Senate suspends pro-Buhari senator

The Senate, yesterday, decisively sanctioned Senator Ovie Omo- Agege (APC, Delta Central), by suspending him for 90 legislative days. The Senator had accused his colleagues in the Red Chamber of plotting to frustrate the President’s second term bid. That was after the intervention of the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who pleaded with his colleagues to reduce the suspension from 181 legislative days earlier recommended by the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, which investigated the lawmaker.

The apex legislative chamber also disbanded the Parliamentary Support Group for Buhari, a group under which umbrella Omo-Agege and some other senators had operated in recent months in demonstration of their unflinching support for Buhari’s re-election proposal. It further mandated Omo-Agege to immediately withdraw the court action he took against the President of the Senate and the entire Senate. The suspended Senator, however, said that the action of the Senate in suspending him was subjudice because he had taken the matter to court for adjudication.

The suspension was sequel to the consideration and adoption of the report of the Senate Committee on Ethics Privileges and Public Petitions, which was mandated to investigate the Delta-born lawmaker over his uncomplimentary comments about the institution of the Senate, regarding Amendment to the Electoral Act, reordering sequence of elections in Nigeria.

The Chairman of the committee, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, while presenting the report, said that the committee’s investigation of Omo-Agege followed a Point of Order raised by Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi- APC) on the matter. He explained that Melaye drew the attention of the Chamber to a media briefing by Senator Omo- Agege, where he faulted Senate’s adoption of the conference on February 14, alleging that the reordering of election sequence by the Senate was targeted at President Buhari. Anyanwu said that the allegations brought against the Senate were found to be false after due investigation and, therefore, recommended that Senator Omo-Agege be suspended for 181 legislative days, to serve as deterrent.

The committee also recommended that the court action instituted by the Senator be immediately withdrawn while the Parliamentary Support Group for Buhari, in which Omo-Agege is the Secretary-General be dissolved, which was adopted. He said the committee was surprised that Omo- Agege changed his mind and took the Senate President and the entire Senate to court, after admitting to guilt on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday, February 21, 2018 when he publicly apologised to the leadership and the entire Senate.

Anyanwu said: “As an insightful, effective and forthright member of the committee up to that hour, this action infuriated all the members of the committee who fired questions from all directions at him. “When he was asked if his court action came before or after the matter was referred to the Committee and whether a court action could stop the Senate from carrying out its responsibility, he kept mute; but the Committee noted that his court action came after the referral and his apology.

“The Distinguished Senator had apologised, he and Senator Abdullahi Adamu published an advert in the Vanguard Newspaper with the heading, Parliamentary Support Group (Senate) for President Muhammadu Buhari”, suggesting that the Senate was polarized.“The committee is of the opinion that the action by Senator Ovie Omo-Agege of going to court after apologising to the Senate was totally unacceptable, especially as an experienced lawyer and member of the committee who is conversant with the modus operandi of same, and therefore, must be punished to serve as deterrent to others who might contemplate taking the Senate to court over its internal matters”, he stressed.

The President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, however, in his remarks before putting the recommendations into voice votes, pleaded that the number of days be reduced from 181 legislative days to 90, while kicking against total forgiveness for the erring senator as canvassed by the Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan and Senator Kabiru Marafa. Saraki stressed that the Senate as an institution must be respected and, therefore, ruled that Senator Omo-Agege must not be made to escape justice for his utterances on the Electoral Act. He said: “Distinguished colleagues, a number of points have been raised. One borders on the issue of preserving the integrity of this institution.

To me, that is what I think is the most important thing for us. “Second is where we take actions that are not sincere. I think in this chamber, if we want to talk about who has the right to say he is Chairman of a Parliamentary Support Group for Mr. President both by action and by what we have done, I think that I have the right to lead that — more than anyone else here. “Those of us that understand politics, understand that because of our own peculiar interest. Sometimes, some people decide to act like they are holier than thou or more committed — at the expense of others. This is not something that we should tolerate and I believe that in an institution like, this we must show discipline.

But at the same time, we must also show compassion. “Distinguished colleagues, there must be discipline. We must show that such groups must be suspended and the case in court must be withdrawn”. Senator Ahmad Lawan (APC, Yobe North) and Senator Kabiru Marafa (APC, Zamfara Central) had pleaded that the erring member be pardoned, but be made to withdraw his court case against the Senate and its leadership as well as the dissolution of the Parliamentary Support Group for Buhari. They particularly described the group as “evil and unnecessary” which has the tendency of caus-ing further division in the upper legislative chamber”.

But the deputy leader of the Senate, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, stressed the need to protect the institution of Senate, so as to serve as deterrent to others. Meanwhile, Omo-Agege has described his suspension as subjudice because the matter was already in court, arguing that the Senate ought to have waited for the court to conclude on the matter before taking any action. He expressed this opinion in a statement signed by his senior legislative aide, Efe Duku, who also appealed to the people of Delta Central and all the supporters of the lawmaker to remain calm.

The statement reads: “We owe our people a responsibility to address concerns arising from today’s proceedings in the Senate as they relate to the Most Distinguished Senator Ovie Omo-Agege. Our first duty is to appeal for calm and we hereby do so trusting that there is no insurmountable challenge before us. There is adequate capacity to address the now widely reported “suspension” matter. “As already well-known by many, the issues acted upon today by the Senate are pending before a court of competent jurisdiction and therefore subjudice. It is the Senate’s view that the issues be withdrawn from court for an amicable resolution to hold.

Until a resolution is reached, it is better to respect the court processes by not commenting on them. “Also, we note that as part of the resolution of the issues, the Senate President, Distinguished Senator Bukola Saraki ruled that the Parliamentary Support Group, PSG, (Senate) for President Muhammadu Buhari should be disbanded. This should be a matter for the over 50 members of PSG to decide, possibly with President Buhari on whose behalf they openly work as Distinguished Senators of the Federal Republic. “In the circumstance, we appeal for calm and assure that as a fervent believer in the rule of law, our Senator is in positive spirit. He deeply respects the institution of the senate and his good friends in the senate. He will never undermine them. He remains an ardent supporter of Mr. President’s agenda for a better nation for all and will continue to work assiduously for his re-election”.