SENATOR Kabiru Marafa, spokesman of the Senate Unity Forum (SUF), the group opposed to the emergence of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, was, on Thursday, stripped of his position as chairman, Senate Committee on National Population and National Identity. Marafa had earlier rejected the committees set up by Senator Saraki, insisting that they were illegal, but Saraki still went ahead to name him a committee chairman. It was gathered that the Zamfara Senator had not convened a meeting of the standing committee since their inauguration in October last year. Last week, the Senate leadership decided to relieve Marafa of the chairmanship of the committee as a result of what sources described as threat to the 2016 budget of the parastatals being supervised by the committee. The National Population Commission (NPC) and the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) are yet to defend their 2016 budgets. It was confirmed that the vice chairman of the committee, Senator Abubakar Sani Danladi, had been named the acting chairman and he is expected to supervise the budget defence sessions of the NPC and NIMC. Meanwhile, Marafa, on Sunday, accused the Senate President, Saraki, of stage-managing the controversies surrounding the 2016 budget because of his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). Marafa, who represents the APC from Zamfara Central Senatorial District, spoke to Senate correspondents in Abuja. In a swift response, however, senator representing Kwara South, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, defended the Senate President, insisting that Marafa was merely seeking attention. According to Marafa, the controversies rocking the 2016 budget were in “very logical ways” linked to the travails of the Senate President at the CCT, adding that some fifth columnists were responsible for the different stories around the budget. He said: “Honestly speaking, if I am to comment on the controversy that has been trailing the 2016 budget in the Senate, I will say it is all the work of the fifth columnists there. You remember we woke up after 15 days of the receipt of the budget in the National Assembly. We woke up one day and the Senate President just came and said there is no budget, that the budget is stolen, embarrassing everybody, but the following day, the Speaker said it was not stolen, ‘our own is here.’ “Next, they said the budget was doctored, next they said the budget was padded, next they said there were discrepancies all over the place, we knew how they came into the leadership of the National Assembly or the Senate. Was it a coincidence that the issue of padding and everything just came up after the Supreme Court said ‘go and face your trial’? “Suddenly, we started hearing that we cannot pass the budget as we promised because there were discrepancies and so on and so forth. In a nutshell, all the noise about the budget was all about this issue of corruption trial or CCT trial; that is all, no more no less.” The Zamfara senator also said he would appear before the Senate Ethics Committee when invited for probe over a previous interview, in which he asked the Senate President to resign over the CCT trial, but insisted that nobody can suspend him from the Senate. The Senate had, last week Tuesday, referred Marafa to its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, headed by Senator Sam Anyanwu, over an interview he granted, which asked Saraki to resign from office. He was accused of bringing the Senate to disrepute and infringing on the privileges of the lawmakers. The committee, which was also asked to recommend appropriate sanction against Marafa if found guilty, has until today to complete its assignment. But the senator told newsmen on Sunday that: “Nobody, I repeat, nobody in that Senate can suspend me over those remarks I made in the said interview, rather, it is the Senate President, Saraki , that should be suspended by the Senate for turning things upside down within the last eight months from forgery of Standing Orders, to illegally increasing the number of Standing committees in the Senate from 57 to 65, with attendant violation of ranking rules in their compositions and above all, refusing to resign as Senate President, in the face of trial on corruption charges at the Code of Conduct Tribunal ( CCT) and invariably battering the image of the Senate.” In his response to Marafa, the Senator representing Kwara South, Rafiu Ibrahim, who spoke on behalf of the Senate President accused the Zamfara lawmaker of seeking attention. He said: “There is something wrong about the fact that out of 109 senators, Senator Marafa is standing alone, abusing everybody, perhaps to continue to get relevance. Like he is always advising others to do, he should go and defend himself before the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges and stop creating distractions. He should abide by the rules of the Senate which he swore to uphold upon his inauguration as a Senator.” Senator Ibrahim said as much as possible, the Senate President would not like to join issues with Senator Marafa, adding that the senator was already “billed to appear before the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions on issues bordering on ethics, decorum and uttering of unguarded statements unbecoming of a distinguished senator…” He further defended Saraki thus: “How can anybody reduce the issue of the controversies bordering on budget to the creation of just one person, the Senate President? The questions that arise from this claim are: Were there versions of the budget? Yes, there were. “The president (Muhammadu Buhari) himself, on January 15, wrote to admit that there were versions of the budget. Also, after the various irregularities pointed out and openly admitted by the ministers during budget defence sessions, the chairmen of the Committees on Appropriation in both chambers on February 10 jointly addressed the press that the February 25 date set for the passage of the 2016 budget would not be feasible.” “In fact, it was the House chairman, who first gave the indication to that effect. How is Dr Saraki now being dragged into it? I think the press should be wary of people, who play politics with almost any issue because they want to be in the news. “He (Marafa) also spoke about the Senate President doctoring Senate Standing Order and unilaterally creating committees. These are allegations that are subjects of a litigation that he himself initiated. Is he no longer going to wait for the court verdict? “However, it should be noted that the Standing Order was in place before Dr Saraki was elected Senate President. It had been there from the seventh Senate. “It should be noted that the Senate President did not initiate the discussion on the floor of the Senate about the statements Senator Marafa made which are alleged to have brought the institution to disrepute. Other senators did. And the Senate President will not singlehandedly determine the matter now before the Ethics Committee.”]]>

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