Since his emergence as Senate President on June 9, 2015, Bukola Saraki’s name has been synonymous with controversies. Saraki has been enmeshed in so many of them that the 8th Senate could be said to be the most controversial in Nigeria’s recent history.
Alleged Senate rules forgery
The first major controversy that greeted Saraki was the alleged forgery of the Senate Rules, which allowed the elections of the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President to be done via secret ballot as his then party, APC preferred the emergence of Ahmad Lawan, as Senate President.
During the 7th Senate, the rule was that the election could only be done openly via division, but overnight, it was alleged that Saraki connived with some people to change it without following the appropriate procedure of amending the Senate rules. So, when the then senators-elect of the 8th Assembly were to be sworn in, a brand new Senate rules book surfaced.
Saraki and his deputy Ike Ekweremadu were taken to court for the alleged forgery by the Federal Government, but after several months, the case was withdrawn.
Saraki’s trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) was indeed a watershed controversy in the life of the 8th Senate. The Senate President was alleged to have falsified his assets declaration.
The CCT trial commenced few months after Saraki’s emergence as Senate President. Saraki became the first serving Senate President to be docked. The case went on for over two years before it was finally quashed by the Supreme Court last year.
As the case lasted, each time the Senate President was going to the CCT, he was accompanied by dozens of senators, although the number reduced towards the end of the case. Sometimes, the Senate was shut down just to allow Saraki attend the court case.
Magu’s rejection as EFCC chairman
One controversy that remains unresolved is the Senate rejection, twice, of Ibrahim Magu, as the substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The Senate had relied on one, out of the two separate conflicting letters from the Department of State Security (DSS), to reject Magu. While one of the letters cleared Magu for the post, the second indicted him. The Senate relied on the latter.
After rejecting Magu for the second time in 2017, the Senate asked President Muhammadu Buhari to sack him, failure of which it would delay the confirmation of some nominees, including some Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs), the president sent for confirmation at the time. Buhari did not and a major disagreement between the Executive and the Senate ensued.
The face-off between the Executive arm and the Senate on the Magu matter led to delays in the confirmation of a number of nominees the Executive forwarded to the Senate. But it appears the Senate soft-pedalled on the matter late last year because senators resumed confirmations of Buhari’s nominees.
Ndume’s removal as Senate Leader
Saraki allowed what many saw as an avoidable scenario to lead to a major fallout between him and Sen Mohammed Ali Ndume, one of those that strongly stood by him to become Number 3 Citizen.
Ndume had after Magu’s rejection said that the Senate did not follow the appropriate procedure in rejecting the confirmation. Few weeks after he said that, he was removed as Senate Leader in January 2017. Dino Melaye, who was still in the APC at the time, reportedly collected the signatures from few of APC senators to effect Ndume’s removal.
The senator who represents Borno South was a few months after his removal as Senate Leader suspended from the Senate for six months after he drew the attention of the Senate to online reports on allegations that the Senate was on a vengeance mission against Hameed Ali, the Comptroller-General of Customs, for seizing a vehicle with fake papers belonging to Saraki and alleged certificate forgery by Senator Dino Melaye.
Clashes with Hameed Ali
The Senate, under Saraki’s watch, had a number of clashes with some heads of agencies under the Executive arm, including the Customs boss Hameed Ali, whose clash with the Senate was predicated on his refusal to dress himself in Customs uniform each time he appeared before senators.
Both the Senate and the Customs boss stood their grounds on the matter, and in the end, the matter went to court. Despite Senate insistence, Ali appeared before senators on several occasions without putting on the Customs uniform.
Car with fake documents
One unforgettable controversy under Saraki’s watch as Senate President was the discovery in early 2017 that an SUV bulletproof vehicle the Senate purchased had fake documents. Both the importer, Tokunbo Akindele, and the dealer, Olanrewaju Shittu, CEO of Lanre Shittu Motors, confirmed that the vehicle had fake documents.
However, the importer said the car was not imported for Saraki, and that at the time it was imported, it was not for the Senate President’s use. This was partly the reason Ndume was suspended.
N36.5m SUV for senators
Less than a year after the inauguration of the 8th Senate, reports by this newspaper in 2016 revealed how the Senate planned and even went ahead to take an initial delivery of 36 SUVs for the use of individual senators at N36.5 million each.
But the most disturbing aspect of the purchase of the vehicles was Daily Trust on Sunday’s findings that said the 36 Landcruiser jeeps were purchased at twice the market price at the time.
The above-mentioned controversies, among others, shaped the Saraki’s Senate Presidency, which will end on June 9 this year as the Senate President will not be part of the 9th Assembly, after he was roundly defeated during the February 23 National Assembly elections by Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe, who clinched the seat for Kwara Central Senatorial District.