Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Protesters storm National Assembly asking for the resignation of Saraki.

The expected showdown in the Senate between Senate President Bukola Saraki and his Senate rivals arising from alleged plots to suspend Senator Kabiru Marafa was yesterday twisted by demonstrators who turned the heat on Saraki by clamouring for his resignation. 

Though the report of the Senate Committee on Ethics which investigated the alleged acts of misdemeanour by Marafa was laid before the Senate, the contents of the report were not disclosed, leaving the fate of the embattled senator in the balance. Most senators yesterday opted not to comment on the issue, pending expected deliberation on the report today. 

The only show of emotion on the issue arose when the man at the centre of the crisis, Senator Marafa stormed out of the plenary session when it became apparent to him that the report would not be deliberated on. The committee on Ethics headed by Senator Samuel Anyanwu had earlier submitted the report to the Senate in plenary alongside reports of four other petitions handled by it. While the contents of the other reports were laid bare, the report on Marafa was not read. 

Marafa, an outspoken supporter of Saraki’s rival in the leadership contest, Senator Ahmad Lawan, was referred to the Senate Committee on Ethics upon allegations by two senators that he violated the integrity of the Senate and senators by endorsing comments by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that the Senate is corrupt. He was also stripped of his position as chairman of the Senate Committee on National Population Commission following allegations that he refused to convene a meeting of the committee. When approached to speak on the content of the report on, the committee chairman, Senator Anyanwu declined, asking Vanguard to wait till when it would be considered. According to Vanguard, the report may be considered at today’s plenary where the senator will know his fate. 

Meanwhile, outside the Senate chambers, movement into and out of the National Assembly complex was held up for some time when a group of youths under the aegis of Open Society and Good Governance Initiative, stormed the National Assembly yesterday to protest the planned move to suspend Marafa. The youths, armed with placards bearing various inscriptions, including “Suspend Saraki , not Marafa,” ‘Saraki leave the Senate and face CCT,‘ ‘No to the planned suspension of Senator Kabiru Marafa” etc, said the suspension of Marafa would portray the Senate as an institution without respect for the laws of the land. 

Addressing journalists on their mission, coordinator of the group, Mr. Emeka Ude, said the planned suspension of the lawmaker was anti-democratic and not disciplinary in anyway. He said the proposed suspension of Marafa would dent the image of the Senate because it is an attempt to prevent free speech among lawmakers. His words: “Democracy thrives where there is fairness, rule of law, freedom of expression among others. In a situation where the legislature is foreclosing the democratic space, that is an invitation to fascism.” He insisted that the freedom of expression of lawmakers should be encouraged so that everybody will express his or her views freely. He maintained that Senator Saraki should encourage others with contrary views instead of trying to suppress them. 

Ude said the group was advocating the suspension of Saraki instead of Marafa because he is the one standing criminal trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal. He said by referring the case to the Ethics committee, Saraki had made up his mind to discipline the Zamfara Central Senator. Many of the protesters who looked like street boys apparently betrayed knowledge of their mission with a couple of the placard carrying youths turning them upside down.

The protesters were, however, stopped at the first entrance, popularly called the National Assembly Security gate and no one addressed them. Coincidentally, the demonstration happened at the same time Senator Anyanwu was presenting the committee’s report. 

Meanwhile, Senator Marafa yesterday accused senators against him as undistinguished and cowards afraid to face him. Speaking in an interview with Premium Times, an online news medium, he said: “The behaviour of committee members is very undistinguished; they caused the Senate embarrassment by concocting lies against one of their own. “That’s why I went to plenary today to see how they will pass judgement without hearing me. I deserve to be heard. Even the Senate President who is facing criminal charges is given right to defend himself. “They can’t face me; they are afraid. They know the illegalities they have committed. I read the said interview again and I wish to stand by everything I said. I am defending the institution of the Senate,” Mr. Marafa said. 

He added that even though his lawyers asked him not to attend the hearing because he was challenging the legality of the committees in court, he wanted to attend for two reasons. “One, I have respect for the Senate institution to which I belong; so, I want to defend myself and save the Senate from embarrassment. Two, I have respect for the committee because I served in that committee for four years.” 

SUF disowns Marafa Meanwhile, the Senate Unity Forum (SUF), a pro- Ahmad Lawan pressure group which vocally opposed Saraki during the leadership contest yesterday disowned Marafa, its spokesman, saying he was fighting a personal fight and not that of the group. The group met after plenary, and at the meeting, members warned Marafa against making further remarks capable of denigrating the Senate and, by extension, the National Assembly as an institution. According to a source, the anti-Saraki senators accused Marafa of pushing the views too far, warning that they cannot support him while he is denigrating the institution of the Senate. “They told him to differentiate between his personal views and that of the SUF”, the source said, adding that the forum told the senator angrily that he seemed unrepentant as could be seen from the protest he stage-managed yesterday. “They said they see the protest he organised today (yesterday) as an act of impudence and not showing remorse for his action and denigrating remarks against the Senate. They finally asked him to stew in his mess”

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