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Is the National Assembly moribund?

One of the major questions on the lips of many people about the Nigerian government of today is
whether the National Assembly is officially dead or not. To majority of them, the federal legislature, like
those in all states of the federation, is a toothless bulldog that can only bark without the ability to bite,
while others see it as being handicapped due to the alleged recklessness of the executive.
How else could one describe the refusal of the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, Ibrahim Idris, to honour
the invitation of the Senate three times, particularly on a matter that has to do with the alarming
insecurity situation in the country? The disturbing scenario reached its climax on Wednesday, May 9
when for the third time in the last one month, the police chief again snubbed the highest lawmaking
body in the country.
This time, the Senate also refused to give Idris another chance to appear before it, but instead declared
him an enemy of democracy and unfit to hold any public office within and outside Nigeria. The upper
legislative chamber said it would take a final decision on the abuse of office by the number one law
enforcement officer.
Earlier in February this year, the House of Representatives had passed a vote of no confidence on the
IGP and called for his immediate sack on the ground of gross incompetence. The lower chamber asked
President Muhammadu Buhari to remove Idris and replace him with “a more professional police
officer”, following a motion by Abubakar Danburam Nuhu representing Kano Municipal Federal
Constituency, who disclosed the alleged complicity of the police in the high rate of thuggery in Kano
State.
In the motion entitled, “Need to curb thuggery development in political activities in Kano and Nigeria in
general”, Idris was also accused of unprofessionalism and partisanship in his conduct. The police was
particularly accused of being partisan in the conflict between the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi
Ganduje, and his predecessor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso (APC, Kano Central) while allegedly aiding
thuggery and violence by politicians in the state.
But the Senate’s invitation to the police chief borders on the daily killing of innocent people by armed
bandits, especially in the northern part of the country and reported maltreatment of Senator Dino
Melaye (APC, Kogi West) by his men. Incidentally, the IGP refused to appear in person as demanded by
the senators though he sent a delegation led by the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, DIG, in charge
of Operations, Habila Joshak, and his counterpart in charge of Research and Planning, Valentine
Ntomchukwu, on two different occasions before the last summon date.
The first time the IGP was invited to appear in person; he accompanied President Buhari to Bauchi State
on Wednesday, April 25, while his representatives were rejected by the lawmakers. The second time on
Tuesday, May 2, the police boss said he went to Birin Gwari, Kaduna State, in company of the General
Officer Commanding, GOC, One Division, Nigerian Army, Kaduna, Major-General Mohammed
Mohammed, on a working visit.
However, when he failed to show up for the third time on Wednesday, May 9, the Senate went into a
closed door session after which its President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, said the IGP has been declared an
enemy of democracy who is unfit to hold any public office within and outside Nigeria.
Saraki said the continued refusal of the police boss to honour the Senate’s invitation amounts to “a
great disrespect to the institution and constituted authority”, adding that it also portends “a great
danger to our democracy”.
But Idris, while responding to the declaration described it as “a deliberate blackmail, witch-hunting,
unfortunate and mischievous” aimed at casting aspersion on his integrity. He, however, vowed not to be
intimidated by any individual or group “no matter whose ox is gored”.
According to him, the Senate is trying to blackmail him because of the case of Senator Melaye, who was
accused of illegal possession of firearms and criminal conspiracy. He asked the public to disregard the
statement of the Senate and promised to continue to discharge his duties to the best of his ability.
In a statement issued by the Force Police Public Relations Officer, FPPRO, Jimoh Mashood, an Assistant
Commissioner of Police, Idris said he is not and will not be an enemy to democracy.
“In accordance with the extant laws in Nigeria, the functions, duties and responsibilities of the
Inspector-General of Police as stated in Section 215(1a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of
Nigeria 1999 as amended, and the Police Act and Regulations Section 309(1) can also be carried out as
mentioned in Sections 7(1),312(1), 313(2) of the Police Act and Regulations by a senior officer of the
Force of the rank of Deputy IGP or an Assistant IGP who if permitted by the IGP to act on his behalf or
represent him in an official capacity at any official function, event or programme within and outside
Nigeria can do so in consonant with the provisions of the Police Act and Regulations”, the statement
read in part.
The raging rift between the Senate and Idris started in November, 2017 when the Red Chamber
threatened to issue an arrest warrant against the IGP for failing to appear before its ad-hoc committee
investigating allegations of abuse of office against him.
