Drama as Senate Steps down Armed Forces Service Bill

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By Deji Elumoye and Udora Orizu

A mild drama played out during Senate plenary yesterday when a Bill for an Act for the establishment of Armed Forces Service Commission was stepped down by the Senators after a heated debate that forced them into an executive session.

The Bill, which was sponsored by Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, seeks to get the National Assembly to give effect to the clear provisions of Section 219 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, giving the legislature the powers to manage the affairs of the Nigerian Armed Forces.

Abaribe in his lead debate, said with respect to the powers exercisable by the President under Section 218 of the Constitution; the Bill seeks to establish a body that shall comprise such members as the National Assembly may determine and which shall have power to ensure that the composition of the Armed Forces of the Federation reflects Federal Character of Nigeria in the manner prescribed by Section 217 of the Constitution.

According to him, the establishment of the Commission is informed by the imperative to give effect to the provisions of Section 217 of the Constitution to ensure that the appointment of Service Chiefs of the Armed Forces of the Federation reflect the said section.

He also said the Bill seeks to recommend to the President the best and most qualified of the Armed Forces of the Federation for appointment as Service Chiefs as well their removal on grounds of misconduct.

Shortly after his presentation, some Senators took turns to air their views with some supporting the Bill, while others rejected it on grounds that it offends the Constitution and will create disunity.

The plenary however took a rowdy turn when the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan put the Bill to a voice vote and ruled that the majority of the lawmakers rejected it.

But the Bill’s sponsor, Abaribe, raised Standing Order 73, claiming a division and demanding individual vote.

Responding, Lawan said he didn’t rule inappropriately, adding that it was not correct for Abaribe to refute the fate of the Bill, insisting that the nays outweighed the ayes.

Abaribe, however, insisted that all members must get up and vote saying, ‘’Mr. President, I have been in this Senate since 2007 and anytime anybody claims a division, it’s voted upon. I’m not saying that you did right or wrong; just give me my right.’’

This caused commotion on the floor with the Senate President calling for an executive session to settle the issue privately.

Reconvening twenty five minutes later, Lawan said the Senate have appealed to Abaribe to withdraw the standing Order 73 and look into that Bill in the future for more consultations so that variety of ideas can be added to the Bill such that when it comes, it will have a jet-speed passage.

Accepting the invitation to withdraw the Standing Order and the Bill, Abaribe said, ‘’In order to preserve the dignity of this Chamber I wish to withdraw my Order 73 and for us to be able to do further consideration of the Bill, I wish to also step down the Consideration of this
Bill.’’