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Ministerial Screening: Saraki’s Gamble Fails, APC Chiefs Insist On Code Of Conduct Tribunal Trial

The decision by Senate President Bukola Saraki to ignore protests by his key allies against the clearance ministerial nominees may not lead to a reprieve from his ongoing trial by the Code of Conduct Tribunal.


SUNDAY PUNCH learnt that the Saraki camp worked for the clearance of the nominees with the hope that his decision to confirm all the nominees, especially former Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, would at least endear him to the leadership of the All Progressives Congress and President Muhammadu Buhari.

However, multiple party sources informed SUNDAY PUNCH that the Senate President’s travails are far from over.

A leading party member privy to these happenings noted that while the party felt a sense of relief that the threat to stop Amaechi was neutralised, it would not interfere with Saraki’s ongoing trial at the CCT.

He explained that even if the party was in a position to intervene, it would not, because doing so would send the wrong signals.

The high ranking party member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that the matter had gone out of the hands of the party.

He said, “Already, the Appeal Court has taken a decision. The Senate President and his team of lawyers have taken the matter to the Supreme Court. Thus, for a party and a government serious about the rule of law, the least we can do is to allow the judicial process run its full course.

“If the party should say one word with respect to this issue at this point, it could be misinterpreted in ways that you cannot imagine.

“You may recall, President Muhammadu Buhari had said it over and over again that he would not spare even his party members if they were found guilty of corruption.

“Former President (Olusegun) Obasanjo received accolades from far and near when he did not spare (Adolphus) Wagbara, some senators and an Inspector-General of Police who served in his government in his (Obasanjo’s) anti-corruption war.

“What makes you think Buhari will be different? It won’t happen.”

Another top party member who is also close to the Presidency said Saraki’s CCT trial and the confirmation of ministers were two different issues.

According to him, one of the reasons why the Senate President confirmed all the ministers was to warm up the President.

He said, “Not confirming the ministers would have further deepened the gulf between the Senate President, and the President and Saraki doesn’t want that. He wants reconciliation. His trial and the confirmation are not the same thing. The President had told the whole world that he won’t interfere with the trial. How do you think people will react if Buhari now says because Saraki confirmed the ministers, the anti-corruption drive should stop. No one will take the President seriously again. Even, the Peoples Democratic Party will use it against us.”

Similarly, another APC chieftain from the South West told our correspondent that stopping Saraki’s CCT trial was out of question.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said, “How can ministerial screening solve all the problems Saraki created in the party? It is not acceptable. Moreover, the CCT trial is a different matter entirely.”

When contacted, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu, said President Buhari did not have a problem with Saraki or any leader of the National Assembly.

He told one of our correspondents in a telephone interview that the President’s position that he was ready to work with the leadership of the National Assembly had not changed.

The presidential spokesman further explained that since the party had come out publicly to say there are no issues, the President, who is a loyal party man, also does not have anything against the lawmakers.

Shehu said, “President Muhammadu Buhari has said it from the beginning that he would work with the National Assembly leaders and he has been doing that. There are no issues between the President and the National Assembly leaders.

“If anybody wants to measure the temperature of the relationship between the National Assembly leaders and the party, such a person should go and read the statement the party’s spokesman issued at the end of the ministerial screening.

“The party said there is no friction and the party is one. The President is a loyal party man, he abides by the party’s position. There is no issue at all.”

However, loyalists of the embattled Senate President, Bukola Saraki, are still in shock over the Appeal Court ruling dismissing his case.

Some of the senators, who spoke to SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday, said they were initially confident that the presidency would reciprocate Saraki’s gesture of confirming the ministerial nominees by working for the CCT charges against him to be dropped.

They, however, confirmed that efforts were ongoing to appeal to Buhari through some respected traditional rulers, religious leaders and the recently confirmed ministerial nominees.

According to them, the Senate President had reached out to more religious and elder statesmen in his bid to ensure that the matter was amicably resolved.

One of the pro-Saraki APC senators from the North Central geopolitical zone, lamented that the Appeal Court “still went ahead to deliver the judgment despite all moves undertaken by Saraki to ensure an out-of-court settlement of the matter.”

A leading member of the pro-Saraki Like Minds Senators, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, expressed confidence that the Supreme Court verdict, when delivered, would be in favour of the Senate President.

He said, “As we talk, a lot of things are going on to resolve the issue. The Federal Executive Council, when constituted in a matter of days, will begin to take positive steps towards ensuring an out-of- court settlement of the matter because virtually all of them (members of the council) interacted freely with the Senate President in the last few weeks. We are optimistic that it will be resolved before the Supreme Court verdict.”

Meanwhile, Senators George Sekibo and Gershom Bassey, both of the PDP, told our correspondent that notwithstanding the ruling of the Appeal Court on Saraki’s case, loyalists of the Senate President in the upper chamber remained solidly behind him.