EXCLUSIVE: Borno Governor, Northern leaders meet Saraki, seek reversal of Ndume’s suspension

The Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, and some other Northern traditional and political leaders have approached Senate President Bukola Saraki and other lawmakers, asking them to upturn the suspension of Ali Ndume, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report.

Mr. Shettima led a team, described as “Borno elders” by our source, to the residence of Mr. Saraki, Thursday night, seeking to end the feud between the estranged allies and ensuring the suspension slammed on Mr. Ndume is lifted.

“The purpose of the visit,” disclosed the source who is knowledgeable about the development, was for “mediation.”

“They went to meet other leaders in Senate as well,” the source, a Senate insider, added.

Mr. Ndume was suspended from legislative activities for six months, after the Senate, on Wednesday, upheld the report of its committee on ethics, privileges and public petitions chaired by Samuel Anyanwu, PDP-Imo.

Mr. Ndume had, at plenary last week, raised the bullet proof car scandal involving Mr. Saraki, and the certificate scandal involving another senator, Dino Melaye.

The two matters, Mr. Ndume said, had made the Senate subject of public ridicule. He then asked the Senate to investigate Messrs. Saraki and Melaye, two persons he had aligned with in 2015 in subverting the will of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in electing the Senate leadership.

Mr. Anyanwu’s ethics committee, tasked to conduct the investigation, convened an investigative hearing on Monday, attended by parties concerned with the cases regarding Messrs. Saraki and Melaye.

The Vice-Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, Ibrahim Garba, confirmed Mr. Melaye graduated from the school, while Lanre Shittu, a car dealer, absolved Mr. Saraki of culpability in respect of the fake documents with which the bullet proof car was imported.

In its report, the committee cleared Messrs. Saraki and Melaye, and recommended one-year suspension for Mr. Ndume alleged to have demeaned the reputation of the Senate with the issues he brought against his colleagues without conducting proper Investigation.

However, there was plea for a lighter punishment, and the suspension was reduced to six months.

But beyond the matters raised by Mr. Ndume, he has had broken relationship with Mr. Saraki over his support for Ibrahim Magu, embattled acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Mr. Ndume had disagreed with the Senate resolution on Mr. Magu, when the EFCC acting chair was first rejected in December last year.

He also faulted a resolution of the upper chamber indicting the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, over what has come to be known as ‘grass-cutting scandal’.

It was majorly on the basis of his open disagreement with the two resolutions of the Senate that Mr. Ndume was removed as Senate Leader.

He had told PREMIUM TIMES Mr. Saraki masterminded his removal.

But the Borno State Governor, Mr. Shettima, has commenced efforts to reconcile Mr. Saraki and Mr. Ndume with a view to ensuring the latter’s suspension is lifted.

Mr. Shettima’s spokesperson, Isa Gusau, declined comment on Friday. But he did not deny that the meeting between his principal and Mr. Saraki held.

However, PREMIUM TIMES gathered from lawmakers that Mr. Shettima also met with Danjuma Goje (APC-Gombe) and “even Dino Melaye” and that “he is determined to meet and persuade as many Senators as possible” over Mr. Ndume’s suspension.

Mr. Shettima’s concern, PREMIUM TIMES understands, is that Mr. Ndume is key to Borno’s efforts at recovering and rebuilding after years of devastation caused by Boko Haram insurgency.

“Borno can’t afford not to have a Senator like Ndume in the Senate for six months,” said a source, because “Borno is a peculiar case.”

More so, some of the worst hit areas, like Gwoza, Damboa, fall within Mr. Ndume’s constituency and “therefore he has to be there to push their interests as he is also part of the presidential committee on north east,” one source said.

But apart from Mr. Shettima, there are other Northern leaders, including emirs, retired generals, former governors and ex-senators, who are prevailing on Mr. Ndume that he should submit to a process of political solution which will see Mr. Saraki and other lawmakers agree to lift the suspension slammed on the Borno politician, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report.

In fact, a team of Northern leaders arrived Abuja after the suspension, seeking to resolve the crisis.

When contacted and told what we gathered on Friday, Mr. Ndume said: “what you heard is correct.”

He however refused to provide further details other than saying “I’m still consulting”.

A source close to Mr. Saraki said “Ndume’s suspension is mostly likely to be lifted” following the efforts being made by Mr. Shettima and other Northern leaders.

When contacted, the Senate President’s spokesperson, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said he was not authorised to speak on the matter.

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