John Alechenu,John Ameh,Olusola Fabiyi and Leke Baiyewu
Members of the National Assembly who recently dumped the All Progressives Congress to join the opposition Peoples Democratic Party have said they are not afraid of being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
They argued that they had nothing to fear because they were confident that the anti-graft agency had nothing to implicate them for fraudulent activities.
In an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH in Abuja on Friday, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, (Kwara-South), said the defectors were ready for any witch-hunt from the APC government and its agencies.
Ibrahim, who is the spokesperson for the 15 senators who recently dumped the APC, explained that the constitution guarantees every Nigerian the right to freedom of association.
He said, “We are not supposed to prepare for the worst scenario but we are ready to make any sacrifice to defend democracy. We are telling the whole world to be vigilant because this government has shown enough traits of being a dictatorship.”
Also, one of Saraki’s loyalists in the Senate, who spoke on a condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media on the issue, said the EFCC had done its worst.
According to him, what could be worse than what the agency put the Senate President and his wife, Toyin, through over the case of alleged false asset declaration?
The source, noted that after the Code of Conduct Bureau and the EFCC tried but failed to establish a case against Saraki, the police had now taken over his persecution.
The senator said, “We are not expecting anything (from the Federal Government); there is nothing worse they want to do (against Saraki), if there was any, they would have done so before his defection.”
He said unlike the case of the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, who is now being investigated by the EFCC shortly after his defection, Saraki had gone through the tortuous trial and triumphed.
He said, “What else can the EFCC do? The commission investigated him and could not find anything (against Saraki). They then used the EFCC’s report against him at the CCT. What else? You could see that the lead prosecution witnesses in the case were EFCC operatives. That was why the Supreme Court in its judgment said other agencies had taken over the job of the CCB, which was supposed to conduct the investigation, and that was a minus for the case.”
We’ll gladly honour EFCC’s invitation — Reps
In the same vein, members of the House of Representatives, who recently defected to the PDP, expressed readiness to submit themselves for probe if asked to do so by the EFCC.
The lawmakers claimed they have been enjoying sound sleep since their mass defection and would continue to do so without fear.
Recall that 37 members of the APC had defected on Tuesday, last week.
Thirty-two of them went to the PDP, while four members moved to the African Democratic Congress. One of the members has yet to join a new party.
There have been speculations that the APC-controlled government may send anti-graft agencies after the defectors in a bid to compel them to return to the APC.
But, the lawmakers reacted that the thought itself was laughable since they had nothing to hide.
They also stated that a resort to using the EFCC to hound them would merely expose the “desperation” of the government to remain in power beyond 2019.
For example, the coordinator of the defectors, Mr. Razak Atunwa, told Sunday PUNCH that so long as the members did not soil their hands by indulging in any criminal act, they had nothing to fear.
Atunwa, who is the Chairman, House Committee on Justice, stated that any invitation extended by the EFCC would be immediately honoured, adding that he would be glad to do so.
He added, “Why should I have sleepless nights? I have nothing to worry about, I am speaking personally and I have no skeleton in my cupboard. If I am invited by any agency today, I will gladly walk into their office.”
Atunwa added that the current fight was not about individuals, but a collective decision by many stakeholders to “rescue” Nigeria from the APC.
He said, “Thankfully, you have seen the APC in power and you have been able to assess whether or not, they will be able to deliver what they said in 2019, yet they failed to deliver it in four years. There is nothing to write home about.”
Another defector, Mr. Bode Ayorinde, said he was surprised that anybody would think that he would be afraid of the anti-graft agencies.
Ayorinde stated that he acted as a Nigerian, who exercised his democratic right to make informed political decisions, not minding the consequences it might have on him.
“He who has a clear conscience fear no foe; perhaps that one would have stopped me from exercising my right. I have been very vocal in the House in the last three years.
“I have spoken against the President’s Executive Order 6, I have spoken against the herdsmen killings and I have spoken against lopsided appointments.
“So, I don’t have anything to fear,” the lawmaker said.
Ayorinde explained that the members took their time to assess the situation in the APC before they decided to move.
He cited the recently concluded congresses of the party, saying that forces within the party ensured that the people who bought forms to contest were shut out by the APC.
Ayorinde, who is from Ondo State, added, “What is personal interest about something that is unjust and unfair? A government that doesn’t believe in democracy, that pretends to promote democracy and the rule of law and practises a different thing.
“If they can get away with it, sometime soon they will even write the names of those who will go to the House of Assembly and House of Representatives without allowing elections to hold.
“It is not because you didn’t have ticket, no. It is about fairness, equity and justice, because at that level that is the foundation of democracy.”
