Senate in Rowdy Session over Sitting Arrangement

The Senate in session
  • Approves CCB chair nominee, six others, rejects three
  • To screen Olukoyede as EFCC scribe
  • Akpabio asks Saraki to resign

Deji Elumoye in Abuja

The plenary of the Senate began on a charged note wednesday as Senators threw caution to the winds as they openly disagreed over sitting arrangements for Senators who defected from one party to the other.

The Senate yesterday also approved the appointment of Dr. Muhammed Isah, as Chairman of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).

This is coming as the upper chamber has also directed its committee on Anti- Corruption and Financial Crimes to screen Olanipekun Olukoyede as Secretary of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Also a former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has advised Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, to vacate his position having defected from the All Progressive Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)

The rowdy session began with the attempt made by Akpabio to react to an allegation made by Senator Bassey Akpan ( PDP Akwa Ibom North East) from a seat without microphone.

This development led to near physical assaults among senators of the two major parties – APC and PDP.

Senator Akpan speaking through Order 43 of the Senate standing rule under self explanation, had alleged that leaders of APC in Akwa Ibom State were plotting to scuttle gubernatorial election scheduled for March 2, 2019 to pave way for an isolated election to be rigged with federal might .

According to him, “I rise through order 43 under self explanation to draw the attention of Senate and by extension, the good people of Nigeria to a plot being hatched by the leadership of the APC in Akwa Ibom State to cause mayhem in the state during the gubernatorial election slated for Saturday , March 2, 2019 across 29 states in the country.

“The plot of the Akwa Ibom APC chieftains to scuttle the election in the state through violence , is to ensure cancellation of the election in the state on that day for an isolated exercise later , upon which the so-called federal might would now be used to rig it in favour of their candidate.

“Akwa Ibom is a PDP state that is working and well known to all Nigerians . It is a very peaceful state; the reason why i am raising this alarm on planned violence against the state in 2019 general elections by APC leaders in the State.

Senator Akpabio at this point stood up to react through a different point of order but was stopped by the Senate President,Dr Bukola Saraki for allegedly sitting in a wrong place without a microphone.

Saraki’s action attracted the attention of the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan ( APC Yobe North), who rose from his seat to kick against his stand.

According to him, sitting arrangement in the Senate had been disorganised since July 24 when Senators defected from APC to PDP and vice versa.

“Mr President , I agree as a ranking Senator that there should be arrangement of sitting in the senate along majority and minority lines but the gale of defections that happened across party lines within the last few months had altered it very seriously, the very reason we need to be very cautious in the way we run our affairs for the remaining seven months,” he said.

Attempts made by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, to restore sanity through a point of order proved abortive as both the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan and Senator Kabiru Marafa ( APC Zamfara Central) interrupted him by shouting that Akpabio should be allowed to speak.

These developments came in an already charged atmosphere where Senator Dino Melaye ( PDP Kogi West ) openly invited the APC Senators for physical combat and Senator Emmanuel Paulker arguing against allowing Akpabio to react since Senator Akpan’s allegation came under order 43.

The Senate President however, quickly intervened by explaining that Akpabio was prevented from speaking as a result of wanting to do so from a seat without microphone and not allocated to him by the clerk of the Senate , Nelson Ayewoh. “Distinguished colleagues, I never prevented Akpabio from speaking but he cannot do so from a seat without microphone and allocated to him by the clerk of the Senate .He should go to a seat with microphone to make his submission “ , he said .

But when finally allowed to speak from Senator Ndume’s seat , Senator Akpabio who had earlier demanded for apology from the Senate for being so treated , apologised to his colleagues for the pandemonium and told them that for peace to reign, he will defer his reaction to another legislative day .

“ This is the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and not of any political parties, the very reason we should be bipartisan in our conduct.

“ I want to apologise to my colleagues for raising my voice earlier on and hold my peace by not making any reaction to the allegation made by Senator Akpan “, he said .

Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday approved the appointment of Dr. Muhammed Isah, as Chairman of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).

It also approved the appointment of six members of the CCB Board and rejected three other nominees.

The approval was sequel to the presentation of a report of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions by its Chairman, Senator Emmanuel Anyanwu on the screening of nominees for appointment as Chairman and embers of (CCB).

The approved members include Murtala Kankia, Emmanuel Attah, Ubolo Okpanachi, Ken Alkali, S F Ogundare and Saad Abubakar.

The three rejected nominees are Danjuma Sado who is aged 34 years and below the statutory age 50 and above for members, Ganiyu Hamsat and Vincent Nwanli who failed to apoear before the committee for screening.

Also yesterday, the Senate directed its committee on Anti- Corruption and Financial Crimes to screen Olanipekun Olukoyede as Secretary of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

The Committee headed by Senator Chukwuka Utasi which has two weeks to submit its report immediately swung into action yesterday to screen Olukoyede in Senate Committee Room 117.

Meawnhile, Akpabio, has advised Saraki, to vacate his position having defected from APC to PDP.

Akpabio who spoke to reporters in Abuja yesterday evening, said other defectors in the Senate should emulate him as he resigned as Senate Minority Leader upon leaving PDP for APC.

“I did not just move like that, I was a (Minority) Leader in the Senate. I resigned my position in order to show that, yes, I meant business. Let others who also have positions in the Senate who cross carpet from one political party to another also resign their positions and take a cue from what Godswill Akpabio did.”

Akpabio also canvassed for proper restructuring of the Senate saying “don’t you think there is the need for us to restructure the Senate?”

“PDP will sit on a side; APGA will sit where they are supposed to, and the ruling party which still forms the majority will still sit where they are supposed to sit”.

According to him, the Senate leadership should be restructured in a way that the majority can have their way and the minority will have their say as is the practice all over modern democracies.

“You cannot have a political party with 10 members; another with 80 members, and the 10 members will now produce the leadership. Does it happen anywhere in the world? “Nigeria is not different. We are running a democracy. That is what I meant when I said I would speak when the Senate is well restructured and reconstituted.

Commenting on his defection to APC, Akpabio said he was excited “ that I have a much greater opportunity to relate directly with the government and not my voice to be heard from a partisan point of view. Being part of the ruling party now, whatever advice or contributions I will make will not be looked at with suspicion. They will now know that I am saying it from a patriotic point of view and for the fact that I want things to work better.

“I moved in national interest. I saw a kind of slight towards disorder, where many of my colleagues saw defection as a weapon against the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. I don’t believe that we should bring a government into being without supporting that government to succeed. If the administration slides and Nigeria slides into anarchy, it is our children that will suffer. I moved to stabilise the polity.

“I moved from PDP to APC, to make sure that this government works before election. It should not be all about election, it should be first about Nigeria. Let others also move in national interest”.