Photo: The writer Hassan
By UMAR SA’AD HASSAN —
The travails of Senator Dino Melaye don’t surprise anyone. As a matter of fact, it was always a question of WHEN and HOW. Aside from being a staunch critic of President Buhari, he also picked up a fight with a man who has said he would jump into fire if President Buhari asked him to: Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State.
Dino Melaye has survived a fake certificate scandal, had an audio recording of him bribing an election tribunal judge leaked, and charged to court for falsely accusing the Kogi State chief of staff of trying to assassinate him. He looked poised to drag a recall process as far as he possibly could before he was hit with allegations of arming thugs to cause mayhem in his home state. He is a marked man. A man to be brought down by any means necessary.
As an enemy of government, Senator Melaye will most likely never enjoy the privileges people like Senator Ovie Omo-Agege enjoy. Omo-Agege allegedly led a gang of 15 hoodlums into the hallowed chambers of the Senate while plenary was in session to cart away the mace, the Senate’s symbol of authority. But apart from a face-saving stroll to the police headquarters accompanied by the FCT commissioner of police, nothing has been done.
In a scene out of an action movie, thugs forced their way in while petitions were been read, and their leader heard screaming, “Nigeria belongs to all of us. All of us are Nigerians and we have come to bring in our senator to have his seat as our senator.” Senator Omo-Agege walked in majestically, escorted by other hoodlums and headed straight for the dais, prompting security to ferry the deputy Senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, into the tea room. It is an insult on the intelligence of Nigerians for the police, with the overwhelming evidence at their disposal, to allow the senator to go simply because he denied leading the thugs or inciting any trouble.
Section 3 of the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act grants immunity to lawmakers only regarding utterances made on the floor of their houses during proceedings. The privilege does not in any way extend to crimes outside that. Omo-Agege who was suspended by the Senate, just a day before, had no business in the premises that day, and though he claims he was “legally advised” to disregard his suspension, it is hard to imagine anyone doing so without recourse to the act which provides in Section 22 for a forceful ejection and immunity for whoever effects it, if he refuses to leave. There is absolutely no reason for this man and his goons to not face the law. Add the video evidence to the statement of the Senate spokesperson, Abdullahi Sabi, and you have sufficient grounds for a case. Except of course someone doesn’t want that to happen.
A former chief whip of the Senate, Rowland Owie, perhaps shocked by the impunity with which the act was perpetrated and the laid-back attitude of the authorities towards prosecuting the perpetrators, has come out to accuse the Buhari government of being behind the invasion. And you can’t blame him for it. Buhari has a history of protecting his cronies and it would be wise to put nothing beyond a president that would sit back and do nothing after the indictment — of all people — his justice minister, Abubakar Malami, in the reinstatement of former pension boss Abdulrasheed Maina, a fugitive wanted by the EFCC, back into the civil service.
It is disgraceful to say the least that hoodlums would besiege the National Assembly, injure its staff, forcefully reinstate a suspended senator and steal the mace of the Senate. It is an unprecedented low and everyone involved must be punished to pass a strong message.
What is good for Melaye is also good for Omo-Agege.
Hassan is a lawyer based in Kano