Our members can’t be cowed — CUPP
Meanwhile, the co-spokesperson for the Coalition of United Political Parties, Mark Adebayo, also spoke in defence of the defectors.
He said members of the opposition political parties who came together to form the CUPP knew what they were up against by coming together to rescue Nigeria.
Adebayo said, “It is understandable that President Muhammadu Buhari knows how to use brute force not necessarily the use of power. He knows how to use brute force to attack the opposition and to try to cow the opposition and try to intimidate us; that should not surprise anyone. He is a trained military man and old habits die hard.
“But for us, being afraid is not an option; they can bring on the EFCC, the military, the DSS whichever, he controls the institutions and the instruments of coercion but we will not be deterred, we are not intimidated.”
Earlier, Ibrahim had also taken a swipe at the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, for asking the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, to resign from his position for dumping the APC.
The senator said he was particularly pained by the fact that he and his colleagues who recently dumped the APC were being hounded by the same government they helped to install.
He said, “Look at the example of those who are saying that the Senate President should resign because h
e has defected. They have forgotten that Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal defected then (from the PDP to the APC) as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Did the then ruling party ask him to step down as Speaker? But they (APC) were rejoicing.
“They should just calm down. If they want Saraki not to be Senate President anymore, they should gather the two-thirds of members. It is as simple as that.”
Asked to react to the comment made by Senator Abu Ibrahim (APC, Katsina-South) that there would not be peace in the Senate until Saraki resigns, the Kwara senator dismissed the comment.
He said, “It means that all along there was a plot to be using the police to hound people in the legislature. If a senator – a democratically-elected senator said there would not be peace in a hallowed chamber if something he desires is not done, then you can see their mind.”
Efforts to speak with the spokesman for the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, on Saturday proved abortive as his telephone lines indicated that they were switched off.
Saraki won’t resign, Misau, Ibrahim tells APC
Also, Senators who dumped the APC for the PDP have dared the lawmaker representing Katsina South Senatorial District, Senator Abu Ibrahim, to do his worst over Saraki’s defection.
Two of the 14 senators who have defected from the ruling APC to the opposition party, Senator Isa Misau (Bauchi-Central) and Senator Rafiu Ibrahim (Kwara-South), in a statement they jointly issued on Saturday, warned the Katsina senator and “his fellow travellers” in the APC not to foment any trouble when the Senate resumes on September 25.
The senators stated that “Saraki will never resign from the position.”
Misau and Ibrahim were reacting to an interview granted by the Katsina senator, stating that Abu Ibrahim and his colleagues would “meet their match if they try anything illegal even with all the deployment of security forces which they might have been assured of by the executive arm of government.”
Ibrahim is a member of the Parliamentary Support Group, a group of APC senators loyal to President Muhammadu Buhari, while Misau and Rafiu Ibrahim are known allies of Saraki.
The lawmakers said, “It is obvious from the statements of Abu Ibrahim that he and his cohorts are not democrats. They do not believe in the rule of law, the provisions of the constitution, the Standing Order of the Senate, parliamentary procedure and the due process.
“How will a supposed democrat be threatening to disrupt the peace in the parliament because his party lost members and lost its majority status?”
Misau and Ibrahim asked APC senators to note that they were now the minority party.
The statement partly read, “The PDP has more members. When we resume, if they push us, we will move for a headcount of members and change some of our principal officers to reflect party strength.
“Today, by the list paraded by the APC, they have only 48 senators and the PDP has 54, APGA has 2 and ADC has 2. There are two vacancies. That is the distribution in the Senate. Let them continue to deceive themselves,” the lawmakers stated.
“We will use our strength to defend the position of the present leadership of the Senate under Dr. Saraki and Senator Ike Ekweremadu. We will defend democracy and the rule of law against the pretenders. We will show that every senator represents different constituencies in our country.”
“Our colleague from Katsina State has equally demonstrated that even though he has spent four terms in the legislature, he has not imbibed parliamentary ethos. Even his knowledge of the provisions of the law and the Senate rules is suspect. That is why he misrepresented the provisions of Rule 12 Orders 1, 2 and 3 of the Senate about the process of reconvening the Senate after it properly adjourned.
“By the provision, without all the leaders of the four parties initiating the reconvening of the Senate before the adjourned date, nothing can legally happen. Also, without the consent of the Senate President, nothing can happen.
“We urge him and his colleagues to know that if they tried anything illegal and indecent, we will resist it through legal means. They saw an instance with the way our colleagues in the House of Representatives quickly gathered to foil their failed coup early this week.”
Misau and Ibrahim further said the Katsina senator and “his cohorts” had shown that they were desperate to win the 2019 elections “at all costs.”
The lawmakers said they were surprised that the defection was making the APC so uncomfortable that it was ready to bring the country down because some senators left the ruling party.