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10th NASS Leadership: To avoid religious dominance, I ‘ll go on my knees to beg Yari’s supporters- VP Shettima

Kashim Shettima, Light-Up

…No, your party plots to cow Yari with threat of arrest, claims PDP
…as Akpabio, Yari camps lay claim to majority support of senators- elect

By Tunde Opalana

Vice President of Nigeria, Senator Kashim Shettima has urged politicians to be fair and just in balancing ethnic and religious considerations in composition of political offices for the unity of the country.

This is as he admonished lawmakers- elect to be nationalistic in their approach to the election of leadership of the two Chambers of the National Assembly tomorrow.

Shettima specifically appealed to all senators – elect irrespective of parry affiliations to vote for Senator Godswill Akpabio as president of the 10th Senate.

According to him, Akpabio’s emergence can avert throwing the nation into religious crisis, as it will be religiously unjust to have the number three political office in Nigeria occupied by a Muslim, after having both President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and himself, as the Vice President from the Islamic faith.

READ ALSO: Nigeria must never take democracy for granted

He made a commitment to go on his knees if the need arise to beg those canvassing for emergence of Senator Abdul Aziz Yari who is a Muslim as next Senate President.

Aside being unfair, unjust and inequitable to have a Muslim as the 10th Senate President, Shettima said such imbalance could spark religious crisis in the country.

He, therefore, urged all senators- elect, particularly those elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to align themselves with the APC zoning of the Senate President position to a Christian from the South South region.

The Vice President made the appeal while addressing senators- elect members of the Stability Group who are supporting the Akpabio/ Barau ticket, Saturday night at a meeting held at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.

He also admonished lawmakers- elect to be guided by their conscience and burning desire for the unity of the country rather than their pockets while electing principal officers of the National Assembly on Tuesday.

Also at hand to address the gathering was the newly appointed Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator George Akume.

The former governor of Benue State also charged members of the Stability Group not to derail on the noble course of putting the nation on the right path .

Akume told them that it is only under Akpabio as chairman of the National Assembly and President of the Senate that the 10th parliament can give the Tinubu – led administration at the centre, the needed support to succeed in achieving the Renewed Hope aspiration of the Tinubu/ Shettima Presidency.

…No your party plots to cow Yari with threat of arrest

However, leading opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said it has gotten wind of plot by some elements in the ruling party to intimidate the former governor of Zamfara State, Abdul Aziz Yari ,who is the major contender against Akpabio, to back track with threat of arrest.

The party alleged that that APC would not stop at nothing to frustrate Yari to his kneels including unleashing anti- graft agencies on him and possibly arrest him before Tuesday’s inauguration of the 10th Assembly.

The party said there is a thick plot by certain elements in the APC who are jittery of imminent disgrace of their endorsed candidates, to intimidate and arrest aspirants believed to be threat to APC’s choice of candidates for leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives.

Addressing a press conference Saturday in Abuja, National Publicity Secretary of the party, Hon. Debo Ologunagba noted that the provision of the Standing Order of both chambers of the NASS emphasize the need for the legislators to elect their leadership among themselves on the floor.

“This is the critical ingredient of constitutional democracy, independence of the legislature and principle of Separation of Powers,” he said.

According to him, since the PDP made its position known, “feelers from public discourse indicated that some elements in the APC have become agitated and resorted to plots to influence the emergence of the leadership of the National Assembly outside the floor.

“Information at our disposal reveals attempt by such APC elements to intimidate, harass and threaten lawmakers-elect with the view to influencing the emergence of the leadership of the National Assembly.

“Reports in the public space indicates plots to arrest individuals who are considered to be strong proponents of the independence of the legislature and the right of members-elect to elect their leadership.”

Yari is being linked with allegations of financial impropriety and corruption to the tune of N84 billion and that he been avoiding arrest and trial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

He was said to have secured court Injunction before Justice Donatus Okorowo of the Abuja Division of Federal High Court to prevent his re-arrest by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission, ICPC, as well as Directorate of State Services, DSS, from re-arresting him.

A source alleged that Yari is currently under investigation on N84 billion fraud involving the former Accountant- General of the Federation, Idris Ahmed which he reportedly benefited N22 billion.

