Olusola Fabiyi and Sunday Aborisade
Members of the Barnabas Gemade -led Senate Unity Forum have threatened to take a legal action against the emergence of Bukola Saraki on Tuesday as the President of the Senate.
They addressed the journalists after walking out of the Senate chambers when Saraki overruled Gemade and Kabiru Marafa while questioning the process that produced the new Senate leadership.
Saraki had administered oath of office and allegiance on 28 All Progressives Congress lawmakers, who were absent at the inauguration of the Eighth Senate but when plenary commenced, Gemade and Marafa raised a point of order on the issue.
Gemade, a former Peoples Democratic Party national chairman, demanded full integration of the SUF members who were absent from the formal inauguration on Tuesday.
He said, “I will like to appeal to the President of the Senate that driving for a united Senate, it would be reasonable to accommodate everyone. But if the desire is not to accommodate all, then you are heading for a divided Senate.
“That would not be good for your leadership, for the senate as a whole body, and it will also not be good for the nation. It behoves on you, Mr. President, that due recognition must be given to all concerned.”
Marafa, who raised a point of order protesting the way and manner Saraki emerged as the Senate president, demanded full investigation.
He said, “The news was that the Senate was inaugurated with 57 senators while 51 senators- elect were absent.
“The news portrayed me and many of my colleagues as irresponsible members of this hallowed chamber. That we were absent from an event that was announced and which we were to attend with our spouses and well wishers, showed us as irresponsible people.
“That caused unwarranted embarrassment to me and other members of this Senate and our family members. I want to put it on record that after the swearing in today (Wednesday), I was handed down Senate standing orders as amended.
“I want to say that as an active member of the former Seventh Senate, I cannot recall where and when the Senate orders were amended or tabled for any amendment or corrections. I think it is worthy of notice that this act was perpetrated and the Senate should call for a full investigation of what happened and where this document emanated.”
After they were overruled, the 28 senators, including the APC choice candidate for the Senate Presidency, Ahmed Lawan, went to address journalists. They did not return until the session rose.
Gemade,who spoke for the forum, said that 51 senators were denied the right to take part in the election of Saraki because they were at the International Conference Centre in Abuja for a scheduled meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said the group had resolved to challenge the “ illegality” in court “since it takes two-third of members to impeach the Senate President, two third of the members should also, have been in attendance before he(Saraki) was elected on Tuesday”
The Benue State-born lawmaker, said, “Our right to participate in the election of the Senate President is a constitutional right which cannot be taken by any person or group of persons.
“The Clerk of the National Assembly (Salisu Maikasuwa), knowing full well that the quorum for election of the Senate President was not met, went ahead to conduct an election that shut the door against about 51 other senators. This will remain unacceptable until what would meet democratic parameters is done.
“The insinuations in some quarters that we boycotted the election is totally unfounded. As loyal party members, we would take all necessary political and legal means to strengthen our democracy and democratic process in line with the change that we promised our teeming supporters during our electioneering.”
Gemade insisted that the election of Saraki was null and void because “a quorum was not formed , which should be two-third of the senators present.”
He said, “53 senators were out and the remaining 56 were not enough to elect the President of the Senate. That is a clear position that we take. We are not considering the attendance of that day to connote the quorum in the Senate because many Senators came there after the event was done.”
Saraki had after his election on Tuesday administered oath of office and allegiance on 75 senators.
When he was elected, there were 23 APC senators and 34 PDP senators in attendance. But when the election of his deputy(Ike Ekweremadu, a PDP lawmaker) was being conducted, the number rose to 75.
But at about 8.30pm on Wednesday, Gemade, Lawan and 26 other members of the forum gathered at the Senate chamber waiting for Saraki to formally swear them in as senators.
The senators, after the votes and proceedings of the previous legislative day were adopted, took turn to take their oaths by reading it out aloud and appending their signatures.
Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the Like Minds Senators, Dino Melaye, has clarified that former Senate President, David Mark, was not sworn in as the Majority Leader of the Senate as reported by the media (The PUNCH not inclusive).
He said, “It is not possible for a minority senator to be a Majority Leader. What happened is that out of respect for the former Senate President, he was sworn in as an individual instead of the groupings that took place. So, we are using this opportunity to correct the erroneous impression out there that he was sworn in as the Senate Leader.”
The Kogi State indigene also dispelled reports that 12 APC senators joined the PDP to elect the new Senate President.
“That is totally baseless and not true. To start with, not all the 49 senators of the PDP were present when the election of the Senate President took place. This is malicious, capricious and there was no voting in the case of Senate President,” Melaye said.
He described as untrue, reports that 54 senators were present during the inauguration.
“That is totally baseless and not true. To start with, not all the 49 senators of the PDP were present when the election of the Senate President took place,” the lawmaker added.
