Saraki On Collision Course With Buhari Over Summon Of Perm Sec.
The senate, under the leadership of Dr. Bukola Saraki and the presidency appears set for a tussle over the summoning of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Mrs. Anastacia Nwaobia.
The Senate ad hoc committee on Finance, in a letter dated June 29, 2015, had invited Nwaobia and some officials of the finance ministry to appear before the committee on July 8.
But when the permanent secretary did not honour the invitation at 11am on July 8, the Clerk to the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa, wrote another letter to her the same day, restating the invitation.
The permanent secretary was said to have sent a text message to the Senate on July 7, explaining why she could not come.
She was said to have communicated to the Senate that she could not honour its invitation without an approval by her supervisors to do so.
The third letter to the Permanent Secretary, written by the Chief of Staff to the Senate President, Issa Galaudu, also stressed the importance of the meeting. It read, “Please note that your text message of yesterday, Tuesday, July 7, 2015, which I received by hours of 20:02 pm, suggesting that you would not make today’s meeting, is unacceptable.
“This is an affront to the President of the Senate and its leadership. The provision of Section 67(2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), is very clear and unambiguous in this regard. Hence, you do not need the permission of any official before you attend or appear before the Senate.
“Consequently, I have the instructions of the President of the Senate and leadership that you do appear before them on the date and time earlier communicated to you, Wednesday, July 8, 2015 by 11am prompt. It is my belief that you will comply unconditionally.”
As of the close of work on Friday, the permanent secretary, our correspondents learnt, had not appeared before the Senate.
A source in the Ministry of Finance said that, based on civil service procedures, it would be wrong for the permanent secretary to honour the invitation without first getting the approval of the Head of Service of the Federation.
The source said since the permanent secretary reports directly to the HoS and not the Senate, it would amount to a breach of protocol for her to appear before the lawmakers without getting the consent of the HoS.
But senators loyal to Senate President Saraki disagree with such explanation.
The Saraki loyalists said the Senate had the constitutional power to invite Nwaobia and that her refusal constituted an affront to the legitimacy of the senate president.
They harped their belief on the alleged ‘non-acceptance’ of his presidency by the All Progressives Congress and President Muhammadu Buhari.
Both Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, had spurned the party’s directive on who to lead the National Assembly and had ridden on the back of an alleged alliance with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party members to clinch the leadership posts in both chambers.
The APC had preferred Ahmad Lawan, a Senator from Yobe State, as the president of the Senate.
“It will not augur well for our democracy if the Presidency will not allow civil servants to do their jobs. We should not carry the crisis in the APC to the Senate,” a pro-Saraki senator said on Sunday.
But the Lawan group in the Senate on Sunday said it supported Nwaobia because Saraki was said to lack both legitimacy and the moral right to invite the permanent secretary to brief the senate on the state of the economy.
The group, in a statement by its spokesman, Senator Kabir Marafa, on Sunday, said that since Saraki had allegedly violated some sections of the Constitution to emerge as senate president, he could not accuse another person of committing the same offence.
The senator said, “I read with open mouth amazement, the letter written by both the Chief of Staff to the Senate President and that of the Clerk to the National Assembly on the refusal or inability of a government functionary to honour the invitation of the “leadership” of the senate.
“They were saying the refusal violates section 67(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Can somebody please tell them that they are guilty of similar, if not higher offence?
“They, in fact, not only violated the Constitution to ascend to the Senate leadership, they murdered it.”
Marafa alleged that the leadership and management of the National Assembly, “murdered section 60 of the Constitution that gives the Senate, and not any individual or group of persons, the powers to conduct the business of the Senate on the 9th of June 2015 using the forged document”
He also alleged that the Saraki group violated section 65 (2b) of the Constitution that “recognises the supremacy of the political party in favour of the unmentioned, unrecognised and unknown zonal caucuses.”
He alleged that Saraki violated Order 3(2) of the Senate standing order 2011, as amended, which he said put ranking above all other considerations in nominating senators to serve as presiding or principal officers of the Senate and it’s committees.
Marafa added that Saraki’s decision to announce Senators Ali Ndume and Bala Na’ Allah as senate leader and deputy leader respectively flouted the rule of ranking because Senators Ahmed Lawan and Bukar Abba Ibrahim, who were nominated by the party for the positions, were seniors to Ndume and Na’Allah.
He said, “The presiding officer did not hit the gavel after announcing the names of the Senate leader and his deputy, this is required to give the announcement legislative authority.
“From the foregoing it is clear that the leadership and indeed the Senate itself are not properly and legally constituted.”