The Nigerian Senate yesterday summoned The Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption Chairman Prof. Itse Sagay over some “uncomplimentary” remarks after it suspended Senator Ali Ndume for making false allegations against Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki and Senator Dino Melaye.
President Muhammadu Buhari had set up a committee to improve the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature.
It can be recalled that The Senate refused to confirm 27 Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) over the retention of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu and Secretary to the Government of the Federation Babachir Lawal.
The Senate yesterday resolved to invite Sagay to appear before its Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions Committee to explain why he allegedly described senators as “childish and irresponsible” for asking President Muhammadu Buhari to sack Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu within two weeks.
Sagay is also to explain why he allegedly said that the Senate is “filled with people of questionable character who put personal interest ahead of the nation”.
The lawmakers would like the professor of jurisprudence to name the questionable characters in the Senate.
The resolution followed a motion of privilege by Senate Deputy Leader Bala Ibn Na’Allah (Kebbi South) who told the Senate that Sagay infringed on his integrity, character and privilege as a Senator.
Na’Allah referred to a publication by a national daily which quoted Sagay to have said: “But the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), described the Senate’s action, calling on Buhari to sack Magu in two weeks, as childish and irresponsible.
“Sagay told newsmen in a telephone interview that the Senate was filled with people of questionable character, who put their personal interest ahead of that of the nation.”
Na’Allah said: “There is no dispute as to the fact that today; distinguished Senator Na’Allah is a senator. If somebody in the standing of Prof. Sagay made this comment, it means this Senate is under obligation to invite Itse Sagay to come and name the questionable people that fill this Senate. It is very important at this stage of our political development. It is very important.
“Let me say with the greatest respect that if due diligence has been done in respect of who the person and personality of Prof. Sagay is, I am absolutely sure that he will not have been appointed in that position.
“But let me say with due respect that I, Bala Ibn Na’Allah, am not a person of questionable integrity. Let me equally say that no senator here is a person of questionable integrity.
“For somebody in Itse Sagay’s position to come and call this Senate irresponsible and that we are childish and persons of questionable character, it behoves on this Senate to call upon him to appear before the Ethics and Privileges committee to say who are of questionable integrity because we came here by name and he should name names and Nigerians are entitled to know and we should know the basis of that.
“We will argue about this matter here and there but in conclusion the public will have the benefit of knowing where the irresponsibility lies and I hope I have made my point.”
Senate Leader Ahmed Lawan (Yobe North), who also felt maligned by Sagay’s alleged comments, said:
“I believe that if there is anything that this administration needs, is cordiality, a relationship between the legislature and the executive. It therefore behoves every presidential aide from ministers to the least in the ladder to behave responsibly to encourage and sustain the very cordial relationship between the National Assembly and the administration. Mr. President, we are elected people just like the president is an elected president.
“The Nigerian public has every right to criticise us, call us to order where we erred, proffer suggestions and way out where they think we need that. But I take special and serious exception when a presidential aide, instead of trying to bring people together, the two sides of government, would speak in this manner that is so divisive and unnecessarily creating tensions between the two arms of government and dragging and pulling down this administration from achieving those very noble and laudable campaign promises.
“I, therefore, take this opportunity to advise presidential aides, if you have to speak when you have to speak, if you must speak, to use the language that will bring the executive and the legislature into some understanding for us to achieve what Nigerians need most.
“We are not above board and I want to emphasise this, Nigerians have the right to speak because they brought us here, but a presidential aide hasn’t got that right. He can only proffer suggestions on the way out. I therefore believe that what the deputy leader has raised is serious; it is fundamental and I hope it will be an eye opener.”
Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (Delta North) who prayed the Senate to ignore Sagay “because it is in his character to cause confusion” said:
“I want to create three scenarios so that this Senate will be able to understand the person we are talking of and for us to know if there is any need at all to invite him.
“Mr President, if you remember last year when the Supreme Court of Nigeria gave a ruling in a matter staying proceedings in an action, Prof. Sagay came out and cast aspersions on the judges of the Supreme Court and said everything he wanted to say about the judges of the Supreme Court that served in that panel.
“The Nigerian Bar Association then under Barrister Alegheh, SAN came out to apologise on behalf of NBA; he took on the NBA; he said all sorts of things about NBA.
“The same Prof. Sagay when he was a professor of law in University of Benin and a woman, Prof. Alele Williams, was appointed a Vice chancellor for the University of Benin from Delta. Prof Itse Sagay with two other professors became intransigent and tried to pull down the administration of this woman because a woman was appointed a first woman vice chancellor in Nigeria and that led to the government of Ibrahim Babaginda to sack him and the other two.
“That’s another Prof. Sagay. The same Prof. Sagay when he was asked to deliver a speech in Delta State after the creation of Delta State that the good people of Delta North where I represent, Sagay said the fact that we have a state capital we therefore have no right to aspire to the position of governorship of Delta State.
“I want to appeal, it is his trade mark, it is his trademark and like my friend said, if they had done some screening about him, there won’t have been any need to have appointed him. He doesn’t thrive where there is peace; his best is when there is confusion and trouble. He creates problems everywhere and that is why I have created three scenarios.
“I want to appeal, let us not waste our time on Professor Sagay. Let us face important issues, national issues than to talk about Prof Sagay because he will continue. If a man at almost 80 years, if not more than 80, is behaving like that, it is his trademark you cannot change him now.
“Let us just leave him; it is his trademark and those who appointed him, if they decide to bring him, he will continue to cause trouble, cause confusion and that is his trademark.”
They can’t summon me
However The Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) Chairman Prof Itse Sagay (SAN) yesterday said the Senate cannot summon him for expressing an opinion.
He said the Senate lacks the authority to summon a private citizen.
Sagay said the lawmakers were embarking on a “futile” exercise that could have “embarrassing consequences”.
According to Sagay, he does not fall within the category of government officials that the Senate can summon.
He said he only exercised his constitutionally guaranteed right to hold an opinion.
However, Sagay said a government official can be summoned during an amendment of a law that affects the official’s agency, or where the official is directly involved in spending monies appropriated by the National Assembly.
The eminent professor of law said any senator who feels that his reputation was damaged by his comments could seek redress in court.
He said the Senate was not a court of law before whom he could be ordered to appear.
Sagay was reacting to a move by the Senate to summon him over comments he made on the lawmakers.
Senate President Bukola Saraki referred the matter to the Ethics Committee, which is to report back in four weeks.
Saraki said: “I think this matter will be referred to the committee on Ethics and Privileges and to report back in four weeks.”