Rattled by our report that the National Assembly under his leadership illegally received N10billion from the treasury, the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, has threatened to sue PREMIUM TIMES over the publication.
The story entitled: “EXCLUSIVE: Minister Adeosun, Saraki, Dogara, Accountant General in N10 billion fraud scandal”, unearthed the irregularities in the receipt and disbursement of the fund.
The report, published on Friday, indicated the billions were released to the lawmakers despite the N125billion appropriated for the federal legislature in the 2017 fiscal year for recurrent and capital expenditures.
The fund was arbitrarily approved for the lawmakers by the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, in collusion with the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, the report said.
Investigations by PREMIUM TIMES also showed that at least 44 of the 82 contractors Messrs Saraki and Dogara claimed they were owing were not registered on the National Database of Contractors, a database of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP). That means they are not eligible to be awarded federal contracts.
A further check by this newspaper revealed that 17 of the 44 firms were not even registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
But rather than respond to the substantive issues raised in the report, Mr. Saraki is claiming that he cannot be held liable for how funds are disbursed to the National Assembly and how they are spent.
He is arguing that the top civil servants in the legislature are those that should be made to render accounts.
It did not matter to the Senate President that he is the chairman of the National Assembly, and that the bucks largely stop at his table.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, the senator challenged the facts presented by PREMIUM TIMES saying they were incorrect.
Mr Saraki announced that he would initiate legal action on the matter.
READ THE FULL STATEMENT BELOW:
Premium Times Should Have Known Better: Response to False Publication from Online Platform
Again, our attention has been drawn to a publication by Premium Times which unethically alleges without any proof, reference, attribution or justification that the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, was involved in receiving or sharing any unauthorized funds.
The article, entitled “EXCLUSIVE: Minister Adeosun, Saraki, Dogara, Accountant General in N10 billion fraud scandal”, in both its style, substance, and deliberate spin struggles to connect the Senate President to the receipt and apportioning of funds which the publication describes as “illegal.”
In the absence of any doubt, the Senate President has nothing to do with any payment, receipt or disbursement of any extra-budgetary funds.
It is also important to state for the record that the Premium Times article in question is pure and unmitigated false news. A simple check by Premium Times would have revealed that all funds in the National Assembly are in the custody of the National Assembly Management, which is headed by the Clerk, and not its presiding officers.
Additionally, all contract awards are equally overseen by the National Assembly management, not the presiding officers.
We are aware that for some weeks now, Premium Times has had this story. However, they only contacted us on Wednesday, and the Clerk of the National Assembly, after a phone call from the Special Adviser on Media & Publicity to the Senate President, promised to give them all necessary explanation and documents on this issue.
However, it is obvious that in the bid to rope in Senator Saraki, the reporters of Premium Times could not wait to see the Clerk and rushed to publish the story with outright falsehoods less than 24 hours after the clerk made the aforementioned promise.
We are surprised that without any proof whatsoever, Premium Times was using expressions like: “Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, have just illegally received and shared”; “Saraki and Dogara submitted”; and “Investigations by PREMIUM TIMES showed that at least 44 of the 82 contractors Messrs Saraki and Dogara…” These are highly defamatory and careless expressions.
It is expected, that the Editors of Premium Times will not be ignorant of the internal procurement and payment process in an organization like the National Assembly that they have covered and “investigated” for as long as they (Premium Times) has been in existence.
We consider this as part of the orchestrated campaign of calumny being waged against Dr. Saraki by some political elements using media platforms in which they have interests.
In this regard, for this careless and unwarranted assault on the person of the Senate President — after several previous warnings — the lawyers of the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, will be initiating legal action on this particular matter.
Finally, we ask the public to disregard the Premium Times piece, and take it for what it is, and will continue to be: “Fake News.”
Special Adviser on Media & Publicity to the President of the Senate