Your ban can’t stand, pro-Buhari senate group tells Saraki

Despite being banned, Parliamentary Support Group (PSG) is spoiling for a fight with the Senate leadership.

PSG, which is backing President Muhammadu Buhari on the order of elections, said yesterday that its ban could only stand, if similar groups in the Senate were banned. It was learnt that 20 governors are behind the group.

Some members of the group’s Strategic Committee, who met in Abuja yesterday, said it would ask Senate President Bukola Saraki to disband groups like Like Minds, Northern Senators Forum (NSF) and others. Like Minds facilitated Saraki’s emergence as Senate President about three years ago in defiance of the directive of All Progressives Congress (APC).

PSG, which is considering a six-point plan, resolved to reconvene on Wednesday. It said it would stand by its secretary, Mr Ovie Omo-Agege, suspended last Thursday.

A member of the Strategic Committee, who spoke in confidence, said PSG would not be disbanded.

The source said: “We are not going to disband it because the Senate did not form it for us. The freedom of association is guaranteed in our Constitution, the freedom of speech is also guaranteed. It is a matter of interest.

“If not for groups like this, President of the Senate, Mr Bukola Saraki, won’t have emerged as our president. When we formed Like Minds Group, we disrespected the directive of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to elect him as Senate president.

“We have resolved to ask the Senate leadership to let us start by disbanding Like Minds Group, Northern Senators Forum and other groups in order to create a level-playing ground for all. Look, Northern Senators Forum is even more discriminatory than PSG”.

On the allegation that PSG was trying to create a parallel organ in the Senate, the source said: “We are no threat to the president of the Senate because we are not plotting against him, we have no plan to impeach him. Nobody can use us against him.

“We do not meet in the Senate, we always meet in somebody’s house. We have never announced any plan on the floor. Even when we were collecting signatures to oppose the plan to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on the sequence of elections, we were usually going to somebody’s house to sign”.

Responding to a question, the source added: “We will continue to meet. We have fixed a meeting for Wednesday and the Strategic Committee will hold a session on Sunday (yesterday).”

A ranking Senator in PSG listed the six-point plan as follows:

Ensure passage of 2018 Budget
Block plans to override the President’s veto on order of elections
Push for the confirmation of nominees for some public offices which was withheld by the Senate
Pass vote of confidence on Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu.
Give full support to Ovie Omo-Agege in his legal battle to regain his seat.
Continue to support President Muhammadu Buhari.

On the sequence of 2019 elections, the source said: “We are doing our best to block the plot to override the President’s veto and 20 governors are behind us.

“And if the Senate wants the reintroduced bill on sequence of elections to go for second reading, we are battle ready because it is in bad faith. Do not forget that they have to take it back to Mr. President.”

Another member of the group gave insights into what happened in the Senate before Omo-Agege was suspended.

The source said: “It was really unfortunate that Omo-Agege was suspended. In fairness, a principal officer had intervened and assured PSG members that he will prevail on the leadership to accept the Senator’s apology.

“He said he was guaranteeing that Omo- Agege would not be suspended. We met on Wednesday before he was suspended on our line of action and we sent to the said principal officer to the Senate leadership to remove it from the Order Paper.

“Even when Omo-Agege saw the issue of his suspension on the Order Paper, he tried to reach out to the said principal officer without access.”

Asked of the next step, the source said: “We are already in court, the suspension is illegal and subjudice.

“The Senate does not have a right to suspend any member for expressing his views. It is only in the standing order to suspend a member who is unruly on the floor but not for more than two weeks.

“There is a subsisting judgement that the Senate cannot suspend a member for expressing opinion because the right of expression is guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution.

“There is a subsisting court judgement in favour of Mr Ali Ndume which says that you cannot suspend a Senator for a day for expressing his views. The Senate has gone on appeal and there is no stay of execution of the judgement till date. So, it was illegal to suspend Omo-Agege.

“Under the guise of the rule of law, some senators run to the court when it is about their interest but when they come to the Senate, they turn the rule of law upside down and come up with different interpretations.

“Most Nigerians do not know that the report of the committee which the Senate used to suspend Senator Omo-Agege was signed by six out of 16 members of the panel. And all of the members except two are from an opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).”

There were fears over the likely suspension of the former NSF Chairman Mr Abdullahi Adamu.

A quiet member of PSG said: “We learnt the report on Adamu is ready and it might be tabled this week.

“From all indications, Adamu might also be suspended for expressing his views. But the tyranny of the gavel will not last.”

The Nation

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