Following the nomination of Mr. Babatunde Fowler by President Muhammadu Buhari as the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the stage has been set for a leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to contend with the leadership of the Senate with whom he has been at loggerheads since its emergence last June.
As required by law, Fowler would have to be confirmed by the Senate before he can head the FIRS. Should his nomination be rejected by the Senate, Buhari would either have submit another name to replace him or allow the current acting chairman Samuel Olugbesan to continue in the capacity.
But with the nomination of Fowler, a well known associate and protégé of Tinubu who served for nine years as the Chairman of the Lagos Board of Inland Revenue (LBIR), the former Lagos State governor would have to come face-to-face with Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy Ike Ekweremadu.
There has been no love lost between the Senate President and Tinubu since the former defied the dictates of the ruling party by contesting and clinching the Senate Presidency.
Tinubu had backed Senator Ahmed Lawan for the post but lost out when a meeting was set up at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, between several APC senators and Buhari, to coincide with the inauguration of the Eighth Senate.
Their absence from the Senate chamber on the day of the inauguration paved the way for Saraki and Ekweremadu to win the election unchallenged.
Ever since, the Senate has been polarised between Saraki’s loyalists under the auspices of Senators of Like Minds and Ahmed’s supporters known as the Unity Forum.
Ahead of the submission of Fowler’s name for Senate screening, THISDAY learnt that Tinubu has started reaching out to senators, particularly those in the Senators of Like Minds group loyal to Saraki and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Until Fowler’s nomination, the position was vacant because the last nominee whose name was sent to the Senate by former President Goodluck Jonathan, Mrs. Mfon Akpan from Akwa Ibom State following a recruitment exercise, was rejected by the lawmakers.
Concerns that Fowler may suffer the same fate as Akpan has galvanised Tinubu and compelled him to reach out to key senators who are close to Saraki with a view to both resolving the crisis in the Senate in which he is believed to be the sponsor of the Lawan group, and to ensure that the long-drawn out feud in the Senate does not affect other close associates who may be sent to the upper chamber for confirmation for top executive positions.
A source said depending on how Tinubu plays his cards, his overture to the senators could either help to resolve the contending issues between the two groups or deepen the division in the Senate.
But many pro-Saraki senators, particularly the 81 who signed the vote of confidence on the Senate President on July 28 are already spoiling for a fight.
“This is payback time for Asiwaju for all his machinations against the Senate since he could not get his candidate to become Senate President. This is an opportunity to force Tinubu to the table and mend bridges or break them further,” said a senator close to Saraki.
The pro-Saraki senators are also angling to move against Fowler because they believe Tinubu is scheming to take control of the country’s finances under the Buhari administration without the president realising the game plan.
According to a senator from Bauchi State, the plot by the former governor of Lagos State is to get Fowler into FIRS and also make another of his protégés, Mr. Olawale Edun, who served as his Commissioner for Economic Development, to become the Minister of Finance, thereby seizing control of the economic machinery of the government.
Edun, according to the senator who preferred not to be named, will be presented as the ministerial nominee from Ogun State, a development which has pitted Tinubu against Governor Ibikunle Amosun.
Amosun is said to have insisted that Edun has never associated with Ogun State and could not be expected to take the biggest federal appointment due to the state.
Many of the senators close to Saraki are said to be getting ready to ensure they use the rejection of Fowler’s nomination as a clear signal that the crisis in the Senate has not been due to the protection of any party supremacy but the political interest of Tinubu.
Sources also disclosed that one other reason that compelled the former Lagos governor to reach out to Saraki’s loyalists is the Babatunde Fashola issue.
While Tinubu does not want his successor to be nominated as minister, Buhari’s body language indicates that he is still not convinced by the ongoing campaign to denigrate Fashola and project him as one who is not good enough for the administration.
Tinubu’s plan, alleged a source, is to stop Fashola during the Senate confirmation hearing in the event Buhari nominates the immediate past governor of Lagos by getting the three senators from the state – Oluremi Tinubu, Gbenga Ashafa and Olamilekan Adeola – to oppose his candidacy.