Chairman of the ad-hoc committee and Deputy Whip of the Senate, Senator Francis Alimikhena (APC,
Edo North) said the IGP was summoned on October 16, 2017 to answer allegations made against him by
Senator Isah Misau (APC, Bauchi Central). But rather than honouring the invitation, Idris’ lawyer, Alex
Iziyon, SAN, wrote to the committee informing it that the matter was already in court.
But the committee chairman maintained that nobody, including the court, can stop the Senate from
carrying out its constitutional duties. “The separation of powers guaranteed by law makes it explicit that
the Senate cannot be prevented from carrying out its constitutional duties by any arm of government”,
Senator Alimikhena said, vowing that the committee would invoke Section 89 of the Constitution to
compel the IGP to appear before it.
The IGP, however, appeared before the committee in company of Iziyon on Tuesday, November 7, 2017
to defend himself against allegations of corruption, nepotism, misuse of office, misappropriation of
funds, illegal promotion and posting of senior officers.
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, had earlier rejected a motion ex-parte that the police
chief filed to stop the Senate from probing the allegations.
But is the National Assembly officially dead in the real sense of it? If not, why has the IGP not regarded it
as an institution? Why is the executive refusing to act on numerous vital decisions taken by the
legislature which truly represents democracy? Though many believe that the National Assembly is the
architect of its own problem, others argue that it is handicapped because of the “reckless and
undemocratic executive”.
Contributing to a similar debate on Facebook, a journalist, Mr. Ameh Ejekwonyilo, said: “Yes, we have a
reckless and undemocratic executive, but the National Assembly would have been able to tame Buhari
and his lawless appointees if they had not soiled their hands. They can ground the government if they
really want to. But because they do not have the interest of Nigerians at heart to make quality
legislations and oversight the thieving government appointees; they have earned for themselves the
hatred of Nigerians”.
Ejekwonyilo, however, advised the lawmakers to use the ongoing budget passage to tell Buhari that
“this clueless Ibrahim Idris who is under the Nigerian law as IGP, but flagrantly operates above the law is
sacked and prosecuted for criminal negligence”.
In his view, another journalist, Mr. Owede Agbajileke, believes that the Saraki-led Senate is the architect
of its own misfortune. “Where is the report of the Senate Committee on Judiciary on Buhari's unilateral
payment of $496m Tucano aircraft without the National Assembly’s approval which should have been
submitted last week? Where is the report of the committee probing the face-off between the Minister
of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, and the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National
Petroleum Corporation, Maikanti Baru, over $26 billion contract fraud in the corporation?’’ he asked.
Agbajileke said: “When your sense of judgment is clouded by political consideration for a president that
wants your funeral, you become an object of ridicule to his aides. Nobody takes you serious any longer.
As it stands, Saraki has succeeded in digging his own grave. Like Julius Caesar, he has been butchered by
the executive on the slaughter slab, as we await his funeral”.
Also, a business consultant, Mr. Pius Ibharoga, said: “It is sad, no individual or group adores the
hallowed chamber anymore. How did we get here? Think what you may, the sixth & seventh Senate
under David Mark was more respected than what we have at the moment and if nothing is done to
restore its pride in 2019, then our democracy which was hardly fought for would be in grave danger.
God help us”.
But Mr. Fred Itua, a journalist, who generated the comments on Facebook, said the lawmakers were
helpless. “The executive flouts everything that represents sanity. The parliament is handicapped”, he
posited.
Another concerned Nigerian, Mr. Fidel Aimua, believes that the legislators can still redeem their image.
According to him, all they need to do is to “initiate an impeachment move and use the IGP as a bait”,
recalling that the fifth Assembly under Ghali Umar Na'Abba as Speaker of the House of Representatives
was able to shake former President Olusegun Obasanjo as “ruthless” as he (Obasanjo) was.
In his own judgment, the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, PACAC, Prof.
Itse Sagay, SAN, described the current Senate as the worst since 1999 and said he couldn’t wait for it to
go next year. He faulted the lawmakers’ insistence on the IGP’s personal appearance before them.
According to him, such move smacks of personal vendetta against the police boss.
However, it is a fact that the eighth Senate is the most productive in terms of output of quality bills and
amendments. Unfortunately, it is the negative aspect in terms of clashes with certain personalities in the
executive that are usually harped on by the people.
According to a frontline journalist cum lawyer, Richard Akinnola, “The Senate is not even helping
matters by winking in the dark – they don’t engage the public enough on its various works. But l can say
with all emphasis that this Senate has really worked. Some people may not like Saraki, but he is not the
Senate. Let us discountenance his obvious pettiness but look at issues with open minds”.

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