Posted by Gbade Ogunwale, Sam Akpe and Michael Faloseyi, Abuja on
DESPITE President Olusegun Obasanjo's apology on behalf of the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, the Senate stuck to its guns on Tuesday that the minister must go.
DESPITE President Olusegun Obasanjo's apology on behalf of the
Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, the
Senate stuck to its guns on Tuesday that the minister must go.
Before the President's apology, the upper legislative chamber had
demanded that el-Rufai must be sacked, within 48 hours for allegedly
making disparaging comments against it.
It said failure by Obasanjo to heed the call might lead to its
rejection of all bills emanating from the executive, especially the
Trade Union (Act) Amendment Bill 2004.
The minister had while reacting to a directive on Wednesday by the
Senate for him to refund about N19 million which he paid to two of
his special assistants as salaries and emoluments as at December
2003, said, "Silence is the best answer for a fool."
As the Senate convened for its early session on Tuesday, a member,
Senator David Brigidi, called his colleagues' attention to the
comment by the minister.
Urging the Senate to put aside the day's business and take a position
on the comment, Brigidi said that el-Rufai had desecrated
the "hallowed chamber."
The Senator pointed out that the Senate might become an object of
ridicule if it allowed el-Rufai to get away with the comment.
He said, "The minister had described the entire senators as fools.
This is an unprovoked and unnecessary attack against an innocent
resolution we made last week. This hallowed chamber has been
desecrated by this verbal attack.
"I hereby move that the Senate do recommend that the President of the
Federal Republic of Nigeria should remove Mallam Nasir el-Rufai as
minister within 48 hours. I also move that at the expiration of the
48 hours, the Senate do reconvene to consider other options."
Senator Nuhu Aliyu who agreed that the minister had rubbished the
Senate, added that el-Rufai had always taken pleasure in discrediting
the Senate at the slightest opportunity, seconded Brigidi's position.
Anger and indignation pervaded the morning session as other senators
took turns to register their displeasure with the minister.
Abubakar Sodangi, Fidelis Okoro, Idris Kuta, Kanti Bello, Mohammed
Aruwa, and Patrick Osakwe were the other senators that rose in unison
against the minister.
Sources said what the lawmakers found particularly annoying, was the
revelation that el-Rufai had ignored the advice given him by the
National Chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Audu
Ogbeh, to apologise to the senators.
While unanimously adopting the call for el-Rufai's sack, the Senators
said failure by Obasanjo to act within 48 hours might compel them to
put on hold, all bills sent to it by the Executive, particularly the
Labour Reform Bill.
But three hours after their resolution that the minister be sacked,
Obasanjo dispatched an apology letter to them.
The senators, however, refused to either accept or reject the letter
when it was read to them during their afternoon session. They simply
brushed it aside.
The President said having been informed of what he described
as "alleged wrong deployment of language" by the minister, he invited
him to offer explanation on the issue.
He said the minister's explanation touched on action and reaction
between him (el-Rufai) and a "distinguished senator."
Obasanjo said he had cautioned the minister on the use of language in
public about any member of the National Assembly no matter how
provoked he felt.
He asked the Senate to forgive (the minister) "if any offence had
been caused" and accept his apology and also withdraw any "threat or
blackmail" proposed against him (el-Rufai).
At the extra-ordinary session of the Senate held at 2.00pm to approve
the Votes and Proceedings of the day, President of the Senate, Chief
Adolphus Wabara read the five-paragraph letter from the President to
But just as Wabara read the fourth paragraph of the letter, which
asked for forgiveness, senators rose in protest indicating that the
apology was unnecessary.
They were, however, calmed down by Wabara who appealed that they
should listen to the President's letter before deciding on the next
line of action.
After the letter was read, the senators called for the Votes and
Proceedings, which they had earlier agreed would be attached to the
letter from the Senate demanding the immediate removal of el-Rufai.
The letter read, "On noticing the alleged wrong deployment of
language of the Minister of the FCT on a member or members of the
Senate of the Federal Republic, I asked the Honourable Minister to
give me an explanation in writing.
"I note with some concern the minister's explanation which seemed to
touch on action and reaction between a distinguished senator and the
"But be that as it may, I have cautioned the minister on the use of
language in public about any member of the Federal Legislature no
matter how seemingly provoked.
"Everything should be done to maintain the very cordial and amicable
relationship now existing between the Executive and the Legislature.
"Therefore if any offence has been caused, I apologise on behalf of
the minister and I hope that words amounting to alleged threat or
blackmail will cease to emanate from distinguished and honourable
Members of the National Assembly.
"Please accept, Mr. Senate President, the assurances of my highest
consideration," the letter was dated August 31, 2004 and was signed
by the president himself.
It was gathered on Tuesday evening that the leadership of the PDP
might invite the FCT minister.
A source close to Ogbeh said that about nine Senators had at the
weekend complained to the Chairman, asking him to call el- Rufai to
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