Saraki, Dogara renew hostility against anti-graft batlle
Nigerians are angry with Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Hon. Dogara, for mocking the anti-corruption crusade of President Muhammadu Buhari. Observers believe their disposition development has called to question the loyalty of the leaders of the National Assembly to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which they belong. Assistant Editor LEKE SALAUDEEN reports.
The cold war between the executive and the legislature is far from being over. At a recent book launch in Abuja, the leaders of the National Assembly took a swipe on the Federal Government’s anti-corruption fight. Senate President Bukola Saraki claimed that the anti-graft war was sensational and selective while the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, insisted the war was only dealing with the symptoms of corruption.
Analysts could not understand why the leadership of the National Assembly chose to castigate the executive in public. They noted that this is the first time in the history of democratic governance where both arms of government controlled by a party would disagree openly on a policy that is contained in the party’s manifesto.
They described the attack on the policy as the climax of party indiscipline and disloyalty, since both of them were elected on the platform of the APC. The questions being asked are: What moral justification do they have to subject the party’s programme to public ridicule? Assuming they are not satisfied with the method deployed by the executive to fight corruption, can’t they use party’s internal communication lines to express their reservations and make suggestions?
Prior to this development, both chambers had held the executive into ransom for what they described as the failure to implement parliamentary resolutions. As a result, the legislators had refused to consider proposals from the executive. The face-off took its toll on governance; it slowed down the decision-making process and also heightened political tension. For instance, the list of Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC) and ministerial nominees forwarded to the Senate were kept in abeyance. Why should the National Assembly dominated by the APC members be playing the role of the opposition? Can’t they resolve their differences at party caucus level, rather than working at cross-purposes?
Afenifere chieftain Senator Ayo Fasanmi said the comments of both leaders were very unfortunate. He said they are trying to recant the statement to safe face. To the elder statesman, no amount of denial would absolve them from anti-party activities; it is on record that they branded President Muhammadu Buhari’s fight against corruption a ruse.
Fasanmi said anyone saying Buhari’s anti-graft war is not on course needed to re-examine himself, considering the huge success recorded in recovering the public fund looted by the Peoples Democratic Party members (PDP) and their collaborators in the civil service.
He said: “President Buhari should not be distracted by the antics of forces of corruption. He should get along; he should not be discouraged. Fighting corruption in Nigeria is a difficult task that must be done if we don’t want corruption to kill this country.
I made bold to say that Buhari is on course; the forces of corruption will capitulate whether they like it or not. The progressive forces which Buhari personify will overwhelm the forces of corruption in this country. If not for Buhari, only God knows what would have become of Nigeria if we had continued in the era of stealing-is-no-corruption.
Public Affairs analyst Dr Friday Ibok described the APC as a ruling party that is not in power in the legislature. He said the power was eroded by personal interests. He said: “You should remember how Saraki and Dogara emerged as leaders of both chambers. They were not the ruling party’s candidates; they defied the party’s instruction and with the support of members of the PDP, they sailed through. How would you expect them to respect party supremacy?
“The APC got it wrong from day one when Saraki and Dogara defied the party instruction and there was no sanction against them. That is why they talk any how; criticise the party’s policies in the public with impunity. Such will never happen in a disciplined party. There is what we call collective responsibility. You can disagree within the party, but not without. If they are not satisfied with Buhari’s style of fighting corruption they should write him a memo, detail their observations and suggestions on how to improve on the anti-graft war.
“To me, Saraki and Dogara have exhibited political immaturity and indiscipline by criticising the party’s programme openly. The support of the PDP members for the Senate President and the Speaker of the House, who are APC members against the position of the APC government is not just because the PDP lawmakers voted for them, but it is part of the script written before they agreed to join forces with some APC lawmakers to weaken the avowed crusade against corruption and win back power in 2019.”
On what should be done to restore normalcy within the party, Ibok warned against what he described as the personalisation of the problems of the party and advised the leaders of the APC to handle the anti-party activities of Saraki and Dogara with extra care so that it will not destabilise the party.
A lawyer and civil right activist, Mr Monday Ubani, said he was not surprised that the leaders of National Assembly are mocking Buhari’s anti-corruption fight, because they have never supported the president in his effort to expose the corrupt politicians.
Ubani cited the treatment of the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu, when he appeared before the Senate for confirmation and the non-passage of bills sent to the National Assembly by the executive that would have enhanced the fight against corruption. He said some of them have been lying there for more than a year without consideration by the federal lawmakers.
