The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, on Wednesday, challenged All Progressives Congress (APC) senators to rally round and get a two-thirds majority of the 109 senators to get him impeached rather than seeking what he called unconstitutional and undemocratic means of changing the leadership of the National Assembly.
Addressing a world press conference in Abuja aftermath of Tuesday’s siege on the National Assembly by operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS), the Senate president said the ugly incident further dents the image of the country in the comity of nations.
Saraki said he was not desirous of sitting on the Senate presidency seat indefinitely but admonished any person within the executive arm of government or their protege in the Senate wanting him to vacate office, to do so honourably and through lawful means.
Calling those rooting for his removal as cowards, Saraki said: “The siege was also an act of cowardice by those seeking to carry out an illegal impeachment of the leadership of the Senate in flagrant disregard of the law.
People who seek control at all costs, by whatever means, never minding the injury to democratic norms.
“They attempted to execute an illegal impeachment of the leadership of the Senate without the backing of the law, but they faltered. I am confident that, together, we shall always defeat acts of unconstitutionality. The rule of law shall always prevail.
“We are elected by the people, and an assault on the legislature is an assault on the people of Nigeria. The forcible shutdown of the legislature was an unconscionable assault on a national institution, and thanks to all your efforts, the aggressors have been put to shame”.
He blamed the worsening relationship between the executive and legislature on some elements within the government who are exercising uncouth power that is an anathema to democratic norms.
He said, “This is most disheartening. I don’t get any joy in saying I said so. I don’t. However, some of you may recall that about two years ago, I stated that there was a government within this government, to a purpose that was not in the interest of what the people voted for.
I said it then, and now we are beginning to see the manifestations of that government within a government. It beats one’s imagination how the head of an agency could have authorised the brazen assault on the legislature that we saw yesterday (Tuesday).
“I must say that when we fought for Change, we could not have envisaged a scenario such as unfolded yesterday (Tuesday) – an atmosphere where people cannot tolerate dissent, or mere differences of opinion as to the future of our dear country.
This is not the Change we fought for. We did not fight for instruments of state to be used to oppress Nigerians and their lawmakers. I know that I, certainly, did not fight just so the legislature could be undermined and subjected to this onslaught”, he said.
Saraki, however, commended Federal Government spontaneous reaction to the unlawful siege by the operatives of DSS with the immediate sacking of their boss, Lawal Daura. He gave kudos to the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, for his decisive action which he said went a long way towards restoring confidence, stressing that it sent a powerful message – that the DSS cannot be recklessly deployed against institutions of our democracy.
“The path of leadership is not by party, and we must commend it wherever it is found. Mr. Acting President did the right thing. However, the damage control so far does not address the question of how this atrocity happened in the first place”, he said.
Demanding full investigation into the incident, Saraki said: “We call for an investigation, and we demand that all perpetrators are brought to book. We owe it to ourselves to ensure that such a situation never occurs again.
Many agencies have abused their powers and acted outside the ambit of the law on occasion. Where abuses occur, similar actions must be taken immediately and full investigation instituted”.
Charging the executive on the need to ensure peace, Saraki said: “Government must ensure that security agencies remain neutral and act in line with the position of the constitution as well as their enabling laws. Heads of Agencies should be accountable, and those who step out of line must be held responsible for their actions. Enough with impunity. Enough with the reckless and senseless deployment of militaristic force. Enough.”
The Senate president promised Nigerians the commitment of the legislators to defending the nation’s hard-won democracy. He said. “I am more than encouraged by the strength, the determination and the resolve of ordinary Nigerians to see to it that democracy survives and thrives in this country.
I am also strengthened by the determination of the media to report and analyse the truth as they see it.
“I want to reassure Nigerians that, on our part, we remain committed to working for a country governed by the rule of law. Our desire is to have a society where there will be equity and justice, not oppression. We stand committed to doing our utmost as lawmakers to ensure that the responsibility and functionality of governance are met. Although we are on annual break, we are daily reviewing the situation and are alive to the responsibility to take action as necessary.
“Despite the threat to our lives, we shall continue to fight impunity and injustice in this country”. He anchored his confidence on the support of his colleagues and their focus on the job at hand, which is to serve the Nigerian people, promising his commitment to the success of the historic 8th National Assembly, and to the continued progress of the country.
Saraki also appreciated the international community – particularly the European Union – and the international press, as well as the Nigerian media, for their prompt reactions to the invasion of the National Assembly, the CSOs and Socio-cultural groups, saying that they were emphatic in their statements during the crisis.
“I want to thank Nigerians, Senators, members of the House of Representatives and National Assembly Staff, for standing up to be counted for democracy during Tuesday’s siege. I thank the thousands who monitored the situation on radio, television and social media, voicing their outrage at the siege, thereby sending a clear message to those that hatched the plot that the Nigerian public would not buy this act of gangsterism using instruments of state such as the DSS”, he added.
But the APC has urged Saraki to resign his position as the Senate President as he does not have any moral legitimacy to occupy the position. The party said Saraki no longer has the moral and legitimate ground to occupy that position as a member of the minority Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Upper Chamber going by the popular axiom that “the majority will have their way, but the minority will have their say”.
The Acting National Publicity Secretary of the party, Yekini Nabena, stated this while reacting to the Tuesday’s siege on the National Assembly by operatives of the DSS in a press statement made available on Wednesday.
He said: “Following Tuesday’s incident at the National Assembly, our investigations have now uncovered the sinister plot hatched by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, to foment violence in the legislative chamber all in a bid to stop his impeachment.
“We are now aware that the timely intervention of the security operatives forestalled the planned violence which could have led to possible deaths, injuries and destruction of property in the National Assembly on Tuesday.
Why did the Senate President mobilise thugs to the National Assembly who almost lynched Hon. E.J. Agbonayinma, the only APC federal lawmaker present but for the timely intervention of security operatives?
“Why did the Senate President reconvene the National Assembly, ostensibly as a pre-emptive move to frustrate federal lawmakers move to impeach him. Is it not curious that only Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) federal lawmakers were present in their numbers-some as early as 7am, while the majority APC federal lawmakers were elsewhere holding a caucus meeting on the state of the nation.
“We call on security agencies and relevant bodies to as a matter of urgency probe these findings and take all necessary and legitimate action to stop these illegalities which pose a direct and ominous threat to our democracy”, Nabena added.
The party emphasised that as espoused in its earlier statement, “whilst our contention with the leadership of the National Assembly as currently constituted is a matter of public record, we still believe that the legislature as an independent arm of government must be allowed free reign for vibrant contestation of ideas and values amongst its members within the context of their constitutional mandate and for the benefit of the Nigerian people”.