Anti-Saraki senators vow to prevent Marafa's suspension …Senator links 2016 budget crisis to Saraki's CCT trial

By The Citizen

The leadership crisis in the Senate re-echoed at the weekend as some senators opposed to the Senate Presidency of Abubakar Bukola Saraki (the Unity Group) vowed to prevent its spokesman, Kabiru Marafa, from being suspended from the Senate.

The Senate had last week Tuesday mandated its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions to investigate Marafa's alleged offensive remarks against the Senate and by extension, the National Assembly. In the said remarks, Marafa, among others, kicked against the N4.7 billion car purchase plan of the Eighth Senate and alleged secrecy of accounts of the entire National Assembly.

The committee, headed by Samuel Anyanwu (PDP, Imo East), was further mandated by the Senate to come up with recommendation on action to be taken against Marafa within a week, which expires tomorrow.

But Marafa, in an interview with journalists in Abuja at the weekend, vowed that nobody in the Senate could suspend him.He said he had read through the interview over and over again, without seeing any offensive remarks he allegedly made against the Senate and by extension, the National Assembly, as revered institutions.

'Nobody, I repeat, nobody in that Senate, can suspend me over those remarks I made in the said interview, rather, it is the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, that should be suspended by the Senate for turning things upside down within the last eight months from forgery of standing orders to illegally increasing the number of standing committees in the Senate from 57 to 65 with attendant violation of ranking rules in their compositions and above all, refusing to resign as Senate President in the face of trial on corruption charges at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) and invariably battering the image of the Senate.

'He should remember that when the issue first came up in August or September last year, we didn't tell him to resign and thus, cannot by whatever means now gag us and gag our mouths; the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria gives us the right to say our opinion, to air our views and nobody can deny us that one', he said.

The Unity Group, which comprised Ahmed Lawal, Saraki's main challenger in the June 9, 2015 Senate President election, and 19 other senators, is currently in court against the Senate leadership over alleged forgery of ‎Senate rules and use of same for that election.

Marafa also drew a link between the controversies rocking the 2016 budget in the Senate and the pending trial of Saraki at the CCT through the aides of Fifth Columnists shouting at different times that budget is missing, budget has been doctored, budget is padded and can no longer be passed as earlier planned.

His words: 'Honestly speaking, if I am to comment on the controversy that has been trailing the 2016 budget in the Senate, I will say it is all the work of the Fifth Columnists there. You remember we woke up after 15 days or so of the receipt of the budget in the National Assembly. We woke up one day and the Senate President just came and said there is no budget, that the budget is stolen embarrassing everybody, but the following day, the Speaker said it is not stolen.

'Next, they said the budget is doctored, the budget is padded and there are discrepancies all over the place. We knew how they came into the leadership of the National Assembly or the Senate. Was it a coincidence that the issue of padding and everything just came up after the Supreme Court said go and face your trial?'

'Suddenly, we started hearing that we cannot pass the budget as we promised because there are discrepancies and so on and so fort. In a nutshell, all the noise about the budget is all about this issue of corruption trial or CCT trial. That is all, no more no less.'

Marafa, however, promised that as somebody who has the highest regard for the Senate as an institution, that he would appear before the Ethics committee when re-invited, pointing out that the committee actually invited him to appear before it last Thursday but he couldn't on account of his being away in Kaduna to join Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi (APC, Kaduna North) in the mourning of his late mother. The Guardian.