To two senior advocates Prof Itse Sagay and Femi Falana, the Senate was off target in passing a vote of no confidence on Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Idris over his refusal to appear before the National Assembly.
Sagay, who is the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) and Falana, an activist, said the senators went to the extreme by their painting the police chief as an enemy of democracy who is unsuitable for public office in Nigeria and abroad.
Faulting the senators’ insistence on the Idris’ personal appearance before them, Sagay wondered what the Red Chamber was out to achieve by chasing the shadow.
The SAN said he could not wait for the Eighth Senate, which he described as the worst since 1999, to go next year. It smacks of personal vendetta for the lawmakers to reject the IGP’s representatives.
Sagay said he was not a fan of the current Senate, which he accused of abdicating its responsibilities by not passing the 2018 budget almost halfway into the year.
According to him, the Senate lacks the moral justification to declare the IGP as unfit to hold public office.
His words: “You know I’ve never been impressed by this Senate. It’s probably the worst we’ve ever had since the return to civilian rule. They are more concerned about exercising vain authority and power than in actually doing anything substantive for the country.
“These are people – the whole Senate – who would adjourn sitting and go to the Code of Conduct Tribunal in solidarity with their President. For everyday they go, the work of legislation is suspended. And they owe a duty to this country to make the laws for the order, peace and good government of Nigeria.
“Each time they abandon their legislative duties, they’re in fact committing a breach of their obligation, apart from the fact that doing that sort of thing is infantile.
“As if that was not enough, the whole Senate packed themselves again to visit Dino Melaye in the hospital. How rational is that? Why can’t they send a delegation of two or three people who would report back?
“So, it’s like a showoff of power and intimidation. I don’t think it’s really worthy of them to behave like that.”
Asked if the IGP should not have responded to the Senate’s invitations, Sagay said: “What I can deduce from the Police response is that the IGP has been honouring the Senate’s invitations.
“You know the frequency and flippancy with which this Senate invites people. They can invite you today and next week they invite you again. And these (those invited) are very busy people.
“They (Senate) don’t care. They just want their vanity to be assuaged, for people to know they have power and are big and that someone is disobeying their authority.
“The IGP sent a very highly-placed representative. If the Senate really wanted information, why didn’t they get it from IGP’s deputy rather than insisting that the IGP himself must come? It suggests they’re turning the whole thing into some form of personal vendetta.
“As I said, I’m not impressed with this Senate because as we’re speaking now, we’re going to half of this year and they have refused to pass the budget.
“Is that a Senate that should be calling anybody unfit for anything? Are they doing their job? Budget passing is the most important job of the legislature. They’ve not done it six months into the year.
“They were angry with the executive for not sacking Ibrahim Magu. How did they respond? They refused to confirm any nominee, regardless of how urgent and important the assignment is for this nation. Honestly we’re just praying for 2019 to come so this Senate can go.”
Falana said the Senate lacks the power to summon the IGP, urging the upper legislative chamber to “accept his sympathy”.
The human rights lawyer said the senate “did not get it right” by tagging Ibrahim Idris, inspector-general of police (IGP), “an enemy of democracy”.
Speaking on a Channels TV programme on Thursday, Falana said the senate made a mistake by bringing Melaye’s case into the picture.
He said even with the killings, IGP is not the right person to summon, rather, the minister of interior and the attorney-general of the federation.
Falana said: “By virtue of Section 67 (2) of the constitution, either chamber can summon a minister when the affairs of his or her ministry are under consideration.
“The only other occasion a public officer can be summoned by the national assembly is when proceedings are ongoing to expose corruption and when a law is being debated either with a view to amending it or to have a new law entirely.
“But there is no such powers given to the national assembly by the constitution to summon everybody.”
Asked by the programme’s anchor if the senate has the power to summon the President, Falana replied: “No. Section 67 (1) has given the president the discretion to address the national assembly either jointly or separately, on any matter of national importance. The president or the governor of a state cannot be summoned; that is the constitution.
“The national assembly has my sympathy, but what can be done? The constitutional review is ongoing. You can deal with this lacuna, or the gaps you have identified.
“But don’t go outside the limit of your powers. When you do that, you ridicule the constitution. And that is what is going on.”