In addition, the ex- governor was said to be under investigation by EFCC over alleged financial infractions of $56,056.75 reportedly lodged in his account with Polaris Bank; N12.9m, N11.2m, $303m, N217,388.04 and $311.8m said to be kept in different Zenith Bank accounts in the name of Yari and his companies.

Sources familiar with the investigations by EFCC stated that the ongoing investigation of the N84 billion fraud by former Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, in which Senator -Elect Yari was linked and previously arrested but released on bail is still pending with more information coming to light on the role of Yari and his associate, one Anthony Yaro of Finex Professional Services believed to be a front that collected N20 billion of the looted fund on behalf of Yari.

The source in EFCC who wants to remain anonymous as he is not authorized to publicly comment on the sensitive case said “with the court order that we read in the newspapers, we may need our Legal Department opinion on what to do”.

But inside APC source said the court order can be vacated at any time before Tuesday morning and Yari.may be arrested should he go head long against the preference of the Presidency and the party for Akpabio.

Allegations against Akpabio

However, a PDP member- elect told Daily Times in confidence that such threat of arrest cannot fly as Akpabio also has baggages of corrupt allegations hanging on his neck.

He said ” there is no former governor that does not have one allegation of corruption or the other against him. But such remain in the realm of allegation until proved otherwise and found culpable by a competent court of law.

The source said the former Akwa Ibom State governor has been severally accused of corruption while in office as governor but perpetrated a larger malfeasance as Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.

Also, a media civil society group, Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) in a recent statement gave reasons why Akpabio should not be Senate President

HURIWA in a statement on Wednesday June 07,2023 titled ‘ Senator Godswill Akpabio Not Fit To Lead 10th NASS’ totally rejected the choice of Akpabio on the scale of integrity and morality, saying “he is the absolutely wrong choice.”

In the statement signed by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and read at a press briefing, HURIWA said ad Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Akpabio allegedly mismanaged the NDDC in the ways he handled its affairs with an alleged lack of regard for extant rules, even imposing a sole administrator on the entity.

“There were a plethora of accusations of breaches of the time tested and time honoured principles of transparency and accountability, which underpin the basis for a constitutional democracy in the 21st century.

“It could also be recalled that in June 2020, the frosty relationship between the Senate and Interim Management Committee of NDDC worsened as the Senate accused Akpabio of misappropriation of funds of the Commission over the years. On May 5, 2020, a six-member Senate Ad-Hoc Committee was set up to probe financial recklessness to the tune of N40 billion by the IMC of the NDDC under Akpabio’s watch.

“There are alleged humongous corruption cases against the former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, which had led the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to invite him severally to its office for interrogations. On both occasions, he refused to appear.

“Senator Godswill Akpabio, facing corruption charges, was invited to meet with officials of the anti-graft commission, EFCC by Tuesday, May 9, 2023, over cases of money laundry and theft running to billions of naira,” claimed the human rights organization.

It, therefore submitted that “Akpabio’s alleged corruption-laden baggage is clearly dissonant with a personality who craves headship of the nation’s bi-cameral legislature – and at odds with the Renewed Hope mantra.”

Both camps lay claim to majority

As at yesterday night, both groups claimed they have the majority support of the 109 senators- elect.

Senator Abdul Ningi, a member of the PDP from Bauchi State who is the Director of Media on the Yari campaign said 67 of them have committed themselves to Yari’s aspiration while on the other hand a source in the Media Office of Akpabio/ Barau’s Stability Group lay claim to 62 members already on Akpabio’s list.

Both camps however kept list of denators- elect on their side secret to avoid sanctioning of some of the elected lawmakers that defied their parties order in aligning with either of the two leading contenders.

READ ALSO: Nigeria must never take democracy for granted

But findings revealed that majority of the lawmakers from opposition parties are in Yari’s camp. The two Social Democratic Party (SDP) senators – elect from Nasarawa, two New Nigeria’s Peoples Party (NNPP) from Kano, one Young Peoples Party (YPP) and one All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) are in Yari’s camp while senators elect of the Labour Party (LP) like those of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are divided alongside the two contenders.

Composition of the 109 members 10th Senate shows that the ruling APC is in the majority with 59 elected lawmakers while all the opposition parties altogether have 50 members with PDP 36, LP 8, SDP 2, NNPP 2, YPP 1, APGA1

Claims of being in the majority by both camps will be put to test tomorrow as senator- elect file out to elect the Senate President and Deputy Senate President of the 10th National Assembly.

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