Saraki, Dogara risk suspension, expulsion
The PUNCH however learnt in Abuja on Wednesday that Saraki and Dogara risked suspension or outright expulsion for disregarding the APC directive not to stand for the elections.
An APC leader, who confided in one of our correspondents, said the party was considering applying Article 9.1, Sub-Section 2 of its constitution, against all its members involved in the exercise.
The sub-section deals with the Rules and Obligations of members to the party.
It reads, “(2) Members of the party shall be obliged to affirm the party’s aims and objectives and conduct themselves in a manner that shall not bring the party to public odium and disrepute.
“Members of the party shall also observe the rules and regulations embedded in this.”
A breach of this sub-section or other provision could lead to punishments ranging from reprimand, censure, fine, debarment from holding party office, suspension or expulsion.
The party leader said it would not be out of place for the APC to set up a disciplinary committee to try Saraki, Dogara and others for their actions.
He said, “There is no organisation which can survive without discipline; we cannot tolerate a situation where party members defy the party without consequences.
“This assault on the party’s cohesion has to be met with dire consequences if not, it will mark the beginning of a revolt whose end no one can predict.
“What is even more painful about the whole National Assembly thing is the fact that these individuals went as far as sleeping with the enemy in their desperation for power. The party must remain supreme. If not, anarchy will become the norm.”
He however said that for now, the APC was not keen on taking the matter to court.
The party leader added, “If you look at the list of offences stipulated in our constitution, you will see that anti-party activities or any conduct likely to embarrass of have adverse effect on the party or bring the party into hatred, contempt, ridicule or disrepute; disobedience or negligence in carrying out lawful directives of the party all constitute a violation and attract sanctions.”
Attempts to reach the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, were unsuccessful as calls to his mobile telephone were neither picked nor returned.
A response to text message sent to him on the subject was still being awaited as of press time on Wednesday.
APC can’t sanction Saraki, Dogara –PDP
Also on Wednesday, the PDP dismissed the threat by the APC to sanction the new leadership of the National Assembly as empty boast aimed at covering its naivety, inexperience and unpreparedness for governance.
It said there was no way the APC could punish the Senate President and the Speaker for refusing to abide by the directive of the ruling party not to contest the leadership of the assembly.
The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, admonished the APC to shed its arrogance, eat the humble pie and get more organised for governance.
The party added that the APC lacked the capacity, capability and means to sanction duly elected leaders of the National Assembly.
It also said that “the crass inexperience so far displayed by the APC is a pointer that it is not adequately equipped to handle the affairs of government at the centre.”
The statement read, “Nothing can be more astonishing than the whining by the APC that the PDP at the last minute expressed its preference for Saraki and Dogara as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively after it had earlier stated that it was not interested in the positions.
“This calls to question the capacity, experience and skills of APC leaders on political matters and we have no apology whatsoever for their naivety.
“The APC is merely suffering the consequences of the greed, lust for power and inordinate ambitions of their leaders. They should note that Nigerians have since moved ahead with the new leaders in the National Assembly and stop wasting their energy on propaganda and blackmails to heat up the polity”.
The PDP also condemned Tuesday’s alleged attempts to close the National Assembly and stop lawmakers from carrying out their constitutional duties, as well as the threats to the newly elected leaders as “totally against the tenets of democracy, the principles of separation of powers and independence of the legislature as enshrined in the constitution.”
“Indeed, APC’s disdain for democratic norms, the rule of law and the sanctity of the legislature, coupled with its excessive thirst for power portends grave threat to our survival as a nation and calls for serious concern among Nigerians and all lovers of democracy and freedom world over,” the former ruling party stated.
Marafa later explained to one of our correspondents that they left the plenar to address journalists on “some incorrect information” on why they were not present at the inauguration of the Eighth Senate.
He said, “I and all the members of the APC were summoned to a meeting with President Buhari through a well signed and delivered message.
“While I was away, with a lot of other members of the Senate, for the meeting, the senate went ahead to commence the process of inauguration thereby infringing on my right and privileges as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by disenfranchising me and my colleagues from participating in the election of the presiding officers of the Senate.
“The news item that the Senate was inaugurated with 57 senators while 51 senators-elect were absent, portrayed me and many of my colleagues as some kind of irresponsible members of the hallowed chamber.”
Senator Shehu Sani, who is also a member of the group, said his grouse was that his colleagues who were present during the inauguration, allowed Ekweremadu to emerge as the deputy Senate president.
He however admitted that the election which produced Saraki as the President of the Senate was not only constitutional but followed due process.
I won’t quit APC, says Senate President
The Senate President has described rumours that he was planning to defect to the PDP as “absurd and laughable.”
He said in a statement signed by Bankole Omishore of his media office that the rumour was a “cheap blackmail by political adversaries who want to call a dog a bad name in order to hang it.”
Saraki told those behind the allegation to remember that he willingly left the PDP even when it (the PDP) was in power.
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