By Nuel Suji – There are strong indication that the Senate may be resuming into a rowdy session on Tuesday over plan by its leadership to suspend the vocal senator, Kabiru Marafa.
Already, the senate is divided over the issue with supporters of Marafa and those against him ostensibly supporting the senate leadership, spoiling for a showdown.
Marafa, who is representing Zamfara Central on the platform of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) is being probed by the Ethics Committee of the Senate over allegation of disparaging comments against the senate.
However, the senator who has been the main critics of the Bukola Saraki leadership of the senate failed to appear before the Committee Panel probing the allegation Monday.
The Senate had last week Tuesday, upon submissions made by Senators Haman Isa Misau (APC Bauchi Central) and Mathew Urhogide (PDP Edo South), mandated its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petition, to investigate Marafa the alleged denigrating remarks in the newspaper interview and report back to at tomorrow plenary.
While Marafa was absent at the committee’s sitting on Monday, the committee insisted that it would submit its report Tuesday on the floor of the senate, there are strong indication that suspension would be recommended based on evidential submissions further made against him by Senator Urhogide who served as the Chief petitioner in the absence of Senator Misau.
Aside tabling national dailies from February 7, to February 17, 2016, where Marafa’s alleged despicable comments against the Senate, it’s leadership and fellow Senators, were published, Urhogide prayed the committee, to make Marafa face the full wrath of his action in accordance with the rules of the senate.
According to him, Marafa acted in clandestine manner with the former President Olusegun Obasanjo in portraying the National Assembly in bad light on allegation of corruption by saying whatever Obasanjo said in his letter to the National Assembly early this month was right.
“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 on spurious allegation of corruption against the National Assembly and in particular, the Senate as far as the issue of N4.7billion car purchase project is concerned.
“He had actually acted in that manner with the former president by saying that ‘I think whatever chief Obasanjo is saying is right and i support him’. I think there are two meanings to this I think ‘whatever’ chief Obasanjo is saying meaning that the national assembly is corrupt and it stinks
“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 come to this senate all the exercise that i have taken part in there is no man that of course that has not been able to take my personality and integrity and no one has called my integrity to question.
“Marafa has no doubt joined the former President in bringing the Senate and by extension, the National Assembly to public disrepute and should be accordingly made to take responsibility for his action”.
The Committee’s Chairman, Samuel Anyanwu (PDP Imo East), said after Urhogide’ submission, that of the defendant (Marafa) should follow, but when he asked the clerk, Freedom Osolo, on whether Marafa was around or not, he said no.
Osolo explained to the committee members which had only two APC senators in attendance, i.e, Senators Binta Garba Marshi (Adamawa North) and Mohammed Shittu Ubale (Jigawa Central). that he had telephone conversion with Marafa yesterday morning on the need for his appearance but shunned him by declaring to him that he had no evidence of proper invitation for him.
A submission Marafa himself later corroborated when asked by journalists on why he absented himself from the sitting.
According to the embattled senator, he would attend the hearing of the committee any time he is properly invited, vowing that the Committee has no reason whatsoever to recommend for his suspension as he will never accede to that in anyway.
But the Committee Chairman categorically declared that report on investigation on Marafa would be unfailingly submitted to the senate at its Tuesday plenary session.
Meanwhile, some senators loyal to the Senate President on Monday issued a statement calling for sanction against Marafa.
The senators include, Senator Tayo Alasoadura, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, Senator Obinna Ogba, Senator Isa Hamma Misau, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi.
According to them, Marafa’s accusations and allegations are capable of dragging the reputation of the senate into the mud.
The statement read:
“We have watched with dismay from the inauguration of the Eighth Senate how Senator Kabiru Marafa has constituted himself as a cog in the wheel of progress, unity and harmony of the institution. Since his preferred candidates did not win elections into the leadership of the Senate, he has carried on as if the peace, order, good health and progress of the institution does not matter.
