[The Legislative Blog]: “The Customs boss uniform issue is unimportant” | 7 things we learnt from Bukola Saraki’s interview

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Senate President Bukola Saraki recently spoke to Daily Trust Newspaper in an exclusive interview and he touched on some of the issues that are currently trailing his position and the Senate as a whole.

From the Senate’s rift with the Executive to the Customs duty controversy, his trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the Paris Club refund to states, his relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari and Senator Ali Ndume’s suspension, the Senate President addressed all the issues with tact.

Here are some of the noteworthy things he said:

  1. On his trial before the CCT which he has described as political:

As I said from Day One, that case should never have gone to CCT. EFCC has no business taking a case to CCT. CCB is saying all these things; we don’t know anything about them. This is the first time that CCB will take anyone to court without first asking him to come and write a statement. This is the first time that EFCC will prosecute a case at CCT. So many things in that trial are abnormal. People who have been following that case already know that it has collapsed. So I have no fear about it and we will not put it on the table.”

If you look at the case, it is not a normal case. This was an issue that happened 13 years ago even though they say that criminal issues have no limitation of time. Two, was the man ever invited to make a statement? If you put all these issues together, it raises suspicion that it is all political. But we have gone through the process, we are coming to the end of it and I am confident that insha Allah I shall be vindicated.”

2.  On Ali Ndume’s suspension:

He came on a matter of privilege. The matter was referred to Ethics Committee, which is our body that looks into behaviours, petitions, etc. They reviewed it; we all went and made our case before them, they listened to everybody and reached their conclusion. They submitted their report, it was debated, and a decision was taken. I do not know of any law or any rule that was disregarded by the Senate. Due process was followed. It is not the first time that a member of the Senate or the House was suspended. I think right now there is a member of the House who is on suspension for a year or so, so when people get up and say nobody can be suspended for more than two weeks…Of course there are always interests. If I am from Borno South, of course I want my representative back but if you give a committee an assignment and they do it and Senate takes a decision based on it, I think we should respect that.

3. On the controversy surrounding the Customs boss and his refusal to appear before the Senate in uniform:

I think that was an issue in which we all allowed an unimportant issue to overshadow the more important issue. That was unfortunate. Our job in parliament is to look at the interest of Nigerians. That policy introduced by Customs is very bad and is coming in very difficult times and it needed a review. That was the main issue. Unfortunately, the narrative of the uniform was given more prominence. As at today, I am not even sure whether that Customs policy is still in force or it has been suspended. All anyone remembers is the issue of uniform. I think we all have a role to play here in not allowing some of these pedestrian issues to submerge the more substantive issues… The issue of whether he can wear or cannot wear uniform, that can go on until whenever but whether he is in uniform or not, let him do the right policy

4. On his relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari:

We have a very good relationship“.

5. On the much talked about rift between the Senate and the Executive which he previously described as non-existent:

Indeed, there has been a significant improvement in the relationship from where we were a year ago. The issues now are specific, not the kind of systemic strained relationship that we had last year. Today you can narrow down on the issues because they are isolated. That was what I was trying to explain. Of course there are issues today but the situation is not abnormal that an agency will have a problem here and another agency will have a problem there. The issues can be resolved, and one should not on that basis conclude that the Executive and the Legislature have a strained relationship. Otherwise, many other things are going on well. In fact the most important things are going on well. Budget is going on; I mean, if you look at the rancour we had in 2015, do you see that kind of rancour now? That time there was rancour at every stage of the budget process but this year, for four months now have you heard that kind of rancour? The budget process is the real test for Executive-Legislative relationship because that is where you engage with every ministry and agency in the Executive.”

And a bonus:

6. When asked if he ever gets any sleep, he gave the perfect response:

I do. Very well“.

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