Like in most legislative chambers world over, the Nigerian Senate was not free from controversies in the outgoing year. The red chamber in 2017 was politically charged as fiery comments, personality clashes, superiority battle arose at the least provocation.
In all, some of the lawmakers made more headlines than others. PREMIUM TIMES spotted the seven most controversial Senators. They are listed below in no order.
The Kogi West Senator was embroiled in a series of controversies in 2017. In March, it was alleged that the outspoken Senator never graduated from Ahmadu Bello University, ABU. The issue which generated much public discussion was later put to rest when the Vice Chancellor of of ABU, Prof. Ibrahim Garba, told a Senate committee he graduated. However, the date of his graduation disclosed by the VC did not correspond to the year Mr. Melaye claimed he completed his mandatory one-year NYSC service. The exoneration birthed Mr. Melaye's popular song 'Ajekun Iya' which he sang to taunt SaharaReporters for raising the allegation in the first place.
Mr. Melaye also made the social wave when 188,580 of his constituents signed a petition for his recall. The process is currently being delayed due to legal process initiated by the lawmaker. In October, the Senator was spotted in a 'too close' position with a strange woman. The photos he posted on his Instagram page generated public comments.
The Senate President had his fair share of issues in 2017. It started with his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, of which he was acquitted in June. However, his joy was short-lived as the Court of Appeal in December sent Mr. Saraki back to the CCT to answer three of the initial 18 charges against him. In between this, Mr. Saraki was accused of tax evasion as a company he ran as director and sole shareholder, Tenia Limited, in the Cayman Islands, popped up in the list of leaked documents famously dubbed Paradise Papers. Mr. Saraki denied violating any law. He described Tenia as a 'paper company' without assets. Away from that, the Senate President had a tough legal battle with SaharaReporters in the outgoing year. In August, a Kwara State High Court blocked bank accounts linked to the media outfit and its Owner, Omoyele Sowore. The judgement is currently being appealed.
2017 is indeed a year the former Governor of Yobe State will not forget in a hurry. In July, the Senator who represents Yobe East Senatorial District was seen in a dingy hotel room apparently putting on his clothes after a romp with two young women whose identities remain unknown. The video generated rife public criticisms as many Nigerians accused him of practising the opposite of what he preaches. In October, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Ecology and Climate Change declared that he will die in the National Assembly.
For most of 2017, the Kaduna Central Senator was embroiled in war of words with Governor Nasir El-Rufai. At another, he accused him of throwing the state into huge debt and hinted he may contest for governorship election in 2019.
In September, Mr. Sani openly opposed the endorsement of Mr. El-Rufai for re-election in 2019 by the All Progressives Congress, describing it as a charade. "The so called endorsement of Governor El-Rufai by Kaduna APC amounts to endorsement of toxic waste," said Mr. Sani. He also attacked the governor on the massive sack of teachers in the state.
Mr. El-Rufai, in one of his responses to the Senator ,said that his refusal to appoint as commissioners, any of the people Mr. Sani sent to him in 2015, triggered the anger and media outbursts he has suffered at the hands of the senator.
In April, the Senator called for the dissolution of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, chaired by Itse Sagay, describing it as 'a moribund and irrelevant assemblage.' In reaction, Mr. Sagay, said Mr. Sani was 'speaking out of sheer ignorance.'
Atai Aidoko Ali
The controversy surrounding the Kogi East Senator is still fresh. On December 18, the media widely reported that the Appeal Court declared his seat vacant. Less than 24 hours after, Mr. Ali declared to other Senators that his seat had not been declared vacant. Mr. Aidoko, while raising a point of order on the floor of the Senate, stated that at no point did the issue of, 'candidacy or vacant seat' come up during the judgement. However, a copy of the judgement reviewed by PREMIUM TIMES showed that the Senator lied. The controversy still lingers while Mr. Ali continues to parade himself as Kogi East Senator.
Things started when the Bauchi Senator accused the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, of falsifying his retirement age, having "secret" marriage to a serving policewoman against the public service rule, among others. The series of altercations between the two of them prompted the ad-hoc committee set up by the Senate to invite the police boss. He did not honour many invitations, and when he finally did, he told the lawmakers he had nothing to say as the case was already in court.
Mr. Ndume was suspended by the Senate for asking his colleagues to probe an allegation of certificate forgery against Mr. Dino Melaye and Senate President, Bukola Saraki, accused of vendetta against the Nigerian Customs Service. The Ethics and Privileges Committee was drafted to look into the case and released a report that led to the suspension of Mr. Ndume for 'failing to conduct proper investigation before making the allegations.' Just when the suspension was about to end, it was touted that the Senate wanted to extend the number of days. However, it took a court order to upturn this and the Senator finally resumed November 15. Upon resumption, Mr. Saraki, on Tuesday rejected an appeal by the former Majority Leader, for a minute silence for his deceased friend, Senator, Isiaka Adeleke.