The anti-Saraki senators, under the aegis of the Senate Unity Forum, on Friday asked Dr. Bukola Saraki to step aside as Senate President.
The group, following Friday’s Supreme Court judgement on the trial of the Senate President at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, said that Saraki must resign as the leader of the upper chamber.
The SUF, which supported Senator Ahmed Lawan, during the Senate presidential election in June last year, said a person answering criminal charges could not lead the Senate.
The anti-Saraki senators demanded the immediate resignation of Senate President so that he could concentrate on his trial at the CCT.
The Supreme Court had on Friday dismissed the appeal by the Senate President, challenging the propriety of his trial on charges of false assets declaration preferred against him at the CCT.
A seven-man panel of the apex court presided over by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, had unanimously ruled that Saraki’s appeal against the jurisdiction of the CCT and the competence of the charges, lacked merit.
Justice Walter Onnoghen, who delivered the lead judgement, dismissed all Saraki’s seven grounds of appeal, affirming that the charges instituted against him were valid and that the tribunal was validly constituted with requisite jurisdiction to try him.
Reacting to the judgement, the anti-Saraki senators under the aegis of the SUF, said Saraki must relinquish the senate presidency so that he could concentrate on his trial at the CCT.
The All Progressives Congress leaders had in June 2015 supported Lawan for the Senate Presidency, but Saraki, with the support of some APC senators and all their colleagues in the Peoples Democratic Party emerged as the Senate President.
The crisis that followed the election of Saraki and his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, had initially stalled the emergence of other leaders of the Senate.
The crisis seemed to be over following the composition of the senate committees and the appointment of members of the Lawan group to head some of them.
But the spokesperson for the SUF, Senator Kabir Marafa, in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja, said that Saraki must step aside as the Senate President.
He explained that Saraki was free to return as a presiding officer after his case at the CCT.
He noted that the image of the Senate and the entire senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria would continue to be battered in the public view if Saraki continues to preside over the affairs of the red chamber while answering criminal charges at the courts.
Marafa said, “We really pity Senator Bukola Saraki, but I think this issue has dragged for too long. We have indulged him thus far because we believe that he is presumed innocent until otherwise decided by a competent court of law.
“Now that the Supreme Court has decided that he has a case to answer, I think that the best thing for Senator Saraki is to resign in order to have enough time and full concentration to face his trial.
“He could, however, return and contest as a presiding officer in the chamber after his trial if he is declared innocent by the court but at the moment, the leadership of the Senate should call him to order and ask him to step aside.
“At the moment, the image of the Senate is not worth anything in the eyes of Nigerians because of the attitude of its president, who ordinarily should have resigned in a sane clime.
“However, if the senate president refused to resign and neither the leadership nor the entire senate mount any pressure on him to do so, then we would call on Nigerians to recall all their representatives in the senate because we have failed in our responsibilities.
“We have tried enough for him. We can no longer wait and watch someone who is answering criminal charges in court to come out of the dock always to preside over the affairs of the senate.”
Saraki has no reason to resign – Anyanwu
Attempts to speak with members of the Like Minds Senators on the issue failed on Friday. The group consists of Saraki’s supporters.
However, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, said that calls for Saraki’s resignation, at this stage, were uncalled for.
Anyanwu, a member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, also told one of our correspondents that the issue of factions among members of the senate, ended when over 80 senators across the two main political parties in the red chamber passed a vote of confidence in the senate president.
He argued that majority of the senators are solidly behind the senate president and that his current trial, rather than affecting negatively the image of the Senate, had instead, boosted it.
Lawyers laud judgement
Reacting to the judgement, a legal practitioner and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), said even though he had yet to see a copy of the judgement, the decisions of the Supreme Court is final and whatever the apex court says has to be obeyed.
On his part, Dr. Konyinsola Ajayi, also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said the Supreme Court should not have even entertained the case initially, noting that the administration of justice and speedy trial demands that such trial cases should be allowed to carry on.
He said, “Supreme Court is inundated and is being made to share or by itself agrees to share cases that should not go beyond trial. In this case, the belief is that the new administration of justice law is pretty clear as in procedures to take in criminal trials, and apart from this provision, the philosophy behind the constitutional provisions on speedy trial is such that one would expect that such an appeal should not have been taken, rather, it (the Supreme Court) should have announced that the case should carry on and the matter disposed of.
“At the end of the day, I guess that is the result we have achieved because the apex court has ruled that trial should continue. But, if I were in Supreme Court, I will not consider it (the Senate President’s application to stop his trial by the CCT). I will dismiss it. The Supreme Court is to lay down compelling or controlling authority but the problem we see today is that the apex court handles too many cases.”