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A senator, Kabir Marafa (Zamfara Central) on Tuesday accused Senate President Bukola Saraki of preventing members from expressing themselves at the Nigerian senate.
The senator levelled this accusation on Tuesday after Mr. Saraki asked him to go straight to the point as he narrated an issue relating to security in his home state of Zamfara.
Mr. Marafa had started by explaining how he was invited to a meeting of his state’s council of chiefs in Kaduna, and how an aide to the state governor was allegedly a principal actor in widespread breach of security in the state.
He said the security situation in Zamfara was not being reported because the state does “not have strong voices.”
Mr. Marafa said the Emir of Zamfara, who is the chairman of the state’s council of traditional rulers, said at the Kaduna meeting of the council that “about 5,000 women, including underage girls, were raped and molested” in the state.
Following the lengthy narration, the senate president interjected and asked the Zamfara senator to give a summary of the issue he was raising.
“Distinguished Senator Marafa, with all due respect, I have tried to always accommodate you for these issues and I think we must not abuse these issues with your personal explanation.
“I am sure everyone here has issues to do with their state, I think you should summarise that but now you are going into details where people are being accused. So what I appeal is that you should give us the summary of this issue and let us try and keep within those confines,” he said.
But Mr. Marafa, who was clearly not happy with the senate president’s lack of interest in his narration, said:
“Thank you Mr. President, but this is my constituency, this is why I am here. Mr. President, I am representing people. My people are under siege. We are saying that 5,000 women who are raped and molested.
“Mr. President, this senate needs to know, this senate needs to lend its voice to the plight of these people. There is no way I can say this except here. This is why I am elected. If I cannot say this on this floor, I better resign and leave. There is just no point.
“When I first said this, you said my personal safety is of your concern. How can somebody sit down as an official of the government that is being accused of masterminding these things? And Mr. President, you say you don’t want to hear that? Mr. President you need to know.”
Mr. Saraki, in a bid to clarify his statement, urged the senator to report the issue without “some details that would not help us in going forward.
“Give us the summary of the reconciliation so that I can now guide accordingly because you came under personal explanation, which there cannot be any debate. So I want you to give me a summary of what happened and then from there I can be guided.”
Mr. Marafa, who was already angered by the senate president’s comment, then accused Mr. Saraki of not letting members express themselves.
“I have given you the summary, the summary is two: the chief adviser of the governor is the principal accused and the government disbanded all organisations for these people to protect themselves. From that day, criminals roam my constituency with rifles. Nobody can defend themselves in Zamfara.
“I was also told that then we had 70 military officers but now we have more than 1,000 and nothing is being done. It is going on every day, people being kidnapped. This senate needs to ask some questions.
“If these military men are not answerable to the governor or they are disobeying him, the governor needs to say it so that this senate or the federal government can take a position. It is just not enough to keep the blame on the door step of the federal government.
“You don’t allow members of the National Assembly to discuss anything, you don’t allow anybody to take it, and you don’t allow leaders to take action. Mr. President, my zone is under siege and I would continue to say it on this floor of the senate. Unless I am allowed to do this, I will resign from this floor of the senate and go,” he said.
Mr. Saraki therefore called on the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, to “take note” but frowned at Mr. Marafa for being absent to take up the matter at the just concluded National Security Summit that the senate held in Abuja and which was attended by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
“I am happy that the Leader of the Senate who is the chairman of the security ad hoc committee is here. It is a pity that considering how strongly you felt about this matter, I noticed your absence at the security conference yesterday where your government was there.
“It would have been a good opportunity for us to address. Be that as it may, Leader (Mr. Lawan), please take note of these issues because I know that you can invite these security agencies and look into the matter,” he said.