• Police cancel invitation to Sen. President, seek written defense
• Afenifere, NCP, ADC condemn slight on legislature
Some members of the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) block of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have returned to the trenches with the prospect of dumping the APC.
The development came barely 24 hours after the Nigeria Police invited Senate President Bukola Saraki for questioning over the April 5 robbery at four commercial banks in Offa, Kwara State.
In a statement, yesterday, leader of the aggrieved group, Alhaji Kawu Baraje, said the members were rethinking their earlier stand on making peace with the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
Baraje, a dyed-in-the wool supporter of Saraki, referred to the allegation as a clear signal the presidency is not keen on reaching an amicable settlement with the group.
But the police yesterday announced Saraki would no longer be required to make the visit and could instead send in his defence in writing. “They are no longer asking me to report at any station, but to respond in writing to the allegations within 48 hours,” he tweeted.
It was learnt the police changed their mind following outcry by some Nigerians and pressure from the international community.
A lawmaker disclosed that dozens of senators had already begun readying themselves to accompany Saraki to the police station, shutting down the chamber for as long as the matter lasted.
The statement reads in part: “The public may recall that there have been ongoing talks between members of the former nPDP, the APC and the presidency in recent days. Nigerians may further recall that a team from the former nPDP, led by Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, and four others, were to meet with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo today.
“However, while we are truly and earnestly committed to achieving reconciliation, harmony, truce and cohesion in the APC as we approach the 2019 general elections, it appears the presidency is not interested in the talks, and that they may have been negotiating in bad faith.”
The nPDP said it was alarmed that following its meeting with the vice president, last week, “The presidency misrepresented what transpired by trying to blackmail some of the principal actors involved in the discussions in a national daily. Similarly, the leadership of the party (APC) went ahead to ratify all the congresses from ward, local governments, states and zonal, where many of our members have complaints, effectively presenting us with a fait accompli.”
It regretted the continued “persecution” of its members through the use of state security apparatuses. “We recognise the powers of the police to conduct criminal investigations. But by rushing to the public with the issue, even when they have unfettered access to the leadership of the National Assembly, suggests an attempt to undermine, make a caricature of and humiliate the institution of the legislature.”
It said: “It appears there is a fouled and toxic atmosphere and environment of intimidation and threat to life where we now find ourselves. It may no longer be conducive to members of the former nPDP to continue with the talks, given the unfolding events in the last 24 hours, where the President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki and Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, the Governor of Kwara State, both of whom attended the meeting with the vice president on Monday, May 28, 2018, have suddenly been accused of sponsoring armed robbery by the police under the directives of the presidency.
“Similarly, on Saturday, June 2, 2018, the Department of State Services (DSS) also suddenly withdrew more than half of all the security details attached to the presiding officers of the National Assembly under questionable circumstances.
“The nPDP leadership has therefore decided to brief our members on the unfortunate development and get a fresh mandate, if good faith returns to the discussions.”
The action by the police also drew criticism from the National Chairman of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Mr. Ralph Nwosu; his National Conscience Party (NCP) counterpart, Dr Yusuf Tanko; and Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere.
“Nigeria’s Senate President allegedly implicated in robbery! That is very ridiculous, not just to the government but also to Nigerians as a whole,” said Nwosu.
Urging Nigerians to vote the APC and Buhari out of power in 2019 before they destroy the country’s democracy, Nwosu said it was “now clear to the world that there is a plan to rubbish the legislative institution, which has refused to bow to the excesses of the presidency and the power that be in the ruling party.”
Tanko said: “This government is doing all it can to militarise our democracy. I am not surprised at the invitation to Saraki. Something must be done to pull him down by force before 2019. The government has tried to implicate him through the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and also his trial by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) but failed. This is the latest one and we needed to be careful not to buy their dummy.”
The Spokesman for Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said: “In the first place, the process of inviting Saraki was wrong and ill motivated. By virtue of the Senate President’s position, I think it was wrong of the police to have gone to the press with the invitation, as if the security agency had made up its mind to implicate him. Whatever the issue, the office deserves respect.”
In another reaction, President, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Alhaji Yerima Shettima, said: “In politics, anything goes. But I have never seen or read in history the kind of ongoing faceoff between the presidency and the legislative arm of government where the president of the Senate, with the volume of money senators receive, could be implicated in robbery? It is strange and unbelievable.
“Even if he is the biological father of the criminals, that does not mean he is aware of everything they do. On the other hand, if they were his political thugs, the presidency or any other politicians should come out and convince Nigerians they don’t have thugs in their political team? I am not approving the use of thugs in politics, but it is synonymous with us in Nigeria.”
Second Republic politician and chieftain of Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze, Chief Guy Ikokwu, said: “The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, has displayed incompetence since he assumed office. He has, on different occasions, refused to honour the call of the Senate to speak on issues that matter most to the development of the country, parading himself as if he is bigger than the lawmaking arm of the country. The same person is now investigating the head of the Senate. So, what do we expect?”
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