14 June 2018

Nigeria: The Police-Saraki Tussle in the Offa Robbery

opinion

On Thursday, April 5, 2018, a group of dare-devil armed robbers attacked five banks in Offa, an ancient city in Kwara State, carting away unspecified sums of money and killing dozens of people in the process. The police exhibited amazing proficiency as they arrested a good number of the main actors in the robbery saga, almost with efficient speed! Some of the arrested robbers allegedly confessed the Senate President's (Bukola Saraki's) "involvement" in the Offa bank robbery incident, whereupon the Police invited him (Saraki) to the Louis Edet House, Police Headquarters, in Abuja for questioning. A few hours later, the same police commuted the invitation to Bukola Saraki, as it were, to a written reply to the allegations.

The commuting of the invitation to a mere reply to the allegations (even if unconvincingly denied much later) threw up at least five tormenting questions: First, did the police chance upon some extenuating circumstance and realised, after the hasty and advertised invitation, that Saraki did not sponsor the Offa armed robbery attacks? Or, secondly, did the police suddenly realise that Saraki is the Number Three citizen in Nigeria to whom an order to make himself available at a police station for questioning would be infra dignitatem? In other words, that law could, sometimes, be a respecter of persons? Or, thirdly, were the police ordered by the President, the ultimate boss of the Nigeria Police, to tenderize their deportment in the Saraki matter, for fear of reprisals from the National Assembly? Fourthly, who leaked the ugly news to the media for comments and judgment when police investigation is just at its inchoate stage? Fifthly and lastly, what happens if the police discover at the end of the ongoing investigations that the boot of the allegations is on the other foot?

The fact that the perceived and real enemies of President Muhammadu Buhari in the national Legislature include, but are not limited to Saraki and Dino Melaye, his bosom friend, makes not a few Nigerians to conjecture that the aetiology of the travails of two legislators is traceable to 2015, when Saraki outmanoeuvred Buhari and outwitted his party, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), to become President of the Senate! And both Buhari and the APC diehards winced!! The indelible cicatrix of that defeat painfully endures.

Buhari and his party, the APC, believed perfervidly but wrongly in "party supremacy" over the Constitution and thought that the composition of the National Assembly devolved on them. Section 50 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as altered) provides, inter alia, as follows:

"50 (1) There shall be--

(a) A President and a Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves, and

(b) A Speaker and a Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves... " (underscore added).

In flagrant contravention of that section of the exceptio of all exceptiones, the 1999 Constitution, which Buhari then only recently solemnly swore to uphold, he made sedulous efforts to preside over the enthronement of the leadership of the National Assembly in spite of the hallowed principle of separation of powers enshrined in sections 4, 5 and 6 of the Constitution, again, the grundnorm of Nigeria's legal system, the provisions of which constitute the command of the uncommanded Commander!

Buhari's choice for President of the Senate was Alhaji Ahmed Lawan, and pro-Tinubu APC's obvious choice for Speaker of the House of Representatives was Femi Gbajabiamila. Instead of these, Saraki hatched a masterstroke of diplomacy and became President of the Senate! To add insult to injury, most APC members of the Lower Chamber, who were irked by the President's sleight of hand to dominate the National Assembly, plumped for Yakubu Dogara as Speaker instead the APC candidate, Gbajabiamila. That was the genesis of the unending Legislative-Executive imbroglio. It was also the onset of the demonization of Saraki between whom and Buhari and all of his ardent supporters there has been no lost since then.

So, when, shortly after Saraki was sworn in as Senate President, the crime of "false declaration of assets" was foisted on him, a crime he allegedly committed 13 years earlier, when he was governor of Kwara State, the stage was set for a spirited witch-hunt for him! Meanwhile, armies of pro-Buhari and pro-Saraki pugilists continue to grow in strength and number:

Yahaya Bello, governor of Kogi State versus Senator Dino Melaye; Malam Ahmed El-Rufai, governor of Kaduna State versus Senator Shehu Sani and his Kaduna State colleagues in the Senate; Senator Ovie Omo-Agege of Delta State versus all Honourable anti-Buhari members of the Senate; the EFCC versus all PDP 'looters', Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria versus Buhari; the Executive versus NASS; the Executive versus the Judiciary, etc. A labyrinth of intrigues, feud and conspiracies! Abdulfatah Ahmed, Governor and Chief; Security Officer (CSO) of Kwara State, is now portrayed as the Governor and Chief Insecurity Officer (CIO) of his own state! Stifling troubles for democracy in Nigeria in the offing?

And the Police? The reliability of their operations has become as opaque as the carapace of an ageing turquoise! Transparency International (AI) has turned in its damning Report on some security agencies (please, spare me from naming names in these days of "hate speech"!). Everyday, people are sent to their untimely graves by herdsmen (who should not be identified by their tribe), almost everywhere in the country, in spite of the police, established to protect the people, prevent, detect and to prosecute crime if and when committed. The Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Idris, was duly summoned by the Senate, in pursuance of the powers conferred on it by sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution, to explain why the entire nation was beleaguered and pervaded by insecurity, and why one of them was treated in a manner that violated much of Chapter Four of the 1999 Constitution and section five of the Administration of Justice Act, 2015. The IGP looked askance at the Senate's invitation. Doubtless, the IGP must have sworn to take his revenge on his political enemy-in-chief by inviting the Senate president to "appear" before him to answer questions on the Offa robbery! Forget. That is just the ugly surmise of some irredeemable sceptics.

So, where are we? Not a few Nigerians now pander to cast-iron scepticism and live in matrices of unbelief. Questions, such as whether or not the Offa robbery allegations and the earlier Kogi weapons allegations are real or political rent the air everywhere.

As for me, I am lost in a labyrinthine Wonderland!

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