Members of the Peoples Democratic Party in the Senate may have dumped their plan to adopt and support any “friendly” member of the All Progressives Congress that is interested in contesting the position of the senate president in the 9th National Assembly.
Investigations by one of our correspondents at the upper legislative chamber on Thursday revealed that the PDP senators, numbering 41 at the moment, were determined to present a candidate that would contest against the candidate of the 65-member APC caucus in the red chamber.
A senator from the South -East geopolitical zone, told one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity on Thursday, that his colleagues were considering taking the advantage of the crack in the APC Senate caucus to present a candidate.
The ranking senator said, “It is glaring that Senator Ali Ndume will contest the Senate president seat on the day of inauguration because he is obviously dissatisfied with the position of the party.
“Rather than pacify him, the APC leadership seems not to care about the trauma and emotional pains they have subjected Ndume to by saying that the decision to pick Ahmad lawan was final.”
The senator hinted the leaders of the PDP might soon come up with a decision to adopt one of their ranking senators that would contest the Senate president position on June 9 that the 9th Senate would be inaugurated.
But another senator from the South-South geopolitical zone told one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity on Thursday that the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu (Enugu); Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia); and Senator James Manager (Delta) were being considered as the PDP candidate for the Senate president position.
He said, “We already have ranking senators who have shown capacity to lead the Senate. Senator Ekweremadu has been Deputy Senate President on three occasions while Abaribe and Manager have been in the Senate since 2003.”
Not all senators-elect are happy with Lawan’s choice by APC leaders – Kalu
However, indications that the PDP may spring up a surprise on the day of inauguration, however, manifested on Thursday when an APC senator-elect, Orji Uzor Kalu, said he might be forced to contest against Lawan.
He told one of our correspondents on the telephone that the decision of the APC to deny the South-East of producing the deputy senate president could force him to challenge Lawan.
He said, “It is not all the senators-elect that are happy with what they (APC leaders) did (by endorsing Lawan). As it stands now, Ndume and Goje are still insisting that they will contest and if I also contest, that means we have denied our party the right to produce the Senate President.”
When contacted, Senator Abaribe said the PDP members would vote as a group on the day of inauguration.
He said, “The PDP leadership had not met yet to decide our position. We are simply watching the APC as they continue to make a fool of themselves. We still have enough time to reach a consensus on what to do.
“However, what we have agreed to do in the PDP is that we are going to keep all our votes intact.”
Attempts to speak with Ekweremadu through his media aide, Uche Anichukwu, failed on Thursday as he did not pick calls put across to him neither did he respond to the text message sent to him as of the time of filing this report.
Similarly, Manager could not be reached as calls made to his phone indicated that it had been switched off.
We’ll produce next Senate president, APC caucus insists
However, the spokesperson for the APC caucus in the Senate, Sabi Abdullahi, has reiterated that the party will produce the Senate President, no matter scheming.
He said, “We are engaging our colleagues in the PDP and the majority of them are actually working for us to see that we have a harmonious, rancour-free, non-tumultuous Senate.
“They are right by doing so because they are mandated by their people to come and represent them and to take dividend of democracy home not to take victories of fight on the floor home.”
Aggrieved APC senators, Reps reach out to PDP lawmakers
However, there were indications on Thursday that aggrieved senators-elect and newly-elected members of the House of Representatives from the APC had reached out to their counterparts in the PDP in their quest to clinch the leadership positions in the ninth National Assembly.
Area News gathered that some national officers of the PDP had been contacted secretly by agents of those who had signified interest in the ninth National Assembly positions.
A national officer of the former ruling party, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told one of our correspondents that he had been approached by agents of some of those campaigning to lead both chambers of the National Assembly.
He noted that if the PDP members cooperated they would be able to overwhelm the APC with a few aggrieved members of the ruling party.
Though he said the PDP might not negotiate for any particular position, including the deputy senate presidency, the party would “have a say in who will lead the two chambers, especially the Senate.”
The PDP national officer, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said the party and the nation would not want the 9th National Assembly to be a rubber stamp for the actions of the executive.
He said, “We are watching them from afar. Some of those planning to lead the National Assembly have started reaching out to us. We are being careful because we know some may want to know our minds.
“The day we sealed our support for Saraki was just a few hours to his election. This time round, we are watching. You know the APC has less than two-thirds in the Senate. Out of this number, about 15 of them have disagreed with their party. So, you can see that those who were running their mouths that we have no role to play are not politicians. They do not know what they are saying.
“Senators are not men and women you can bully. Some of them had been two-time governors, ministers and so forth. So, for someone to be talking to them as if he is addressing schoolboys and girls, that shows political naivity on the part of the person.”
It’s difficult running a parliament without opposition – Secondus
Speaking on the move to woo members of the PDP, the National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, said it would be difficult to have a smooth legislature if the views of the opposition were discarded.
