Senate throws out APC’s nominations for Majority Leader, others
• Adopts its 2015 Standing Rule • Party’s govs meet Buhari, task senators, Reps on other positions
THE Senate yesterday rejected attempts to compel it to accept and adopt all nominations made and sent to it by the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on top positions in the upper legislative chamber.
It ruled that the letter from the APC National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, in which the party nominated four persons to occupy the remaining four top leadership positions ran foul of its rule and therefore could not be read by the President of the Senate, let alone being adopted. It equally adopted its 2015 Standing Rule and declared all amendments therein as valid.
The decisions followed a motion sponsored by Senator Gbenga Ashafa (APC, Lagos), which sought to compel the Senate President Bukola Saraki to recognise and read Odigie-Oyegun’s letter.
The letter nominated Ahmed Lawal for the position of Senate Majority Leader; George Akume for Deputy Majority Leader; Olusola Adeyeye as Chief Whip and Abu Ibrahim as Deputy Whip. Citing rule 28(1) of the Senate Standing Order, Gbenga had argued that Odigie-Oyegun’s letter was proper because, according to him, principal officers should be nominated by the Majority.
Ashafa said: “Yesterday, most of the media houses carried a letter that was written by the chairman of our great party, the APC, and we were expecting that that letter which has been received in your office will be read in order to see to the resolution of the party leadership tussle.
“I believe that that letter should have been read to the hearing of all senators here present. Perhaps that will be the solution to the leadership tussle in the Senate.”
This argument prompted Bala Ibn Na’alla (Kebbi State) to rise and make contrary submissions on the matter urging the Senate to ignore Ashafa’s position. Also, APC governors rose from a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at Aso Villa on Tuesday night with a resolve to pressurise Saraki and House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara to abide by the party’s decision on leadership positions in the National Assembly.
But indications have emerged that while the party is in a hurry to resolve the crisis trailing the emergence of Saraki as Senate President and Dogara as House Speaker respectively, they may have a clear crack among the governors, between the supporters of the former Kwara State helmsman and those sympathetic to Senator Ahmed Lawan given the contradiction that trailed the outcome of the meeting, which held behind closed doors.
The division emerged during a joint press briefing of State House correspondents when the governors of Imo and Edo states, Rochas Okorocha and Adams Oshiomhole, when two contradictory positions on the matter emerged.
But the duo were united that there was the need for the leaderships of both chambers of the National Assembly to respect the supremacy of the party over the zoning of the positions.
The meeting, which was the first with Buhari since the latter officially moved into the State House, took place amid schisms between the leadership of the party and the two principal figures in the Eight National Assembly about who to fill the positions.
The party is suggesting Lawan (Saraki’s opponent) and Femi Gbajabiamila (who contested with Dogara) as Majority Leaders but both (Senate president and Speaker) objected the party’s nominations of their co-contestants for the offices.
Na’alla stated that the rule of the Senate had no provision that its principal officers be nominated by a political party. He explained that what was allowed by the Senate Rule was for the Principal officers to emerge from the party that had majority in the Senate not that the party should nominate leaders for the Senate.
Na’ala said: “By the ordinary principles of interpretation of documents that have been agreed by parties, the ordinary letters and words used must be given their effective meaning. “Order 28 used ‘from’, not ‘by’. What this seeks to do is to deter the minority party from nominating the Majority Leader.
To confer it on the All Progressives Congress which incidentally happens to have the highest number in the Eighth Senate. With due respect, the Point of Order raised by my bosom friend and brother, Ashafa, did not hold. The Standing Rule went further to explain the reason why the Senate president shall not proceed to read that letter that was allegedly sent to this chamber by the APC.
I submit that the Senate president cannot read the letter because this matter cannot stand.” Ruling on the matter, Saraki simply declared: “I have listened to senators Ashafa and Na’ala. Going by the rules and what has been said earlier, I think I will just note what Senator Ashafa has said and we will leave the matter as that. And in that case, I rule that out of order.”
Also yesterday, the Senate ratified the amendment made to its standing rule after initial disagreements among members. Kabiru Marafa (Zamfara) had drawn the attention of senators to what he called serious breach of the Senate Rule through illegal amendment of the Rule.
He said that the Eighth Senate had been operating an amended version of the 2011 rule called “Rule 2015” without a valid amendment process as dictated by the Rules.
According to Marafa, there was never a time the Seventh Senate amended the rule to include secret balloting as contained in the 2015 version.
