Saraki skips question on Ndume, says ‘let’s focus on national issues’

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Senate President Bukola Saraki avoided a question on the suspension of Ali Ndume, former majority leader of the senate on Tuesday, saying the focus should be on national issues.

Ndume was handed a six-month suspension for moving a motion that Saraki and Dino Melaye, senator representing Kogi west, be investigated based on some allegations levelled against them.

While Saraki was accused of being the owner of a vehicle seized by the Nigeria Customs Service because the documents used in clearing it were forged, Melaye was alleged to have forged the certificate of his degree from Ahmadu Bello University.

Both men denied the allegations and were cleared by the senate committee on ethics and privileges which carried out investigations.

However, speaking with reporters after John Oyegun, chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), led the party’s national working committee (NWC) to the senate on Tuesday, Saraki said there was need for mutual respect among the different arms of government.

The meeting lasted over five hours.

“Let us focus on national issues,” he said in response to the question on Ndume.

On the NWC’s visit, he said, “Whether there are issues or not, regular consultations between the legislative arm of government and the party is important.

“It is unfortunate, but the most important thing is that a lot of stakeholders must respect this institution.

“This institution is here now and is going to be there after now. So, we should not allow our selfish interests to bring ridicule to the institution. The institution is what we have and we must ensure that we respect that.”

He said the senate would not relent in carrying out its constitutional duties, adding that “as I said yesterday, some of these issues are not important to our people.

“The important issues are issues of budget. Despite all the noise you heard last week, we still passed an amendment to the INEC law that had been there for over six or seven years.

“By this time next week, our committee on petroleum will lay the PIB which has never been done. We are focused on the major issues and we are not going to be distracted on that. We are still going to do our work.

“Today we were talking about meningitis, looking at how we are going to find funding for that. So, none of these issues are distracting us from that and I think we have shown that over the last few weeks.”

On his part, Oyegun called for a ceasefire between the  legislature and executive over the recent misunderstanding  between them.

He asked  for  mutual respect between the various arms of government to ensure sustainable development.

“One appeal I have to make that it is necessary is for all levels of government to maintain some level of respect and civility,” he said.

“And I appeal  that as we start now the process of reconstructing relationships and consultations.

“There should be what I will call a ceasefire in terms of the kind of abuse that is used all round on one institution of government or the other even principal parties of these institutions.”

He expressed  optimism that though the meeting with the caucus was the first, such interactions would continue for the strengthening of the party and national development.

While commending the leaders of the national assembly for speaking with one voice after meeting with President Muhammadu  Buhari on Monday,  he urged them to continue in that spirit for the entrenchment of democracy in the country.

He also commended the national assembly for carrying out its constitutional duties in spite of the crises.

“We have assurance that the budget is going on and is going on very well,” he said.

“The report I get, or the briefing I get from the minister of budget is that the national assembly has been very cooperative in the interactions between both his ministry and other ministries.

“I want to pay tribute to the national assembly for the degree of cooperation that they have been extending to the executive in spite of seeming differences on the surface.

“Secondly, I want to say that we have now completed our consultations with the national assembly and we are going to move forward from now.

“Once that is done, I can assure you and assure the nation that in the next couple of weeks, we will have a new level of cohesion, cooperation and mutual respect between the different arms of government and the party.”

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