Published On: Sun, Mar 18th, 2018

Seeking elusive truce in NASS, Presidency cold war

By OBINNA EZUGWU

On Thursday night, President Muhammadu Buhari met with Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki; speaker of the House of Reps, Hon. Yakubu Dogara as well as other principal officers of both chambers of the All Progressive Congress (APC) led National Assembly at the state house, Abuja, but members of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) stayed away.

President Muhammadu Buhari shakes hands with the President of the Senate, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, while the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara, looks at the State House in Abuja… on Thursday, March 15, 2018.

The meeting came after weeks of uncertainty between the two arms, and already suggestions are that it could mark the beginning of an improved relationship, to end the perpetual cold war since the beginning of the administration, a war that had intensified in recent weeks over a number of issues and had contributed to the country’s economic woes.

Principal among topics discussed at the meeting, according SGF, Boss Mustapha were security issues and the need to expedite action on the 2018 budget.

“The President gave them update on security, economy, job creation, processes in the National Assembly especially with regards to the budget and the need to conclude on it,” Mustapha said while addressing state house correspondents after the meeting.

“Mr. President has given instruction that all ministers and parastatals should ensure that they appear before the National Assembly to defend their submissions so that we can get this out of the way.

“You know this is a very dynamic year and there are preparation for elections and we are having quite a lot of security challenges and so if we don’t appropriate, where will the money come from?”

Earlier on Tuesday, the Senate backed down on its decision not to screen any nominee of the president and decided in favour of confirming nominees for the CBN board to enable Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the bank which had been in abeyance on account of their inability to form a quorum, to meet on Sunday.

Positive developments, obviously in a country now riddled with crisis on many fronts, but it does appear too insignificant in the face of the enormous issues at hand, and the extent to which the stand- off has gone.

It has indeed been weeks of mutual undermining of efforts. Last week Tuesday, President Buhari vetoed a bill for the reordering of the country’s electoral sequence passed by the National Assembly on February 14 under Section 25 of the Principal Act 2010, noting that the amendment infringed on the discretion of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to “organise, undertake and supervise elections.”

His decision was widely expected. The proposed bill seeks to arrange the election sequence such that National Assembly would come first, governorship second and presidential election last. Some noted that the arrangement may not work well for his chances of reelection.

There had been debates over the thinking behind such move, with many insisting that it was targeted at the president. Perhaps, not precisely so, but the lawmakers are out to ensure that the President’s eroded goodwill does not jeopardize their own ambitions. In their thinking if the presidential election is held first, and Buhari fails to get reelected, it would rub off on them too.

When they agreed on the bill last month, some of Buhari’s loyalists in the red chamber cried blue murder. It was Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, Delta Central, who along with nine others, including Senator Abdullahi Adamu, Nasarawa West, declared that it was targeted at the president.

Others in the group included, Abu Ibrahim, Benjamin Uwajumogu, Ali Wakil, Abdullahi Gumel, Binta Masi, Yahaya Abdullahi, Andrew Uchendu and Umaru Kurfi.

But it was Omo-Agege who voiced the allegation, and soon faced the heat from other senators. He was compelled to apologize when it became obvious that his outburst would land him a suspension.

Apparently, with Buhari’s popularity fading rapidly, and a number of the lawmakers having rifts with governors of their respective states, the thinking must have been first, that a possible defeat of the president would not adversely affect their own chances. And second, that the state governors would not be in good position to interfere with their elections.

War over the sequence will surely be a clog on the wheel of any peace effort that goes beyond discussions around budget and security. Last week, both the House of Reps and the Senate began moves to override the president’s veto. It is the second vetoed bill that the lawmakers are working to override, the first being the president’s veto of the bill for the establishment of Mr. Dickson Akoh led paramilitary outfit, Peace Corps.

In the upper chamber, the move is spearheaded by the “Like Minds,” a group of senators loyal to Saraki and principally opposed to Buhari. Its most vocal member is Senator Dino Melaye, Kogi West.

The power to override the president’s veto, they do have under Section 58(5) of the 1999 Constitution, but only if they can achieve a two-third majority. And this seems quite unlikely with senators loyal to the president constituting a significant number.

The president’s loyal senators led by Senator Adamu have also begun mobilising to counter moves for the override. And indeed, in a move that came as a surprise, Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, gave an order restraining the National Assembly from proceeding with the move.

Justice Ahmed Mohammed who gave the order asked the lawmakers to maintain the status quo pending a March 20 hearing date. He gave the order while delivering ruling on an oral application by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), lawyer to the plaintiff, Accord Party.

But it is unlikely that the last of the case has been heard. The Senate on Thursday, charged the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, to caution judicial officers against granting court orders capable of truncating parliamentary operations.

The lawmakers had also faulted the president’s grounds for the veto in a submission by a legal team of both chambers led by Senator Ike Ekweremadu.

