By Henry Umoru, Demola Akinyemi & Dirisu Yakubu
•Police dismiss Saraki’s claims, says nobody should hinder investigations
•PDP reacts as Senate sets up 10-member committee to meet Buhari
•My escorts were recalled at dangerous Birnin-Gwari, laments Sen. Bwacha
ABUJA—SENATE President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, yesterday, raised the alarm of a grand plan by the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, Ibrahim Idris, to implicate him, using some cultists who have been arrested in Kwara State and warned against what he described as rascality, intimidation and harassment.
This came as Kwara State Government in a reaction yesterday, expressed concern about the manner four of the suspected 17 cult members were transferred from the state police command to Abuja.
Similarly, scores of youths under the aegis of Kwara Agenda, yesterday, staged a peaceful protest around the state capital against the alleged plot.
However, the Police in a swift reaction, dismissed Saraki’s allegation, saying nobody, no matter how highly placed, would be allowed to interfere or obstruct Police investigation to pervert the course of justice.
Speaking on the floor of the Senate, Saraki told his colleagues that the Governor of Kwara State, Abdulfatai Ahmed, informed him about how the IGP has concluded plans to link him to a group of cult suspects who were about to be prosecuted in Kwara State but had been ordered by the IGP to be transferred to Abuja.
According to him, the IGP plans to put the suspects under duress to change the statements they already made in Ilorin, with a view to implicating him and Kwara State Government.
Saraki said the move was part of a strategy by the IGP to settle scores with the Senate for declaring him an enemy of democracy and unfit to hold any public office within and outside the country.
Senate 10-man c’ttee
Meanwhile, the Senate has constituted a 10-member committee to meet President Muhammadu Buhari to discuss the matter and other issues as they relate to sustaining the nation’s democracy.
The committee is to be led by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
Other members of the committee are the Senate leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, APC, Yobe North; Senate Chief Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye, APC, Osun Central; Senate Minority leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, PDP, Akwa Ibom North East; Senator Danjuma Goje, APC, Gombe Central; Senator Abdullahi Adamu, APC, Nasarawa West; Senator Aliyu Wamakko, APC, Sokoto North; Senator Sam Egwu, PDP, Ebonyi North; Senator Fatima Raji-Rasaki, PDP, Ekiti Central and Senator Oluremi Tinubu, APC, Lagos Central.
Saraki on IGP Idris
Speaking further at plenary, Saraki noted that he felt obliged to share the information with his colleagues because of the gravity of the matter and the grave danger it portended for Nigeria’s democracy.
He said: “My Distinguished colleagues, there is an issue which I need to bring to your attention very urgently.
“Last night, my state governor, Dr. Abdulfatai Ahmed, revealed to me an information at his disposal, that a group of suspects who had been in police cells for several weeks for cultism and whose investigation had been concluded with prosecution about to commence under the state law based on the advice of the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, and the Ministry of Justice, were ordered to be transferred to Abuja this morning (yesterday).
“According to the information available to the governor, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Idris Ibrahim, directed the Commissioner of Police in Kwara State to immediately transfer the men to the Force Headquarters.
“The plan, as the governor was made to understand, is that under duress, the suspects would be made to alter the statements they already made in Ilorin. They will then be made to implicate the Kwara State government, and in particular, myself, in their new statement.
“This plot is part of the strategy by the IGP to settle scores over the declaration by this honourable Chamber that he is not qualified and competent to hold any public office within and outside the country and that he is an enemy of Nigeria’s democracy based on his usual disrespectful conduct towards lawful authorities.
“In my view, this plot is an act of desperation, blackmail, intimidation, abuse of office and crude tactics aimed at turning our country into a police state where top officials cannot be made to obey the law, follow due process and subject themselves to constituted authorities.
“I want to bring this dangerous development to the attention of all of you my colleagues, the entire country and the international community so that you can be aware of the level of impunity in our country and the danger it constitutes to our democracy.”
Soon after the Senate President rounded off, the Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, said the allegations were quite weighty and capable of further tarnishing the image of the country and asked that the Senate set up a committee to investigate the matter.
Deputy Minority Leader, Bala Ibn Na’allah, seconded the motion asking the Senate president to step down for the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, to allow proper investigation into the matter.