Secondus told one of our correspondents that anywhere in the world, the views of opposition were needed and important for the growth of democracy.
Though he would neither deny nor confirm that members of his party were being wooed by their counterparts in both Senate and the House of Representatives, Secondus said that the two parties needed to work together for the progress of the country.
He said, “Yes, the APC members in the Senate and the House of Representatives are free to talk to us and their counterparts on the need to work together for a smooth 9th National Assembly.
“Some have said it informally while lobbying in another level is ongoing. That is politics. All those who are going to be in the two chambers are Nigerians after all.
“It is wrong to assume that about more than one-third of the legislature will not be asked to support the emergence of its leadership. Yes, majority will win and have their way, but the views of the minority are also needed to be heard. That is the beauty of democracy.”
On those the party was considering for roles in the Assembly as officers, Secondus said, “That is for the party and the lawmakers to decide. It is not for outsiders to look into for now.”
Egwu, Abaribe, Manager eye Senate Minority position
Meanwhile, three members of the PDP in the Senate are eyeing the position of the Minority Leader.
Investigations by one of our correspondents showed that the three men had started reaching out to their colleagues.
They are a former governor of Ebonyi State, Sam Egwu; a former deputy governor of Abia State, Eyinaya Abaribe; and a fourth-time member of the Senate, James Manager.
Manager, who is from Delta State, was meant to occupy the position in the 8th Senate, but the leadership of the PDP appealed to him and other members of the party caucus to allow a first-time member, Senator Godswill Akpabio, to occupy the position.
The former governor of Akwa Ibom State later betrayed the party by his defection to the APC and subsequent resignation as the minority leader.
Akpabio, who currently represents Akwa Ibom North-West in the Senate, lost in his bid to return to the Senate during the last election.
“Passage of life pension Bill, a desperate coup against Bayelsa people”—Group
A group, the Bayelsa Against Eelection Violence Initiative (BAEVI) has kicked against the recent passage by the Bayelsa State House of Assembly of a bill to provide for monthly lifetime pension for its members, describing the action as a desperate coup against the people.
According to the group, the presentation of same to Governor Henry Seriake Dickson for assent is the height of legislative rascality and desperation and, to say the least, an economic coup against the state.
The group, the Bayelsa Against Eelection Violence Initiative (BAEVI),in a statement issued yesterday in Yenagoa, said the passage of this repugnant bill at a time when government has consistently screamed blue murder over dwindling state income and rising liabilities,” speaks to a clear lack of moral compass on the part of our reprentatives to put the public good first in all things and ensure the equitable and beneficial use of scarce state resources.”
The group, in the statement, signed by its President, Hon. Preye Johnbull and Secretary, Egba Father, the doctrine of the fruit of the poisoned tree readily comes to mind here and renders nugatory the veiled, surreptitious attempt to endanger the public interest. If the tree is poisoned, it’s fruit can by no means be sweet but bitter. A good motive for committing a crime doesn’t necessarily absolve the culprit of the guilt and consequences.”
“The truth is that Bayelsa legislators are already comparatively sufficiently provided for under the subsisting remuneration package, and there is no need whatsoever to add a lifetime pension to sweeten the deal and enhance their exit package when the state civil servants are hardly well catered for, unemployment rate is hitting the roof and the lack of critical infrastructure such as power and industrial expansion has stifled development and brought the state practically to its knees. What with the backlog of gratuities of retirees and unpaid salaries of local government workers.”
“If the legislators strongly feel that they deserve to be included in monthly pensions then by the same token they must pass social security laws to enhance the welfare of the unemployed, physically challenged, bursary allowances and scholarships funding for tertiary students, the widows, single parents and all economically disadvantaged segment of the population.”
“The heightened social tension resulting from this melodramatic theatre of the absurd is steadily building to a deafening crescendo and Governor Seriake Dickson must, without bathing an eyelid, throw this putrefying bill to where it rightly belongs; the stinking dustbin of history.”
“Unless something is done urgently to reverse this mindless rape of our commonwealth, the unsettling equal and opposite reaction could be that Bayelsans could be forced to take to the streets to register their displeasure and deploy every legitimate means to ensure its abrogation.”
Breaking: NJC Approves Buhari’s Request To Extend Tenure Of Acting CJN Tanko Muhammad
The National Judicial Council (NJC), has approved President Muhammadu Buhari’s request to extend the tenure of the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad.
The council in a statement by its Director Information, Soji Oye, stated that the approval followed several deliberations during a meeting which was held last week Thursday.
Mr Oye noted that contrary to reports that the NJC was going to meet next week on the extension of Justice Muhammad’s tenure, the council, however, meet on April 18, 2019, which resolved to the approval of his extension.