“The correct legal position, however, is that by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 First Alteration Act 2010, Act No. 1, specifically, Section 5 provides that Section 76 of the Principal Act is altered thus (a) subsection (1) in line 2, by inserting immediately after the word ‘commission’ ‘the words’ in accordance with the Electoral Act,” they noted.

“From the above amendment, it is crystal clear that the power to regulate the principal elements of all federal electoral processes were by the above amendment removed from the Independent National Electoral Commission and vested in the Assembly, which has the power to make laws for peace, order and good governance of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

It has been weeks of accusations and counter accusations between senators on both sides of the divide. Senator Adamu had alleged for instance, that the Senate was taking steps to deliberately sabotage the workings of the Executive, an allegation that was severely rebutted by them.

Few days ago, Senator Obinna Ogba, Ebonyi Central alleged, with “evidences” of phone conversations between Mr. Adamu and some other people that they were planning to remove Saraki and other members of the senate leadership.

There has never been a day of harmony since the 8th National Assembly came into effect with the APC at the helm. But it was to be expected judging by the ruling party’s pedigree.

In 2013, the party was birthed when prominent politicians from different backgrounds came together, united by the one goal of ousting former president, Goodluck Jonathan. They did, but ever since, they have hardly agreed on anything else.

Nigeria’s ex-President Goodluck Jonathan

It was a big irony that a party promoted as progressive, chose a core conservative as presidential candidate. And once he emerged, he threw the much hyped progressive leaning manifesto over board.

The consequence of which is what has remained visible in the cat and dog relationship between the executive and the legislature. Once in power, and with Jonathan out, things began to unravel in the party. It all started with the election of principal officers of the legislature.

Backed by the opposition PDP, Saraki and Hon. Dogara emerged as president of the Senate and Speaker of the House respectively, against the wishes of acclaimed APC national leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The former Lagos governor had wanted Senator Ahmed Lawan and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila in that order.

A divided house, APC could not hold its foot down and take charge. Buhari, obviously was not keen on letting Tinubu have his way with regard to influencing the outcome of national assembly leadership election, he stood aloof, allowing Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu to emerge in spite of himself.

The president would later declare that Ekweremadu’s emergence as deputy senate president was “not acceptable” to him.

The seat soon became hot for the duo as they were accused, alongside others, of forging the Senate standing orders and consequently arraigned before an Abuja High Court in June 2016; a charge for which they maintained their innocence and excoriated the executive for using the apparatus of the state to intimidate them.

They were granted bail under terms spelt out by the court. The case has remained pending. But a battle line had been drawn. Within the ruling party, senators broke into two factions: the Like Minds who were pro-Saraki and had the sympathy of PDP senators, and the Unity Forum led by Senator Lawan.

Meanwhile, Saraki who in the aftermath, was already standing trial at Code of Conduct Tribunal over false asset declaration, vowed to rather go to jail than surrender the leadership of the Senate to the “nefarious agenda of a few individuals.”

In March last year, Ekweremadu raised an alarm that an insider in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) informed him of a “grand plan from the cabal in the Presidency, using (the) EFCC as an anti-graft agency to indict and remove him from office.” The presidency would deny the allegation as baseless.

But things only got to a head when Buhari submitted Ibrahim Magu’s name to the Senate for confirmation as substantial chairman of the EFCC and the lawmakers, citing a petition by the DSS which allegedly accused him of engaging in unlawful enrichment among others, turned down the confirmation.

Buhari, however, insisted that Magu would continue as the agency’s head, and in response, the Senate vowed not to confirm any appointee going forward. It had not until last week when it decided to confirm CBN board members so that the MPC meeting could hold. A welcome truce, but not by any chance an end to the bad blood.

© 2018, Hallmarknews. All rights reserved. Reference and link to this site is required if you wish to reuse any article.

Reactions from Facebook

comments and opinions

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Most Shared

Recent posts

  • Saraki to Nigerian youths: Turn your cellphones into business tools

    President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, on Sunday called on the nation’s youths to venture into entrepreneurship through their cell-phones as a way of self-employment and creating job opportunities for others. Saraki gave the charge while delivering the Fourth Convocation Lecture of the Adeleke University, Ede in the State of Osun, on Sunday. […]

  • Gov. commends Abiriba entrepreneurship drive

    From PETER OKORE, Umuahia   Historically, one of the towns that has often been associated with merchandise, entrepreneurship and self-help development efforts in Nigeria is Abiriba; a clan in Ohafia Local Government Area of Abia state. The town, popularly called, “small London” became famous for its age-long endeavours since the era of the British military expedition of Igboland,(1830-1930) in former Eastern Region of […]

