Tobi Soniyi, Yemi Akinsuyi and Damilola Oyedele
The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) has said it has not concluded its investigations into the alleged forgery of the Senate’s Standing Order, adding that no copy of its report had been handed to President Muhammadu Buhari as reported in some sections of the media.
Speaking to THISDAY yesterday on the purported report, the Force Public Relations Officer Emmanuel Ojukwu described as false the news report that the investigation into the alleged forgery had been concluded and a report submitted to the president by the police.
A news story at the weekend claimed that the president had received a copy of the police report last week, confirming that the Standing Rules used to inaugurate the Eighth Assembly were forged.
In the story, the police were said to have recommended the prosecution of those found culpable of forging the rules, which were used in the election of the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, and his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu on June 9, 2015.
The report was said to have indicted the management of the National Assembly, especially the clerk, Salisu Maikasuwa, among others, and recommended the prosecution of the suspects.
However, Ojukwu told THISDAY that the investigation was still ongoing, adding that no report was submitted to the president.
“I want to state categorically that the investigation into the allegation of forgery at the Senate is still ongoing. We have not concluded it yet, so where did the media get the information that not only has it been concluded but handed over to President Mohammed Buhari.
“The investigation is still ongoing and whenever it is ready, we will make it available to the public. The media report that we have concluded the investigation into the case is false and should be disregarded,” he said.
Also commenting on the story, a Senator said he expected the police, being part of the executive arm of government, to recognise the separation of powers, which could invalidate their findings.
He added that if there were any alterations to the Senate rules, they must have been done by the civil servants in the National Assembly and not the senators who had not even been sworn-in to review the rules.
Acting on a petition by Senator Sulaiman Hunkuyi of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the police had on July 6 quizzed Maikasuwa over the alleged forgery of the standing rules of the upper legislative chamber.
The petition alleged that some parts of the 2015 rules were different from the one ratified by the Sixth Senate in 2010 and was used by the Seventh Senate in 2011.
The police, on the strength of the petition, had subsequently quizzed the leadership of the Seventh Senate, including former Senate President David Mark; his deputy (now Saraki’s deputy), Ekweremadu; former Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba; and the former Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Enang.
Maikasuwa, who is the custodian of the standing rules, was also invited for questioning by the police.
But as the crisis from last month’s leadership election in the National Assembly festers, Buhari will today meet the APC caucus in the House of Representatives.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, confirmed the meeting to State House correspondents yesterday.
Shehu said the meeting would hold at the new Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja by 5pm.
“President Muhammadu Buhari will be meeting with the APC members of the House of Representatives at the new Banquet Hall of the State House on Monday at 5pm,” he said.
But as a prelude to the meeting, supporters of Hon. Femi Gbajabimiala’s bid to emerge as the House Leader have remained adamant despite the fact that some of their key members have jumped ship to align with the supporters of the Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara.
The Loyalists’ Group, which has remained loyal to Gbajabiamila and the APC, at a press briefing in Abuja yesterday, alleged that contrary to media reports, Dogara did not concede any position to them, but chose to lure individual members with the offers of key principal position in the House.
Gbajabiamila was absent from the briefing, although there were indications earlier that he was being expected.
Dogara’s nominees for House Leader and Chief Whip, Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa and Hon. Pally Iriase respectively, who at a briefing on Saturday reiterated that they were still part of the Loyalists’ Group despite accepting the nominations, were also absent.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Hon. Nasiru Sani Zangon Daura insisted that the continued defiance of the APC by the Speaker as indicated in his July 16 letter to the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun, was deplorable.
Daura added that the alliance by the Speaker with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) House members was aimed at truncating the anti-corruption agenda of the Buhari administration or slow it down through the National Assembly.
He further alleged that the alliance was meant to enable the PDP indirectly dictate the pace and activities of the National Assembly to the detriment of the goals and objectives of the APC.
“We had hoped that with a difference of just 8 votes between Dogara and Femi (Gbajabiamila), Speaker Dogara would have realised the need to cultivate a united House.
“To have a genuine agreement that is not tainted by the PDP, the Dogara group will have to first of all cut off the umbilical cord between it and the PDP and secondly engage in candid reconciliatory discussions with our group as a whole through our approved members under the leadership of Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila,” Daura said.
Daura noted that the insistence by his group was not about Gbajabiamila and others, but about being loyal and committed to the manifesto of the APC, and adopting the stance of the president that the party’s decision was supreme.
On the party’s attempt at mediation, Daura disclosed that a planned second meeting with Sokoto Governor Aminu Tambuwal was yet to take place.