“He is however afraid that that plan will only work if the Senate President buys into the plan, as Saraki can overrule the objection of the three senators and get majority of the senators to clear Fashola like they did a few months ago for Musiliu Obanikoro when Senator David Mark was Senate President.
“Tinubu particularly believes that Saraki has a soft spot for Fashola and that the two men are associates. The fact that though the Senate President is abroad, he sent his deputy chief of staff, Gbenga Makanjuola, to attend last week’s book launch in honour of Fashola also lends credence to the fear that no plan to stop Fashola will succeed in the Senate except Saraki and his loyalists buy into it,” a senator from Zamfara said.
“There must be a trade-off as we get to the period of ministerial nominations and confirmation hearings. What we do not like is this idea of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds.
“Those who need us for their own interests, different from the interest of President Buhari are now making it look like we need them. They have continued to create enmity between the Senate and the presidency. Now, they are playing a different game,” a senator from Delta State said.
Deborah Samuel: Gov Tambuwal relaxes curfew
Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State government has relaxed the 24-hour curfew he imposed on the state capital following violent protest over the arrest of some youths allegedly involved in the killing Deborah Samuel, a 200-level student.
Tambuwal in a statement issued by his Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Isah Bajini, said the revised curfew will now be from dusk to dawn in Sokoto township.
The statement noted that “Sequel to the briefing by the security heads in the State, the State Governor, Rt Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal has ordered the relaxation of the 24-hour curfew in force in Sokoto metropolis
“The revised curfew will now be from dusk to dawn in Sokoto township. This is with a view to affording people the window to pursue their legitimate businesses and other means of livelihood.”
Recall that following the lynching of the 200-level student for allegedly insulting Prophet Mohammed, the State’s police command arrested some persons linked to the incident.
However, a large number of Muslim boys who were angered by the arrest, stormed the streets in the State on Saturday, demanding the release of the suspects.
The development, which triggered tension in several parts of the State, made the Governor to impose the curfew.
Arsonists burn down LG secretariat, Magistrate Court in Anambra
Suspected arsonists have burnt down Idemili North Local Government secretariat in Ogidi and a Magistrate Court in the area.
Sources said the arsonists entered the premises on Sunday night to perpetuate the act, burning down all files, properties in the secretariat, including the secretariat building.
Videos and pictures circulating online showed that the entire buildings were reduced to rubbles, while vehicles parked inside the Local Government secretariat were also burnt to ashes.
The State Police Command has also confirmed the development, attributing it to unidentified arsonists.
DSP Toochukwu Ikenga, the spokesperson of the State Police Command said: “Yes, the incident was confirmed, and our men were there to restore normalcy.
“Right now, the fire has been put off, and calm has been restored to the area,” Ikenga said.
National Assembly transmits amended Electoral Act to Buhari
The National Assembly has transmitted the amended Electoral Act 2022 to the Presiden Muhammadu Buhari for assent.
The bill was transmitted to the Presidency on Friday.
Sources in the Presidency and the National Assembly confirmed the transmission.
A source in the Presidency, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as he had not been authorised to announce the development officially, said, “Yes, it has been transmitted. But wait till Monday when it may be announced when the President will sign it.”
Another source in the National Assembly said, “It was transmitted on Friday. I needed to confirm it before saying anything.”
It was further learnt that Buhari would sign the amendment ahead of primaries of political parties beginning next week.
The Senate and the House of Representatives had last week passed an amendment to the Act to recognise statutory delegates at primaries, congresses, and conventions of political parties.
The lawmakers particularly amended Section 84(8) of the Act to provide automatic or statutory delegates, ahead of the forthcoming party primaries, from where candidates would emerge for the 2023 general elections.
In March, the National Assembly had passed the bill for the Act while the President signed it into law.
While political parties are close to conducting primaries to elect candidates for the 2023 general elections, the Act did not allow members elected into public offices and executives of the parties, known as statutory delegates, to participate and vote in the conventions, congresses, or meetings of parties.
The chambers had described the omission as “a fundamental error.”
Without the provision by the law, Buhari; the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo (SAN); members of the National Assembly, governors and their deputies, members of the State Houses of Assembly, chairmen of local government areas, councillors, executives of political parties, amongst others, would have been disenfranchised.
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