ABUJA (Sundiata Post) – Senate Minority Leader, Senator George Akume, on Tuesday gave indication that senators of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) must have been hit where it really hurts since last week, following the pronouncements of the Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe.
Led by Akume on the floor of the Upper Chamber, APC fought in vain to stop the confirmation of former Minister of State for Defence, Senator Mohammed Musiliu Obanikoro, as a returning minister.
The APC senators particularly questioned Obanikoro’s qualification to be confirmed by the Senate for a second time under President Goodluck Jonathan.
Reacting to the opposition senators’ action, the Senate alleged that some of the senators, who questioned the qualification of Obanikoro, still have cases to answer with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Speaking on Tuesday, the APC lawmakers, through Akume, invoked orders 42 and 53 to condemn Abaribe’s statement.
Akume noted that Abaribe, by that statement, had deviated from the proceedings on the floor, which the Senate spokesman was not supposed to convey to the Press.
Akume claimed that Abaribe has always spoken for himself, and not for the Senate, which he represents.
“Actually, I rise to make a very brief comment on the event we had here last week. I want to say that as a family, we have been working very closely in the interest of the country. We were surprised that because of our disagreement over one of the nominees, the Senate, through the Chairman on Information, went to the Press and said that we have no right whatsoever to question the confirmation of the nomination of Senator Musiliu Obanikoro because many of us have cases pending with EFCC.
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“That was not what was discussed here. I want us to take very judicious notice of this. I do not want us to castigate ourselves. We are in a position to speak more on this because of the integrity of the Senate, which has refused to make comment on this.
“The Senate, through Abaribe cannot say that that was what we discussed here. We have observed repeatedly that whenever Abaribe speaks, he speaks for himself. Mostly, he does not speak for the Senate. Mr. President, we are calling on you to call Abaribe to order. What he said has no basis whatsoever. If we want to talk about ourselves, we are free to say so,” Akume said.
In his remark, the Senate President, Senator David Mark, said: “Akume, I thought you made a point already that because of the Senate, you would not want to say much; you should not. So, I have noted your observation. Thank you”.
While addressing the National Assembly correspondents, after last Wednesday’s Plenary, Senate spokesman, Abaribe, quickly reminded the APC senators, who have cases with the EFCC that they are still in the Senate because of the privilege of being innocent until proven guilty.
“As a mater of fact, there are allegations against the Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, but in our law and the Constitution of Nigeria, anything that is a mere allegation that is not a court decision is nothing, but a mere allegation.
“Everyone in Nigeria is deemed to be innocent until proven guilty and even the senators, who addressed the press conference and spoke about the qualification or otherwise of Senator Obanikoro, are enjoying this privilege because some of them have EFCC cases, and they are still in the Senate because of this privilege of being innocent until proven guilty.
“And so, they cannot go to a press conference, and try to convict somebody when the person has not been convicted by a court of law. And they cannot enjoy that privilege themselves and sit in this Senate, and then turn around, and now say that somebody else cannot enjoy that privilege. And the laws of Nigeria is very clear: you are innocent until proven guilty.
“So, that is what played out on the floor of the Senate. And the Senate, having known that this is the law of Nigeria, and this is the Constitution of Nigeria that every Nigerian is entitled to this privilege, went ahead to do what it is supposed to by law,” Abaribe said.