Some senators on Thursday openly threw their weight behind their president, Senator Bukola Saraki, over his arraignment, calling on the federal government to focus on governance and not politically motivated trials of perceived enemies.
The Senate President was billed to face trial today at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Abuja over alleged false assets declaration.
The Code of Conduct Tribunal had, on the strength of 13- count charge bordering on alleged falsification of assets declaration and under-declaration raised against Saraki by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), summoned him to appear before it today for trial on the charges.
But in separate reactions to Saraki’s trial, senators across party lines yesterday condemned the move by the CCB and described it as distractive and uncalled for.
They vowed that trial or no trial, the majority of the senators in the Senate would continue to support the leadership of Saraki and specifically warned the federal government to be more focused on governance and not give way to politically motivated distractions the Saraki invitation by CCT symbolised.
The first to react to the trial in an interview with journalists was Senator Sabi Aliyu Abdullahi (APC, Niger North), who said all the allegations raised against Saraki by CCB were politically motivated but that the trial will not in any way derail the 8th Senate from its focus of bringing about positive change to Nigerians.
He said: “I want to believe an allegation remains an allegation. And our laws are very clear; it is an allegation until it is proven. I want to believe it remains an allegation. “However, let’s take a closer look at what the allegations are, dating back to 2003 to date I think. As far as I am concerned, there is something fishy about it. It is very obvious, of course. We know what has happened since the inauguration of the 8th Senate.
“And what I want state here clearly is that we have a duty, based on our mandate by the electorate to come here, a number of processes were done, and unless somebody is trying to tell us that all those processes carried out by various security agencies were not correct, I want to believe, if they were correct, then somebody needs to ask the question: how come 12 years down the line somebody is feeling that there is something he has forgotten in those years and he wants to find out an answer for them now?
“But I think that what the 8th Senate is looking at clearly are the issue of youth unemployment; the insurgency for which we know that based on the support of the National Assembly, we are all living witnesses to the thorough and expeditious work done to confirm the Service Chiefs, and our resolve through our legislative agenda to support our party in this particular dispensation. I want to believe that we will not be distracted from that; and whatever it is that anybody is doing, our laws are very clear. We have a responsibility, and on the basis of that we will try to do what Nigerians expect of us.
“We are also aware that the Ad hoc Committee on Power has been working. I am sure all of us here, after all these days’ work, I don’t know how many of you will go back home and meet light in your houses. So, these are very serious issues that Nigerians expect that we pay attention to; and I want to assure you that the 8th Senate will not be distracted in any way.
“We will stand by our leaders because leadership is from God and as far as I am concerned, I didn’t come here because I am the best; it is just the will of God that we will be here. And since we are here, we shall try as much as possible to deliver very good legislations that will move this country forward. Nigeria is great, and we want to make it greater. And I assure you, we will definitely not be distracted. The entire Senate is behind our leadership.”
Also condemning Saraki’s trial in another interview with journalists was Senator Hussain Salihu (APC, Nasarawa South) who said those trying Saraki for what happened in the past because he is now the Senate President will get tired of the trials as, according to him, senators and, by extension, the Senate will not abandon him as their duly elected leader.
Salihu said: “The charges against Saraki, as far as I am concerned, are just distractive, in the sense that we are talking about an issue of 13 years ago and people are bringing it now. I think Nigerians should disregard such issues because they are distracting the National Assembly from doing its own constitutional work and I don’t think that it is going to help us.
“What we are talking about now is how we are going to get power supply; how the ordinary man can send his children to school and the sick to get hospitals that will treat them. So, the allegations are non-issues. I think the people who are doing this are not helping the country; they are not helping the president and they are not helping anybody because, as far as the National Assembly is concerned, we are going to move on from all these distractions.
“As you can see, for those of us that are around, we are doing our work and the place is energized to take off for effective legislative activities when we resume. So, I don’t see how these things are going to affect us. They will do it and get tired. What happened 13 years down the line, why have they not brought it until now? So, we feel that those who are doing this are not helping the nation at all.”
Senator Mao Ohuabunwa (PDP, Abia North), who spoke in similar vein, said as far as a majority of the senators are concerned, Saraki has led the Senate creditably well in the last 100 days and that they will continue to give him their total support, irrespective of any distractions from any quarters.
Meanwhile the embattled Senate President has vowed that the Senate under his leadership will not be shaken by any form of distractive allegations.
Saraki stated this when he played host to a powerful delegation of Ilorin Emirate Descendant Progressive Union (IEDPU) who paid him a solidarity visit.
According to Saraki, “The 8th Senate had, at inception on the 9th of June this year, clearly stated that it was out to bring about positive change to Nigerians through responsive legislations and oversight, which it cannot in anyway be distracted from.
Earlier during the visit, the IEDPU chairman, Alhaji Abdulhameed Hadi, had pledged the total support of Ilorin people to Saraki and urged President Muhammadu Buhari to extend his hand of fellowship in governance to him, as he did with the late General Tunde Idiagbon when they both ruled Nigeria in the early 1980s as military men.