Saraki must show remorse, says Lawan group By NIYI ODEBODE AND SUNDAY ABORISADE

Senate President Bukola Saraki

The Senate Unity Forum on Sunday said that it would abide by the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari and other leaders of the All Progressives Congress on the crisis over the Senate principal offices.

The group,   which canvassed for the emergence of Senator Ahmad Lawan, as President of the Senate, said that it would only withdraw it court cases challenging the election of the presiding officers of the Senate, if the party leaders directed them to do so.

The forum, however, said that at present the group had decided to pursue the court cases to their logical conclusion.

It said that the Senate President and his group must show remorse, before the crisis could be resolved.

The comments of the group came on the heels of the peace moves by the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki and his group.

A national newspaper had on Saturday reported that   loyalists of the Senate President had a few days ago met with the President.

Saraki’s loyalists, including the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, Adamu Aliero and Danjuma Goje, were reported to have begged Buhari, who had been shunning Saraki since the crisis in the upper chamber of the National Assembly started.

Sunday PUNCH also reported on Sunday that Saraki had reached out to the APC leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as part of the peace moves.

But some of the SUF members, who spoke with The PUNCH on the telephone in Abuja on Sunday, said there was no way peace would be achieved if Saraki failed to respect party supremacy by announcing senators Ahmad Lawan, George Akume, Sola Adeyeye and Abu Ibrahim as principal officers.

The spokesperson for the SUF, Senator Kabir Marafa, said that his group would defend the party discipline and its supremacy over all members of the APC in the upper chamber at all times.

He also explained that the Saraki-led Senate went against both the party’s directive and the rule of ranking in the announcement of the principal officers who were elected by the caucuses of their geopolitical zones.

Marafa insisted that the appointment of the Deputy Senate Leader and Deputy Chief Whip for instance, contravened Order 1 and 3 (2).

He therefore asked them to vacate their seats first before any meaningful peace deal could be struck.

He said, “Our position has not changed. Those who were appointed as principal officers must vacate their seats first because their appointments contradicted the Senate rule and the position of the party which is supreme.

“The court should determine whether or not the management of the National Assembly was right to have used the Senate Standing Order 2015 which was not amended through due process.”

Marafa, however, said that his colleagues would abide by the directive of Buhari and other leaders of the party in case the Saraki camp showed remorse and pledged to respect the party.

He said, We are not pursuing any personal agenda. We are doing all these in the interest of democracy and the overall interest of all Nigerians who made lot of sacrifices to chase away a government which represented everything that is against their interest.

“From the look of things, it appears that some people somewhere are trying to destroy our party and we have to be careful with the way we are handling issues. So, if the Saraki group have realised their mistakes and are ready to make amend, we will respect the decision of our leaders.

“If our leaders say, go and withdraw all the cases in court in the interest of peace, we are ready to comply afterall what we are also after is peace. There is nothing personal in all what we are doing.”

Another member of the group, Senator Adesoji Akanbi, ( Oyo South) also said that apart from the fact that the principal officers appointed by Saraki must vacate their seats, the supremacy of the party must be respected by the Saraki group.

He said, “I am a party man and I believe in the supremacy of the party. All of us cannot be in the Senate without the party because the constitution does not give room for independent candidacy. We will be laying a dangerous precedent if we fail to pursue the case legally to its logical conclusion.”

The five plaintiff in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/651/2015 which is before the Federal High Court in Abuja, are senators who are opposed to the emergence of Saraki as the Senate President.

They are senators Abu Ibrahim, Kabir Marafa, Ajayi Boroffice, Olugbenga Ashafa and Suleiman Hunkuni.

The plaintiffs seek, among other prayers, an order nullifying the Senate Standing Orders 2015 as well as the election of Saraki as the Senate President and that of Ike Ekweremadu as the Deputy Senate President, ýfor being products of the alleged forgery of the 2011 edition of the rules.

The six defendants to the suit are Saraki, Deputy Senate President, Ekweremadu; the National Assembly, the Clerks of the National Assembly and the Senate.

Justice Kolawole had on July 28, 2015 refused to grant plaintiff’s ex parte application stopping Saraki and other defendants in the suit from going ahead to constitute the standing committees of the Senate pending when their suit challenging the validity of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 is determined.

Justice Kolawole had then transferred to Justice Adeniyi Ademola who took over as vacation judge for hearing of the plaintiffs’ motion on notice seeking the restraining order against Saraki and other defendants.

PUNCH