Senators threw the Upper Chambers of the National Assembly into confusion on Thursday as they differed on a motion on human rights abuses and constitutional breaches by the Presidency.
Although there was a consensus that Nigeria is sliding into dictatorship, some loyalists of President Muhammadu Buhari rose against the debate on violation of human rights and constitutional breaches of the government because it was an indictment on the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The supporting Senators warned that if the situation wasnot checked, it could degenerate into full dictatorship.
While most of the APC Senators kicked against the debate anchored on a motion sponsored by one of their members, Senator David Umoru (APC Niger East) , virtually all the PDP lawmakers voted for the five prayers sought.
One of the prayers adopted as a resolution by the Senate was the summoning of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) to appear before it in plenary for explanations on the allegations of human rights violations in the country.
Senator Umaru had in the motion titled: “Alarming rise in cases of alleged human rights violations and consistent assault on the provisions of the 1999 Constitution by the Executive”, submitted that Nigeria was descending into anarchy and despotism as a result of indiscriminate arrests, unconstitutional detention of citizens under questionable circumstances as was the fate of the Senator representing Abia South Senatorial District, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe who was whisked away by a detachment of the Department of State Services (DSS) personnel when he attended a function at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja and kept incommunicado at 055 detention facility for five days.
He also cited the continuous detention of former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), the leader of Islamic movement of Nigeria (IMN), Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, despite bails granted them by courts of competent jurisdiction.
He added in the motion that the recent enactment of the controversial Executive Order No. 006 as an Executive legislation which permits security agencies to freeze the assets of persons standing trial without recourse to court order as part of assaults on the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
According to him, several other Executive Orders have also effectively usurped legislative and judicial powers of the National Assembly and the judiciary as enshrined respectively under Sections 4 and 6 of the Constitution just as he mentioned the release of the sum of $496 million from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) for the purchase of 12 Super Tucano aircraft from the United States government without prior approval by the National Assembly as a clear case of direct contravention of Section 80 of the 1999 Constitution.
He, therefore, prayed the Senate to draw the attention of the Federal Government and its relevant authorities to the unfortunate development with a view to preventing the country’s gradual descent into a chaotic state where violence and might rule and where fundamental rights are observed more in breach than in compliance.
But the APC Senators led by the Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, kicked against the motion on the ground that most of the instances cited by the sponsor are matters already in court.
Na’ Allah who came by a point of order to raise his objection was however ruled out of order by the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu who presided over the session.
Senators Jibrin Barau (APC Kano North ), Yahaya Abdullahi (APC Kebbi North) in their separate contributions opposed the motion which they alleged was targeted at tarnishing the image of the Buhari administration.
Another APC Senator, Shehu Sani (APC Kaduna Central) supported the motion, saying that “issues raised in it were very clear.”
According to him, “though President Buhari is known for his anti-corruption war, the image of the country is being stained by clear cases of breaches of human rights and violations of the provisions of the constitution one of which is the Executive Order which must comply with the laws of the land.”
Ekweremadu said: “Please, we shouldn’t restrict our colleagues in their contributions since it is the temple of democracy and if members of the Senate are not allowed to speak their mind here I wonder what we are doing. So, I suppose you know that under the laws of this country, you can say what you want here and you are covered under privilege. So, the freedom of speech is taken higher in the parliament because the law recognises that you are representing the people.”
Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe (PDP Abia South) said that no lover of democracy, justice and rule of law, would kick against the content and spirit of the motion.
He said: “I fully ally myself with everything that Senator Shehu Sani has said. I will simply say my mind. I have been a victim of human rights abuse for which this Senate contributed immensely for me to be freed to stand here today.”
In its resolutions, the Senate called on the Federal Government to desist from further violation of the sacred principle of separation of powers and adopt the rule of law as the guiding principle of government actions.
It urged the Executive to urgently empanel a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into all cases of human rights abuse allegedly committed by the Police, the Nigerian Army and other security agencies in the course of discharging their duties with a view to identifying the culprits and victims and offering redress where necessary.