my own colleague was acting in tandem, with the former President by saying that, I think whatever chief Obasanjo is saying is right and I support him.

“Therefore, I believe my colleague should be called to come and explain how the National Assembly and the Senate stinks; how we are greedy, how we are corrupt.

Since I came to this Senate, all the exercise that I have taken part in, there is no one that has called my integrity to question”, he noted.

Impending Crisis

The looming crisis in the Senate degenerated as Senator Kabiru Marafa for the second time, failed to appear before the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, mandated to investigate his alleged disparaging comments against the Upper Chamber in a press interview.

Senator Marafa was first invited on Thursday last week to appear before the investigative Committee, to defend himself over allegations that he went about making comments in public domain which undermined the Upper Chamber and put its integrity to disrepute.

However, the embattled lawmaker could not honour the invitation because he was said to be away in Kaduna, to condole his colleague, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi (APC, Kaduna North), whose mother passed on recently.

During the committee’s assignment, Senator Marafa was conspicuously missing, without any communication to the Committee on why he was absent.

However, the Clerk of the Committee, Mr. Freedom Osolo, told the Senators that when he called Marafa to remind him of the invitation, he said that the Committee should go ahead and do whatever it desired to do.

At this point, the members of the Committee resolved to go into a closed door session, to take decision on the next line of action to take.

The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Anyanwu, said that the outcome of the closed door session would only be made public when the upper legislative chamber reconvenes in plenary on Tuesday February 23, 2016.

It will be recalled that Marafa reportedly granted press interview to some national dailies recently, where he allegedly said that he was in total support of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, that there was high level corruption in the senate.

Misleading Reports

Following the interview, some aggrieved Senators, brought a motion to the floor of the Senate last week Tuesday, asking the Chamber to investigate the matter and invoke the relevant rules of the assembly on Marafa, to serve as deterrent to others.

Senator Isa Misau (APC, Bauchi Central), in particular, raised a point of order on personal privileges, in which he observed that the alleged interview by Marafa brought the entire Senate to disrepute and put his personal position as a Senator in jeopardy.

Misau, said that the interview, which was published in the Punch Newspapers of February 7, 2016 and credited to Senator Marafa, was full of lies, misleading and brought the Senate to public ridicule.

Also, Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo South) who seconded the motion moved by Misau, said that it was embarrassing that Marafa would continuously bring the integrity of the Senate to disrepute.

Consequently, after deliberating on the issue, the Senate in plenary, presided over by the President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, last week Tuesday, directed its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions to investigate the allegation and submit its report within one week.

The committee is expected to present its report to the senate in plenary when it reconvenes on Tuesday February 23, 2016.