Marafa said: “Mr. President, like I said, the events as we witnessed on the 9th of June, especially as it regards the election of the Deputy Senate President were null and void because they were not in consonance with the provisions of the Standing Orders of this Senate. And if you say we are going to use the Senate Standing Orders of 2015, then we need explanation as to who and who changed our Senate Rules without recourse to Order 110.”
In a swift response, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu explained how the 2015 rule came into being. He said: “I would like to offer explanation to my friend, Senator Marafa. He’s just four years old in this Senate. Some of us have been here for 12 years.
From 1999 till date, this Senate has come up with its own rules. There was Senate rule of 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and now 2015. The reason is quite simple. If you look at Section 64 of the 1999 Constitution it says that the Senate and House of Representatives shall each stand dissolved at the expiration of a period of four years commencing from the date of the first sitting of the house.
“So, the implication is that the rule he was referring to ended with the Senate on the 6th of June. That is why we had Senate Rule Book of 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and now 2015. If he’s seeking to amend any Senate rule, he can only amend the existing one which is the one for 2015. So, between now and 2019, this particular rule will govern us and can be amended in the manner he suggested.
In 2019, we are going to have another Senate Rule of 2019. That has been the process and procedure since 1999. And it is based on the provisions of the Constitution.” Saraki, ruling on the matter, said: “Distinguished Senator Marafa raised a Point of Order. And I think there are two issues he raised in his point. One, there’s only one rule book before us.
That is Senate Standing Order 2015 (as amended). The second issue you raised about 9th of June where by virtue of our actions, I will refer you again to Order 53 (6) which says that it shall be out of order to attempt to reconsider any specific question of which the Senate has come to a conclusion during the current session.
And bringing that matter again goes in contrary to Rule 53 (6). On this note, I will have to unfortunately rule you out of order on that matter.”
The 2015 rule on the election of the Senate president states: “Voting shall be conducted by the clerk at-the-table using division list of the Senate with the tellers in attendance. The Clerk of the Senate shall submit result of the division to the Clerk of the National Assembly.” However, the new Senate rule stated: “Voting by secret ballot which shall be concluded by the clerk-at-table using the list of the Senators-elect of the Senate, who shall each be given a ballot paper to cast his vote, with the proposers and seconder as tellers.”
The Guardian gathered that Saraki may have sympathy for Mohammed Ali Ndume, his supporter, who lost to Ike Ekwerenmadu in the race for the Deputy Senate President position.
The meeting which commenced about 10.45 p.m. on Tuesday after the breaking of the fast by the President and governors and members of the Northern Traditional Rulers’ Council at the New Banquet Hall continued into the early hours of yesterday At the media briefing, Okorocha, who is the Chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF) said the meeting resolved to press the National Assembly leadership and other elected lawmakers to respect the decision of the party on the zoning, but in doing so, should carry everybody along. The division became apparent when Oshiomhole intervened to “put the situation in correct perspective.”
He said the meeting resolved that the governors should go and talk to the leadership of the National Assembly on the need for them to respect the party’s position on zoning. Oshiomhole had the backing of Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufa’I on the matter.
But Okorocha told Oshiomhole that as the chairman of the PGF, he should be allowed to present its views. According to Okorocha: “We are the APC governors with Mr. President because we are worried by what is happening at the National Assembly.
We felt we should rub minds with Mr. President also to commend him on the steps he has taken so far to address the issue of the economy of the nation which is literarily in shambles. The meeting we had with Mr. President is more reassuring showing that there is light at the dark end of the tunnel.
“But with all these achievements we are making progress, but we are worried by the pockets of disagreements at the National Assembly and we have resolved that we came from a party and our party’s views should be respected and so we feel that there’s is room for us to invite our senators and look more into the matter and see how we can all make peace among the warring parties.
“We are saying that there shouldn’t be a winner takes it all; that we should carry everybody along and accommodate others as suggested by the party.” But Oshiomhole, sensing that Okorocha was being soft on the matter, intervened again and presented a contrary position.
He went on: “Basically we are not just a collection of individuals; we are a political party and when the party has spoken we must listen.” “Otherwise if it was a game of individuals like golf then individuals can go their way. I think it is very clear at this point that the party has the responsibility to keep the system going.
So we as progressive governors we have listened to the President and discussed extensively and we are clear that the party’s position should be supported by the senators. This is the way it should be and we should start on a note of walking closely.
“We are going to call them and tell them this is it and explain our reasons. We can’t continue to allow individuals to do what they like because it is about party supremacy.” Immediately after the briefing, all the governors moved into the Imo State Governors’ Lodge at Asokoro District where the Senate president was reportedly waiting to meet with them.