“The attention of the National Judicial Council has been drawn to an online newspaper and daily newspaper Report stating that the Council would meet next week to deliberate on the extension of the Acting Appointment of Honourable Dr Justice I. T. Muhammad CFR, as the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“Contrary to the above, the Council actually met on Thursday 18th April 2019 and at the 88thMeeting considered and approved the request of President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, for the extension of the Appointment of Hon. Dr Justice I. T. Muhammad, CFR, as the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria for another three (3) months and Council has since forwarded its approval to the President”.
How I got N1.2b cash from Fayose, others, by bank chief
The Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday heard how the N1.2 billion allegedly given to former Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose from the Office of National Security Adviser (ONSA) was moved to the state.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is trying Fayose for allegedly receiving and keeping N1.2 billion and $5 million said to have been stolen from the ONSA.
Testifying before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, the 11th prosecution witness, Mr Sunday Alade, said he was the Akure, the Ondo State capital Branch Manager of Zenith Bank Plc in 2014 when the money was moved to his branch.
Led in evidence by prosecuting counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), the witness said he got a call from his Head of Operations asking him to prepare to head to Akure Airport to receive some cash from a customer.
“On June 17, 2014, I was in my office in Zenith Bank, Akure. I received a call from my Head of Operations, Abiodun Oshodi, that a customer would be coming to make a deposit into his account with the bank.
“He said in order to provide security, we should arrange for a bullion van to go to the airport to pick the cash.
“After an hour, Oshodi came and said the customer had arrived. He introduced Abiodun Agbele as the customer.
“He said we should prepare to go to the airport. I asked for time to arrange for security, but they said that won’t be necessary as they had sufficient security. They came with MOPOL (mobile policemen) and some soldiers in a Hilux van,” Alade said.
The witness said he joined Oshodi and Agbele to the airport, along with the bullion van and the security men.
He added: “At the airport, we waited for a few minutes before the arrival of the aircraft. Three individuals came out of the aircraft.
“Two of them walked away. The remaining person introduced himself as O. Adewale. The cash was offloaded into the bullion van and we drove to Zenith Bank in Akure.”
Alade also said when he and the others got to the bank, the money was counted in his presence.
According to him, Oshodi, Adewale and Agbele were also present at the bank.
“The money was counted in our presence. It was N724 million. We were informed that there was a balance. We went back to the airport and picked N494 million.
“The total cash amounted to N1.219 billion. Another aircraft brought the N494 million.
“I gathered that the cash was lodged in three bank accounts – those of De-Privateer, Spotless Investment and Ayodele Fayose.
“I also understand that some cash was taken away that day by Mr Agbele.”
Asked who Adewale was, he said: “Adewale O. introduced himself as (former Minister of State for Defence) Musliu Obanikoro’s ADC (aide-de-camp).”
On whether or not he knew those who walked away from the aircraft after it landed, the witness said: “One of them resembled Obanikoro. I never met him in person. But he resembled the person I saw on television and newspapers.”
Under cross-examination by defence counsel Ola Olanipekun and Olalekan Ojo, both SANs (for Spoless Limited, Fayose’s co-accused), the witness said he did not know where the money came from.
Asked if he knew what the money was meant for, he said: “Not at all.”
The witness said it took 10 days to process the cash.
Responding to a question by Ojo if he submitted a bulk cash register to the EFCC on the transaction, the witness said: “No.”
Ojo showed the witness a statement of account belonging to Spotless Investment.
He was asked to identify entries for October 6, 2014, September 5, 2014 and December 6, 2014.
Alade said the entries showed the transfer of N11.173 million each described as “mortgage repayment” and “mortgage loan liquidation”.
He added: “But I didn’t know anything about the transactions.”
To this, Ojo said: “Don’t worry.”
Before the trial began, Jacobs said he was involved in an accident and had to come to court in crutches.
The lawyer asked the court to allow him take only one witness, but he did not disclose when or where he had the accident.
He was seen wearing a heavy bandage brace on his right foot without a footwear.
There was also no indication that the case would be transferred to another judge.
EFCC Acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu reportedly wrote to the Chief Judge, asking that the case be withdrawn from Justice Olatoregun and re-assigned to another judge.
Magu was said to have expressed lack of confidence in the judge.
But no reference was made to the purported letter to the CJ by the EFCC acting chairman.
Fayose had pleaded not guilty when he was arraigned on an 11-count charge on October 22, last year.
EFCC said the former governor and Agbele, who is facing a different charge, allegedly took possession of N1,219,000,000 on June 17, 2014 to fund Fayose’s 2014 governorship campaign.
The commission said Fayose “reasonably ought to have known” that the money “formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act, to wit: criminal breach of trust/stealing”.
EFCC said the former governor, on the same day, received cash payment of $5 million from Obanikoro without going through a financial institution.
The commission said the sum exceeded the amount authorised by law, thereby violating the Money Laundering Act.
Justice Olatoregun adjourned till May 10 and 14 for continuation of trial.