  • Population crisis: Nigeria Analysts raise Alarm

    Against increasing concerns about exploding population figures, Nigerian economists, in growing numbers, are raising their voices over an impending tragedy if the current growth rate of 3 per cent per annum is not flipped back. Available data lays bare Nigeria’s romance with disaster. Recent IMF statistics puts Nigeria’s population at a stumping 199.5 million people […]

  • Shareholders bemoan Oando’s deepening crises

    –as court orders top executives to pay N245 billion By OKEY ONYENWEAKU It seems the woes of oil producing and marketing company, Oando Plc, will never end. Just smarting from the problems and controversy that almost brought the firm to its knees over book cooking, another more pernicious headache is breaking out; this time court […]

  • Top banks battle rising NPLs; 2 lose top rating

    By FELIX OLOYEDE In the face of daunting economic challenges commercial lending institutions called Systemically Important Banks or SIBs continue to lead the Nigerian financial services sector despite their struggles with high non-performing loans (NPLs) and shriniking operating margins. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in September 2014, issued a framework for SIBs, which was […]

  • Qualitative education can curb violence, insecurity, says NDIC boss

    The Managing Director, Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), Umaru Ibrahim has advocated quality education as panacea to check the spate of violence and insecurity challenges currently being experienced in the country. The NDIC Boss made the remark in an address he delivered as the Keynote Speaker at the 15th Graduation Ceremony of Zaria Academy, Shika, […]

  • China offshore oil coy to invest $3bn in Nigeria

    The China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) is to invest an additional three billion dollars in its existing stakes in offshore oil and gas operations in Nigeria. Mr Ndu Ughamadu, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) spokesman said this in a statement on Sunday in Abuja. Ughamadu said Mr Yuan Guangyu, the Chief Executive Officer […]

  • Ecobank risk assets deteriorate as Kie bows out

    By FELIX OLOYEDE The exit of Ecobank Nigeria’s erstwhile Managing Director, Charles Kie, has raised a groundswell of speculation in the financial community as sector analysts believe that his exit was abrupt, untimely and suspicious. Over a period of two years, Kie had succeeded in reversing the banks bedraggled balance sheet and profit and loss […]

  • Blood, blood everywhere: Herdsmen, rustlers on the rampage

    –  Violence, a well-articulated plot to grab land – Expert  By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA Nigeria is gradually descending into a Hobbesian state with the growing killings in the Middle Belt, in addition to the destruction of lives and properties in the North West and Boko Haram insurgency in the North East. Defenseless citizens are being killed like […]

  • 2018 budget in jeopardy

    . Delay alone has reduced performance by 13% – Experts By UCHE CHRIS In all likelihood the 2018 budget will end like the three previous budgets of the President Buhari administration: a failure. Having been passed seven months after its presentation and half year gone; and with all the controversies surrounding its passage by the […]

  • MTN to miss market listing target

    By OKEY ONYENWEAKU A weak domestic economy in Nigeria may force telecommunications giant MTN to shift its earlier proposed August 2018 date for a local listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE). Analysts believe that the date shift will allow the parties to the Offer plan a more successful listing arrangement that would guaranty full […]

  • APC crises deepens: Amaechi battles for relevance, Modu-Sheriff is new strongman

    By OBINNA EZUGWU Key actors in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) managed to keep up appearance to allow for a smooth transition at the party’s recently held national convention. Except for the exchange of blows among Imo and Delta States delegates, the convention was largely a success. But beneath the facade of orderliness, tensions […]

  • INEC declares Fayemi governor-elect in Ekiti

    The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has declared Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressive Congress (APC) winner of the Ekiti Governorship Election held on Saturday. INEC’s Chief Returning Officer for the election, Professor Idowu Olayinka declared the result on Sunday. According to the Returning Officer, Kayode got 197,459 votes to defeat the Deputy Governor of […]

  • President Muhammadu Buhari said on Wednesday that Nigeria will soon sign up to a $3 trillion African free-trade agreement. Nigeria is one of Africa’s two largest economies, the other being South Africa. Buhari’s government had refused to join a continental free-trade zone established in March, on the grounds that it wishes to defend its own […]

  • PDP meets Obasanjo for advice on how to beat Buhari in 2019 polls

    The National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) will meet with former President Olusegun Obasanjo in Abeokuta on Saturday to seek advice on how to achieve victory in the 2019 polls and beat incumbent Muhammadu Buhari. The National Chairman of PDP, Uche Secondus, made this known in Abeokuta while addressing journalists after a […]

  • GTBank Launches Social Impact Challenge, Aims to Fund Community Development Projects Nationwide

    Following more than two decades of consistent investment in community development, Guaranty Trust Bank plc is taking its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) another step further by launching a Social Impact Challenge that will fund dozens of innovative ideas designed and executed by members of the general public. Tagged #SimpleChangeBigImpact, the Social Impact Challenge invites individuals […]