He added: “Nigerians are in support of the anti-graft war of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government. Corruption has retarded the development of this country; the enemies of progress are saying no; they won’t succeed. Now that Buhari is out there for medical attention, they are beating their chest that the fight against corruption would not succeed. Many of them are praying that Buhari should not come back alive. We are praying for him to get over his health problems and return home to continue his good work.”
However, Ubani wants the anti-corruption war extended to all sectors. He said: “It should not be restricted to politicians alone. The police still collects bribe openly from motorists on the road; the immigration and customs officials still demand for bribe at the points of entry and departure; to obtain national passport the immigration officers collect gratification; the Road Safety corps members still get kick-backs from those who apply for driver’s licence.” He said the anti-corruption fight should look in the direction of the civil servants who are enmeshed in corrupt practices.
Ubani added: “We should build a system that will sustain the fight against corruption like it is being done in advanced democracies. We should involve people in the fight and that is why I like the whistle-blowing policy of this administration. Since it was introduced, the EFFC has made many discoveries and recoveries of looted funds. The policy is working, because people are carried along by the government in its anti-corruption crusade.”
A banker, Usman Abubakar, agreed with Ubani that the legislature is not on the same page with the executive on the fight against corruption. He said the reason being that some of the members of the Senate were former governors with baggage. They will resist any attempt to wage war against corruption, he emphasised.
Abubakar said they kicked against Magu because he would not spare anyone in the course of investigating corrupt officials, no matter their status. He added: “He was treated shabbily when he appeared for confirmation; he was not allowed to defend himself against the report of the Directorate of State Service (DSS) that alleged him of corrupt practices.”
He said Nigerians should not be surprised that Saraki and Dogara are mocking the anti-corruption crusade, because both of them emerged as leaders of both chambers in a questionable manner. He said they were not the party’s nominees.
Abubakar said: “Only God knows how much they used to bribe the PDP legislators to clinch the leadership positions. We should blame President Buhari for the leadership problem in the National Assembly. If he had shown interest and come out to support the APC nominees for Senate President and the House Speaker, we won’t find ourselves in this terrible situation whereby members of the ruling party have constituted themselves into opposition; thereby undermining the efforts of the executive. The APC senators perform the role of opposition to the delight of PDP members.
“To me, the Eighth National Assembly is the worst in the history of democratic governance in this country. The Senate President, Saraki is facing a criminal charge before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over false declaration of asset. He goes from the hallowed Chamber of the Senate to face trial and return to the Senate to preside over the proceedings. Saraki has desecrated that office. In other climes, when people holding public office are alleged of crime and charged to court, they will step aside till the trial is over and the judgment delivered.
“What I find intriguing is that Saraki has the gut to be telling Buhari how to fight corruption. He should be told that this is not the first time Buhari is fighting corruption in this country. When he was a military ruler between December 1983 and August 1984, Buhari clamped down on corrupt politicians of the Second Republic and purged them of the stolen public funds and assets. If we were under military rule, the likes of Saraki would have known his fate by now.”
Civil rights activist Mashood Erubami described Saraki and Dogara’s negative comments as a product of the opposition forces, which the fight is actually targeted.
He said the criticisms were coming from those who are being tried for the offences of corruption, but are being slowly tried due to the connivance of the bar and the bench. He said the case are not being speedily disposed. He said they should have been banned from politics and clamped into jail, to serve as a deterrent to others.
Erubami said the notion that the current anti-corruption crusade has failed because no suspect had been convicted is not true, because of open conspiracy between certain institutions of government that are determined to frustrate APC/Buhari focussed anti-corruption fight. That explains why despite the criminal justice adjudication system, cases are still taking longer time than necessary to be determined.
He said: “Presently, there are forces that have constituted themselves into opposition in the police, EFCC, the legislature, the judiciary including the bar that is waging counter offensives against the anti-corruption struggle of the Buhari administration. They are against the anti-corruption war and are currently fighting back the crusade to sanitise the society, using their monopoly without discretion to debar accountability through weakening the anti-corruption institutions.”
Erubami, who is also the President, Nigeria Voters Assembly (VOTAS), said: “Any individual or institution found to be siding the derailment of the processes of enforcing deterrence against commission of the crimes of corruption, one of which is prosecution and imprisonment when found culpable, cannot be said to be favourably disposed to fighting corruption which obviously has been the main reason why conviction has been hard to come by. More so because some of the judges who are expected to dispense justice equitably are themselves very corrupt.”
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