National Assembly, Abuja
In what they have dubbed as 'the integrity of the Senate', some senators have coalesced into a Group of 77 drawn from various parties and camps.
Strong indications emerged early yesterday of a hardening of position by senators who have coalesced into a Group of 77 drawn from various parties and camps to protect what they have dubbed as the integrity of the Senate.
The new G77 which had its maiden meeting on Thursday night has meanwhile launched moves to extricate the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC from the control of the presidency in the light of claims by the senators that it had become a tool of the administration.
The G77 comprising mostly of new senators it was gathered, also up in arms against older senators who they claim have monopolised the juicy committees of the Senate to the detriment of the newer ones.
The maiden meeting of the G77 was hosted by Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio who incidentally was not at home at the beginning of the meeting. The meeting monitored by Saturday Vanguard commenced shortly after 7.00 p.m. on Thursday and ended just before midnight following which some senators also broke up into groups. 36 senators were physically present at the meeting which inside sources disclosed has a membership roll of 77, almost all of them new senators.
Remarkably, the group is also putting forward itself as a bulwark for the embattled Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki with members vowing to defend him against what they alleged as the persecution of the executive branch of government. The formation of the new group came barely 24 hours after senators resolved in a closed session on Wednesday to put aside all acrimonies and project the institution as one.
In that light the senators it was learnt resolved to withdraw all cases against the election of Saraki as the Senate President. It was also resolved that as a sop to critics that the Senate would withdraw the amendment bill to the Code of Conduct Tribunal Act.
However, that agreement ran into trouble at the G77 meeting on Thursday as senators in the group resolved to push forward an amendment bill to the law establishing the EFCC to among other things remove the president’s right as appointing power and transfer same to the National Judicial Council, NJC.
Besides, the amendment aims to ensure that the minimum qualification for the office of executive chairman of the EFCC would be a Deputy Director General of Police, DIG.
A senator from the former Bendel State is to present the amendment bill which would be expected to be fast tracked. The senators at the Thursday meeting particularly lamented what they claimed as the way and manner the EFCC was being used to hound what they claimed as perceived opponents of the administration.
The case of former governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa and his son was given as a particular instance at the meeting as it was claimed that the EFCC rushed to file charges without investigation. As part of the amendment the EFCC would be compelled to finish investigations before filing charges against anyone, a source at the meeting disclosed.
Noting the determination of the new senators to get their own entitlements in the chamber, a senator who attended the meeting told Saturday Vanguard that the group would frustrate what they described as the over ambitious nature of the older senators who are anointing themselves as those that will take over from the embattled Senate President, Senator Saraki.
The source also disclosed that the G77 came into existence to frustrate any gang up against Senator Saraki’s leadership of the Senate. Among those sighted at the meeting were Senators Samuel Anyanwu, PDP, Imo East; Clifford Ordia, PDP, Edo Central; Matthew Urhoghide, PDP, Edo South; Ben Murray Bruce, PDP, Bayelsa East; Dino Melaye, APC, Kogi West; Biodun Olujimi, PDP, Ekiti South; Isa Misau, APC, Bauchi Central, among others including Akpabio who came into the meeting not too long before it ended.