Senator Bala Na’ Allah, who noted that the matter should be treated with the seriousness it deserved, said for the matter to come from the Chief Security Officer of Kwara State, it should be taken seriously.
He also called for the setting up of a committee to investigate the matter, adding that, “in view of the fact that Saraki is involved, he should step down for Ekweremadu to preside on setting up of the committee.”
One after the other, senators called for thorough investigation into the matter.
Saraki, thereafter, stepped down to allow for the setting up of the committee to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari over the matter. The committee is to report back in one week.
In his contribution, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, APC, Lagos East, said the committee should comprise members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, in view of the fact that Saraki is the chairman of the National Assembly.
On his part, Senate Chief Whip, Olusola Adeyeye, APC, Osun Central, said the committee should comprise seven lawmakers, each from the six geopolitical zones, adding that the House of Representatives should be intimated on the development and advised to do same if they so wished.
Also contributing, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, PDP, Imo East, who lamented the fact that lawmakers were being intimidated from carrying out their responsibilities, said: “We should not trivialise this matter.
‘’If it is happening to Saraki, then we are all in trouble. Many of us have been marked down. It is a calculated attempt to ridicule the person and integrity of the Senate president and the National Assembly as an institution.”
Senator Kabiru Marafa, APC, Zamfara Central, suggested that rather than setting up a committee to investigate the matter, the committee should visit President Buhari to inform him of the development.
He said: “There is already a problem between us and the IGP, so I suggest that we raise a committee as suggested by others but instead of investigating, they should sit down with President Buhari to discuss the matter.
“This is not a joke as it can turn democracy upside down. If we investigate, where are we to take our resolutions to. They might end up inviting the IG and what if he still doesn’t appear?”
Marafa said visiting the President on the matter and other related matters became imperative as it was obvious that he was not in the picture of some of the problems lawmakers were facing.
My ordeal, by Bwacha
Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, PDP, Taraba South, who decried increased spate of intimidation of lawmakers, however, suggested that the matter should be taken to the President, stressing that he ought to know that the nation’s democracy was collapsing.
He further narrated his ordeal when he applied for security backup on his way to a volatile part of his state.
“Each and everyone of us stand the danger of this development. I applied for security backup to an area that is known for kidnapping.
“As we were proceeding on our way, there was an instruction for the police officers to withdraw to a nearby police station.
‘’My security detail was withdrawn in an area that is notorious for kidnapping and I was left alone. I had to drive alone in fear. We are no longer safe,’’ he said.
In his remarks, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said: “We all know that the Parliament is the temple of democracy. We have the responsibility to our people not only to preserve our democracy but to also ensure that it is purified.
‘’What the Senate president has raised today is an exposure of some of the things that are wrong with our democracy which we need to halt.
“So we need to ensure there is rule of law and we need to ensure that we respect our various rights.”
Reacting to the allegation yesterday, the Police in a statement by Force Public Relations Officer, ACP Jimoh Moshood, said: ‘’The Nigeria Police Force is shocked at the unbelievable claims, unverifiable allegations and unfounded accusations being peddled against the IGP by the Senate President, accusing the Inspector General of Police, IGP Ibrahim K. Idris, of plot and strategies against him to settle scores.
‘’The Force, therefore, wishes to categorically state that there is no iota of truth in the allegation and false assertion by the Senate President of plot against him by the IGP to implicate the Kwara State government and the Senate President in any criminal matter.
“Until investigation is concluded, any person (s) or group(s) who tries to interfere in the investigation process by action or utterances is committing an offence.
“To set the records straight, the Kwara State Police Command on May 11, 2018, paraded the following suspects before the media and the public. They include Abolaji Safti Ojulari of Kankatu area, Ilorin; Lanre Mohammed Soliu a.k.a Askari of Ile Nda Compound, Ilorin; Azeez Moyaki of Moyaki Compound, Gambari Area Ilorin; Suleiman Babatunde of Gambari Area, Ilorin; Yusuf Habeeb of Kangile Village, Kulende, Ilorin; Umar Yahaya of Kangile Village, Kulende, Ilorin.
