Kabiru Marafa, an All Progressives Congress Senator and the most vociferous critic of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in the upper legislative chamber, has denied shunning the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions asked to probe him for allegedly disparaging the Senate.
Two senators, Isah Misau (APC-Bauchi Central) and Matthew Urhoghide (PDP-Edo South), brought complaints against Mr. Marafa, saying the Zamfara Central Senator had in a February 7 Punch publication demeaned the Senate.
But Mr. Marafa did not attend the hearing of the committee scheduled for Monday.
Mr. Marafa, speaking to PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday, said his colleagues lied against him and explained that no invitation was extended to him to appear before the committee on Monday.
He, however, said he had earlier on February 16 received invitation to a hearing of the committee scheduled for February 18, but that he replied that he could not make it to the hearing.
He said he requesting another date this week.
The February 16 invitation letter, obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, referred Mr. Marafa to the said interview in the Punch “which Senators and the entire Senate believe is an infringement on their privileges.”
“Yes I got the text from the clerk to the committee but replied I would not be able to attend the meeting because I was in Kaduna commiserating with my brother and friend spanning over 30 years, Senator Hunkuyi who lost his mother,” Mr. Marafa said.
“I also called my office to ask my SA (Senior Legislative Assistant) to formally reply the invitation letter; explain why I would not attend the meeting and ask for another date.”
We also obtained a copy of the reply signed by Mr. Marafa’s assistant , Abubakar Ahmed, and dated February 17.
The letter explained that Mr. Marafa could not attend the meeting because he “is currently out of town to condole with Senator Suleiman Othman Hunkuyi, who lost his mother yesterday. He is therefore unavailable for the hearing scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday 18th February 2015.”
“He is however expected back in Abuja on Saturday, and is available for the hearing fixed for any date next week, please,” Mr. Marafa’s letter added.
As far the hearing held yesterday was concerned, there was no invitation, Mr. Marafa said, challenging the committee to publicize “invitation letter asking me to appear before the committee on Monday, apart from the first one last week which I replied and formally gave reason why I would not attend.”
“The behaviour of committee members is very undistinguished; they caused the Senate embarrassment by concocting lies against one of their own.
“That’s why I went to plenary today to see how they will pass judgement without hearing me. I deserve to be heard. Even the Senate President who is facing criminal charges is given right to defend himself.
“They can’t face me; they are afraid. They know the illegalities they have committed. I read the said interview again and I wish to stand by everything I said. I am defending the institution of the Senate,” Mr. Marafa said.
He added that even though his lawyers asked him not to attend the hearing because he was challenging the legality of the committees in court, he wanted to attend for two reasons.
“One, I have respect for the Senate institution to which I belong; so, I want to defend myself and save the Senate from embarrassment. Two, I have respect for the committee because I served in that committee for four years.”
On why he refused to convene a budget defence hearing of his committee on National Population Commission, he said his decision was based on the ‘logic’ of Senate spokesperson, Aliyu Sabi.
He said when he questioned the legality of the committees raised from 57 to 65 “in violation of Senate Standing Orders”, Mr. Sabi told him that “by approving votes and proceedings of the day the list of the committees was read, the whole Senate had approved the increment.”
“So, when the budget bill was read for the first and second time, we passed votes and proceedings of those days.
Following same logic as established by the Senate official spokesperson, it follows that we have passed the budget.
Then, why do we have to invite the MDAs again? Why do I have to waste taxpayers’ money on hearing again? Then, why is it that it is after Supreme Court judgement on Saraki they are saying they can’t pass budget? You journalists, should ask questions.”
Meanwhile, Samuel Anyanwu, Chairman of the investigative committee laid the report on Mr. Marafa’s probe before the Senate today.
The report is yet to be considered.