“To the Dogara Group and their PDP allies, we are aware of your attempt to deny entry into the House’s chamber to members of the Loyalists’ Group especially the likes of Hon. Aliyu Madaki, Hon. Rufai Chanchangi, Hon. Philip Shaibu, Hon. Mohamed Soba, Hon. Isa Aliyu Zuru, Hon. Ahmed Babba Kaita, Hon. Ismaila Sulaiman, Hon. James Faleke, Hon. Yusuf Ikara, Hon. Abdullahi Salame and Hon. Abubakar Chika.
“We strongly warn Speaker Dogara that we will not take any breach of our members’ privileges lightly and we will hold you, Speaker Dogara, personally responsible. Honour is earned through honourable actions. A word is enough for the wise!” Daura warned.
However, the position of Hon. Mohammed Monguno, a member of the Loyalists’ Group, on whether he was adopting the position of the group or backing the Dogara proposal became unclear yesterday.
Daura, in his address, said the Loyalists’ Group had “accepted the apology made by Hon. M.T Monguno for being misled into attending a press conference organised by Speaker Dogara’s group yesterday”.
Monguno, who under the original nomination of the APC was pencilled down for Deputy Speaker, at the briefing on Saturday by the spokesperson of the Consolidation Group led by Dogara, Hon. Jibrin Abdulmumim, had expressed support for the Speaker’s proposal on principal posts in the interest of peace and stability in the House.
Hon. Asabe Vilita, representing Damboa/Chibok/Gwoza Federal Constituency in Borno State, however claimed at yesterday’s briefing that she was standing in for Monguno who had to travel to Maiduguri to attend the funeral of “a brother”.
“He has sent in his unreserved apology for his inability to attend this press conference. He is bereaved, he lost a brother yesterday in Borno and he had to travel to attend the funeral and the idea of this press conference came up after he already left, so he called the leadership of the Loyalist’s Group and apologised for his inability to attend this press conference and to buttress his point, he called me here to represent him,” she said.
Attempts to reach Monguno were unsuccessful as his mobile was switched off at press time.
In a related development, the spokesperson of the Consolidation Group, Hon. Abdulmumim, yesterday blamed the distribution of committees for the unyielding stance of the group backing Gbajabiamila in the House.
In a telephone interview with THISDAY, Abdulmumim disclosed that the Loyalists’ Group was consulted before his group went public with the nominations of Doguwa and Iriase as Majority Leader and Chief Whip, and also got Monguno on board.
He however alleged that when it became clear that the Speaker would accommodate Hon. Femi Gbajabiaila and Monguno with “commensurate committee appointments”, some few members of the Loyalists’ Group also seized the opportunity to push for the so-called “juicy committees” in the House.
“But the Speaker told them no member of the House had been promised anything. He told them to wait until the bridge on principal positions had been crossed, before looking into the committees. He also gave his word that he would be fair to everyone.
“But they brought out a list with their names on it and insisted that he gave his commitment to the committees he would give each of them. The Speaker declined,” Abdulmumim said.
He said that the overtures were made by members of the Loyalists’ Group in the last one week, alleging that it was these few members who want the crises to linger.
He, however, noted that the Consolidation Group was committed to getting through the crisis and would continue collecting signatures of House members to back the nominations of Doguwa (North-west), Iriase, (South-south), Hon. Buba Fibrin (North-central) as Deputy House Leader and Hon. Chike Okafor (South-east) as Deputy Chief Whip.
Abdulmumim refuted claims by the Loyalists’ Group that Monguno apologised for being part of the press briefing held by Dogara’s supporters on Saturday.
He also refuted claims that there was a plan to block some members of the Loyalists’ Group from gaining access to the National Assembly tomorrow.
“As far as we are concerned, this crisis is over, we have made compromises; these compromises have been accepted. Some few selfish people want to be very unreasonable and we believe there is no individual that must be placed above the House.
“We must make sure that the national interest supersedes individual interests at all times. That is our position, our arms are open, we embrace peace so that we can get down to work for the Nigerian people.
“There is no way Doguwa, Iriase and Monguno would have taken unilateral decisions. It was a collective decision,” Abdulmumim added.
He expressed confidence that the Speaker had satisfied the recommendations of the APC, as both the letter by the chairman and his response had been overtaken by events.
“At the last NEC meeting, the party itself, put aside its list by asking the committee of governors to go and find a solution that accommodates both parties.
“By that singular action, even the party itself has set aside that letter. In any case, the Speaker due to the respect he has for the national chairman, replied the letter. In the letter, of the four names that the party suggested should be accommodated as principal officers of the House, three were part of our press conference.
“And today at the press conference that the so-called Loyalists’ Group had, none of these three attended,” Abdulmumim said.