“The suspects admitted and confessed before the press and the public to have killed eleven (11) innocent persons in Kwara State and other states of the country. The victims according to the suspects were targeted and killed on the instructions of their sponsors.
“Consequent upon the public confessions of these vicious and notorious killer squad to the killings in cold blood of more than 11 innocent people in Kwara State and other states of the Federation, the statutory procedure and practice in the Force is that such a heinous crime and capital offence is transferred to the Force Headquarters for further investigation. This is to enable a thorough and discreet investigation into the crime.
“However, it is pertinent to state that there is no vested interest by the Inspector General of Police in the ongoing investigation into the several murders committed by this killer gang, other than ensuring that justice prevails in the matter. Nobody, no matter how highly placed would be allowed to interfere or obstruct Police investigation to pervert the course of justice.
“It is also imperative to let the public know that last year, suspects arrested over the mayhem and killings of innocent people in Ile-Ife, Osun State and those arrested in Southern Kaduna crisis in Kaduna State and suspects arrested in connection with Zaki-biam killings in Benue State were all transferred to the Force Headquarters, Abuja for further investigation before they were arraigned in court of competent jurisdiction.
“Therefore, transferring this hired assassin gang masquerading as cultists in Kwara State to Force Headquarters, Abuja, for further investigation is in accordance with Police investigation procedures.
“It is also important to underscore that the statement credited to the Senate president can dissuade and discourage living victims/deceased families of those who must have been killed by this vicious hired assassin gang from coming forward to give evidence against them.
“The Nigeria Police Force, hereby, implores the public to disregard and discountenance the claim of plot by the IGP against the Senate president as a ruse, unfortunate and an attempt to divert Police investigation into the killings of more than 11 innocent people from Kwara State and other states of the Federation in the recent past by the killer squad who operate under the guise of a cult group.
“The Force will leave no stone unturned and will do everything within the ambit of the law to ensure justice in this matter, no matter whose ox is gored.’’
Kwara govt reacts
In its reaction to the issue, yesterday, Kwara State government expressed concern about the manner four of the suspected cult members were transferred from the state police command to Abuja.
Speaking to newsmen at the end of an emergency security council meeting at Government House, Ilorin, Director of Public Persecution, DPP, Mr Jimoh Adebimpe Mumini, said the offences were state-based and triable under the state laws.
The DPP, who wondered why four of the 17 accused persons were transferred to Abuja, observed that there were some notorious cases of cultism that had been successfully prosecuted in the state.
He said he was of the belief that the four suspected cultists being transferred to Abuja, possibly for further interrogation, would be returned to the state where the offence was committed for trial.
“We had cases of notorious and dangerous killers in the state which have been handled in the state. Our hope is that the Nigeria Police Force will return the four accused persons to the state for trial,’’ he said.
Also speaking, the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor, Chief Leke Ogungbe, said the state security council hoped that the transfer issue was not politically motivated.
Also reacting, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan said: “The PDP is alarmed by the trend of brazen assaults on the institutions of democracy, particularly the National Assembly and the judiciary, in addition to unrelenting attacks on dissenting voices, especially as we approach the 2019 general elections.
“Nigerians will recall that the PDP had earlier alerted of plots to arrest, harass and detain dissenting voices and opposition members on trumped-up charges, as well as intimidate institutions of democracy and pave the way for a one-party state in our country.
“The PDP charges the National Assembly to defend the nation’s democracy by sparing no energy in pursuing its resolution of engaging President Muhammadu Buhari on these assaults, in addition to putting in motion, all legislative instruments available to it, to curtail all excesses in government before the situation finally gets out of hand.”
Kwara youths protest
Meanwhile, scores of youths under the aegis of Kwara Agenda, yesterday staged a peaceful protest around the state capital against the alleged plot by the federal government to frame the Senate president in a murder case.
The protesters who went round Muritala,Taiwo,Unity, Offa garage an Sawmail, among other areas, later went to Government House, Ilorin, where Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed came out to met them.
Leader of the group, Taofiq Olateju, told Governor Abdulfattah Ahmed that there was a fresh plot by the federal government to link the Senate President,Dr Bukola Saraki with a murder case involving one Lanre Mohammed Soliu, who was recently paraded by the police in the state over alleged involvement in cult related murders.