Mr Tolu Babaleye is an Abuja-based lawyer and human rights activist In this interview with YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE, he speaks on the implications of the continuous face-off between the Senate President and the Inspector General of Police on the nation’s democracy and other issues.
What do you think is responsible for the crisis rocking the National Assembly involving the Senate President and the 12-point agenda raised at the joint session last week?
The National Assembly is the third arm of government and its main responsibility is to conduct checks and balances on the other two arms of government. It is also the National Assembly that makes the difference between the democratically elected government and a military dictatorship or oligarchy system of government. When you remove the National Assembly from democracy, it is no longer democracy. It will become a dictatorial government or civilian dictatorship. What the National Assembly did last week is a wakeup call to the president of Nigeria to live up to his responsibilities. I do not see the threat of impeachment as anything strange. It is just a weapon kept in case the president refuses to act on the items listed in form of resolution by the joint section of the National Assembly.
Some have claimed that the Senate President in his capacity as the chairman of the National Assembly is trying to incite the legislators against the president because he is at logger- heads with the IGP. What is your opinion about this?
I don’t think that is correct, because the Senate president is just an individual out of many that we have in the National Assembly. In fact, it is the floor members that decide and the Senate president will only read out their decisions to the public. So it is not possible for the Senate President to influence any member if they are not willing, considering the fact that the ruling party has the majority in the National Assembly and these members are still the one calling the president to order.
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What do you think of the continuous faceoff between the leadership of the Senate and the IGP who is the head of the country’s security apparatus, how does it affect democracy?
Honestly, I will say it is not healthy for our democracy because both the Senate President and the IGP are supposed to work together on how to move the nation forward; but a situation where the IGP has refused to appear before the Senate, is not good for our democracy. What I see is politics because they are laying a bad precedence by saying the National Assembly does not have the power to summon the IGP. It will have serious implications on the future of our democracy. I want Nigerians to look at the institution of the National Assembly and not the personality occupying various offices and the leadership. It is very wrong for Senate to summon the IGP and he will refuse to appear and now turn around to say the National Assembly and House of Representative members have questions to answer in a questionable way. This is not good for our democracy.
Does the rift have anything to do with the name of the Senate president being linked to the Offa robbery case?
Let me first condemn the robbery act. And it is so unfortunate that political thugs will turn out to be armed robbers. From the report of the police, it is very glaring that the people who perpetrated the robbery are political thugs who have been operating in Offa and environs. The question we must ask ourselves is whether political thuggery is not different from armed robbery. If the political thugs confessed that they are political thugs of the Senate President but he did not ask them to go and rob, why must you now link the Senate president with the robbery? Political thuggery should be treated as such and armed robbery should also be treated as such.
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