“After the various media attacks believed to be aimed at defaming, bringing into disrepute and public odium and lowering the standing of the Senate in the estimation of right thinking Nigerians were tabled on the floor of the Senate last Tuesday, our position has been that the Senate should temper justice with mercy. We had been canvassing the opinion that, without prejudice to the outcome of the investigation by the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, the Senate leadership should simply work further on reconciliation.
“However, we are surprised that while others are preaching peace, the Senator from Zamfara Central has continued to stoke the ember of disunity, deploying all tactics, particularly falsehood, character assassination, setting individuals and institutions against each other and throwing abuses as if he is at war with himself and must therefore vent his anger on others.
“His speech during a press conference at the weekend however deserves more clarification to set the records straight because it contains falsehood, unreasonable claims and attempts to further malign the legislative institution to which he belongs and its leadership. Our position on the claims are as follows:
“1. How can Senator Marafa blame Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki for the unfortunate controversies surrounding the 2016 budget? In a letter dated 15 January 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari himself, in a letter addressed to the Senate President, admitted that there were different versions of the budget in the National Assembly as he wrote that: “At the time of submission (of the budget), we indicated that because the details had just been produced we would have to check to ensure that there were no errors in the detailed breakdown contained in the schedule. That has been completed and I understand that the corrections have been submitted. The National Assembly would therefore have the details as submitted on the 22nd and a copy containing the corrections submitted last week. It appears that this has led to some confusion. In this regard, please find attached the corrected version. This is the version the National Assembly should work with as my 2016 budget estimates.”
“What is reasonably deductible from the President’s letter is that the current budget estimates being used by the National Assembly is the third version. How is this Saraki’s fault as Marafa claimed? Also, how can Marafa allude to Saraki a sad development in which Ministers appeared before the National Assembly committees and were disowning either as a whole or in parts, the budget of their Ministries as it happened in the case of Ministers of Health, Education and Information and Culture? The irregularities in the budget made the February 25 passage date impossible and this was a joint decision of the Chairmen of Committees on Appropriation in both chambers of the National Assembly after consulting with the leadership of both chambers. Marafa’s claim is therefore outright mischief and misrepresentation.
“2. At this point, it is necessary to put on record the hypocrisy of Senator Marafa. If he is so much interested in the early passage of the budget, how come that up till now he has not convened the meeting of the committee on National Population and National Identity which he chairs so that the key agencies – National Population Commission (NPC) and National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) – can defend their budget estimates. Until last Friday when the Senate decided to appoint an acting chairman for the committee, the two agencies stood the risk of not having any budget for the current fiscal year. Marafa abandoned his statutory work and concentrated on playing politics, seeking to be relevant and struggling for newspaper space.
“3. Our position is that Senator Marafa has continued to violate the oath of office he swore to uphold. As a member, he has violated the integrity of the Senate. The Senate should no longer allow one member to hold it to ransom and behave as if he is bigger than the institution.
“4. There is need for the institution of the Senate to be protected. Marafa is laying a bad precedent and he needs to be stopped from further maligning this revered democratic institution.”
Recall that Senator Marafa, in an explosive interview, had accused the senate president of being behind the controversy surrounding the 2016 budget because of his corruption trial at the code of conduct tribunal (CCT).
His word: “Honestly speaking if am to comment on the controversy that has been trailing the 2016 budget in the Senate, I will say it is all the work of the 5th columnists there. You remember we woke up after 15 days or also of the receipt of the budget in the National Assembly. We woke up one day and the Senate President just came and said there is no budget, that the budget is stolen embarrassing everybody, but the following day the Speaker said is not stolen our own is here.
“Next, they said the budget is doctored, next they said the budget is padded, next they said there are discrepancies all over the place, we knew how they came into the leadership of the National Assembly of the Senate. Was it a coincidence that the issue of padding and everything just came up after the Supreme Court said go and face your trial?
“Suddenly, we started hearing that we cannot pass the budget as we promised because there are discrepancies and so on and so forth. In a nutshell, all the noise about the budget are all about this issue of corruption trial or CCT trial that is all, no more no less.