Senate: Fresh Row over Ndume’s Suspension
The Nigerian Senate of the 8th Assembly appears reluctant to re-admit Borno South senator, Ali Ndume into the red chamber after he served his suspension of 6 months.
Immediate-past Senate Leader and senator representing Borno South in the National Assembly, Mohammed Ali Ndume is in the news again. His resurgence, after months of political oblivion, is unsettling certain interests in the senate.
Ndume was suspended on March 27, 2017, following the adoption of the recommendations of its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions.
The committee, led by Samuel Anyanwu, recommended that Ndume be suspended for one year following the point of Order he (Ndume) raised, to the effect that the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki was on a vengeance mission against the Comptroller- General of Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (retd).
After an amendment, the motion was moved by the newly-appointed chairman of Senate committee on Public Accounts, Matthew Urhoghide, and Ndume was subsequently suspended for six months.
The Borno lawmaker in his point of Order called for investigation into the allegation by the Customs Service alleging that the Senate President refused to pay duty of N74m for a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) valued at N298m imported into the country by Saraki.
Ndume had also called on the upper chamber to investigate another allegation of certificate forgery levelled against another lawmaker, Dino Melaye.
But the Ethics committee, which investigated both allegations, however cleared Saraki and Senator Melaye of the allegations.
Ndume who was expected to resume in September, may have to wait till November, 2017, before he would be re-admitted into the Red Chamber.
Spokesman of the Senate, Sabi Abdullahi, at a media briefing, recently, told Senate Correspondents that Ndume would now resume on November 14, 2017.
According to Abdullahi, Ndume’s resumption would not take effect immediately because of the two-month break the Senate just returned from. He said the break would be subtracted from the six-month suspension handed Ndume, while other public holidays which occurred within the period, would also be excluded from the period under review.
The Senate spokesman was however silent on how he arrived at the decision. He did not reveal who took the decision and who approved it.
Daily Sun’s investigations revealed that if the revelation made by the Senate spokesman is anything to go by, the Red Chamber would be setting a new precedence in Nigeria. Like Ndume, other lawmakers have been suspended in the past, but pundits are however apprehensive that if the position canvassed by the Senate spokesman is unchallenged, a wrong precedence would have been set.
Curiously, however, observers are asking questions as to where the current leadership derives its power to unilaterally extend the suspension period of Ndume, from.
They are also questioning why the rules of suspension were not spelt out when it took effect in March this year. For now, it is too early to predict if Ndume will challenge this new development.
Daily Sun further gathered that Ndume’s return to the Senate may further be disrupted if the case he instituted against the Senate at a Federal High Court in Abuja is not withdrawn.
“The leadership of the Senate will continue to shift the goal post until Ndume withdraws the case against the Senate and show that he is sorry for wrongly accusing the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Dino Melaye,” a source told Daily Sun.
It was however gathered that there was more to the conditions, as it wants Ndume to tender a written apology, addressed to the Senate President, Saraki and Melaye. But that may likely not happen soon, another source, volunteered.
In a recent chat with Daily Sun, Ndume ruled out any plans to tender an unreserved apology to his colleagues in the Red Chamber in order for him to be recalled. He said there was no moral basis to ask him to apologise. According to him, he did not do anything wrong to have warranted his suspension in the first instance.
Senator Ndume who has been in the National Assembly since 2003, however added that he was not averse to tendering apology where there is need to do so. “For now, there is nothing for me to apologise for,” he said.
He insisted that he did not offend the Standing Rules of the Senate, adding that “the move for apology was made, but I did not do anything to warrant an apology. I have no problem with apology but you have to apologise for something you did. The issues I raised were put to rest after I raised them. The issue of importation of car was put to rest. The certificate issue was also put to rest. It was because I raised the issues. Perhaps if I did not raise them, the issues may have lingered. I did not do anything so there is no basis for me to tender any apology.”
Ndume further stated that the resolution to investigate the issues he raised was not his, rather, that of the Senate.
“The whole thing will come and go. It will pass away. It is part of the challenge a politician go through. My challenge in the Senate now is temporary. It should not stop me from doing what I have been doing for my constituents. It is very temporary.
“I take my suspension in good faith. It will pass away. I am lucky to be in the Senate. Right now I am going through industrial attachment because one day I will leave the Senate. I don’t expect to die in the Senate,” he stated.
There are claims that Ndume has not been officially informed by the Clerk to the Senate that his resumption date has been shifted. Similarly, it was learnt that Ndume, may likely storm the National Assembly to resume, since the Senate, at plenary, has not passed any resolution to extend his suspension.
Sources close to Ndume told Daily Sun that Ndume was not ready to withdraw the case he instituted against the Senate in court. According to the sources, Ndume wants it to be on record that he was wrongfully suspended.
“As of today, I doubt if Ndume will withdraw that case. Some people have already approached him to withdraw the case, but he said he needs to clear his name and set the records straight. Maybe if they prevail on him, he will withdraw. But the Senate leadership is not ready to give anything in return,” one the sources, said