President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday met with the Senate president, Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, behind closed doors. The meeting, which held inside the president’s, office, took place hours after Mr Buhari returned from his home town, Daura, in Katsina state.
After the meeting, Mr Saraki told State House correspondents that they were in the Villa on the invitation of Mr. Buhari. He said the president briefed them on his trip to the United States last week where he met with President Donald Trump. He also said Mr Buhari spoke to them about the 2018 budget.
The two chambers of the National Assembly are yet to pass the 2018 budget estimates six months after it was presented to them by the president. The Assembly has said that the delay in the passage of the budget was due to the failure of the heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies to appear before the Assembly and defend their estimates.
“We also talked on the issue of concerns to us, the invasion of the National Assembly, which he showed great concern and said action will be taken to investigate that,” Mr Saraki said. Thugs invaded the Senate chamber recently and took away the mace, the symbol of authority.
Mr Saraki told reporters that Mr Buhari saw the invasion as an embarrassment to the country. He said the president assured them that “there will be a proper investigation because it is something that is not just about the National Assembly, it is about the country”. On when the 2018 budget will be passed, Mr Saraki simply said “hopefully it should be laid this week”.
He also said if laid before plenary within the week, the budget may be passed early next week, adding “but we are hoping it will be laid this week”. Mr Saraki also spoke about the strained relationship between the two arms of government. He said the invitation extended to them by the president to brief them on his outing in the US “is a good sign”.
“We at the National Assembly have always been ready to give all our support to the executive and we will continue to work along those lines. “As I said, the presidential system that we operate, we sometimes have the responsibility to check the excesses of the executive, so there will always be times we will disagree but by and large, we will always work for the interest of Nigerians and always keep on moving on,” he said.
Mr Saraki also said they raised the issue of the refusal of the Inspector General of the Police, Ibrahim Idris, to appear before the Senate. “We also raised the issue of the non-appearance of the IG at the senate and felt that they must continue to ensure that he continues to apply obedience to the issue of constituted authority.
“We are of great concern that this is the first time this is happening and that, that matter needs to be addressed considering the importance of the powers of the constitution that gives investigative powers, also gives to us and that there is need for police to accept that they too are under the constitution and they must obey that. We raised that concern,” he said. On his part, Mr Dogara said they also raised the issue of Dino Melaye who is being prosecuted by the police for arms possession.
“Of course anything that happens to one of our members or any member of the National Assembly is of concern to us. And there is no way we can have this kind of meeting without raising that. “This is a civilian administration, it is democracy and it is imperative and very very important that all institutions of democracy operate within the ambit of the rule of law. “There is no where, I have said it before that police will behave in a democracy like a clan of tribesmen, like upgraded barbarians sort of. So there is need for us to act with civility.
“We are not saying that anybody should be protected and defended. Once you have committed an offence, our law says you should answer it but you just have to utilise the provision of our constitution, the rule of law and this administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has over emphasised in order to bring people to book.
“But a situation where people are wheeled to court, that doesn’t give a good image of our democracy. I have not seen a democracy where people are wheeled to court, they are not in the proper frame of mind and they are forced to undergo trial. “Whatever it is, even if Dino is pretending as some have said in some section of the media, he cannot pretend forever. He is there, he will not run away, he is a senator and he can be tried any time he is in proper frame of mind.
“As a lawyer, I can tell you, any judge that assesses an accused person not to be in a proper frame of mind, even if the accused person pleads guilty, he is duty bound by law to record a plea of guilt if he is not satisfied as to the soundness of the mind of the accused person,” he said.
The Speaker said he believed Mr Buhari, being a “listening president” will “definitely take steps and do something about it”. The Speaker said the meeting did not discuss the threat of impeachment of the president which was mooted in both chambers last week.