Fresh Crisis Looms In Senate Over Constitution of Standing Committees
Even though it is yet to find its feet from the subsisting crisis over the leadership composition rocking it is embroiled in, the 8th Senate appears set for another round of crisis in the days ahead.
The likely crisis that may erupt anytime soon is linked to the provision of senates’ amended 2015 standing rules, which must be considered when appointing chairmen and vice chairmen for its 57 standing committees.
While the chairmanship positions of the 57 committees of the senate have over the years from the 4th to the recently ended 7th Senate under the Presidency of David Mark been skewed in favour of senators belonging to the ruling party and ranking in status, the new rule has brought about a change.
Going by Order 3(4) of the 8th Senate Standing Orders 2015 as amended which states that “The appointment of senators as chairmen and members of committees shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the six geo-political zones of the country and there shall be no predominance of senators from a few geo-political zones”.
Accordingly, the Senate is expected to distribute its committees equally among the six geo-political zones of the country irrespective of political party affiliation.
Each zone, based on the new rule, is expected to get at least, nine committee chairmanship seats out of the total 57 Senate committees, which will be completely contrary to what obtained in the 7th Senate where senators of the ruling party then (PDP) benefitted a lot.
In that arrangement, the South-South got 14 chairmanship seats. This is followed by the North Central, South East and North West, which got 10 each.
The South West got the least number of chairmanship positions with only five seats while the North East got seven.
The political implication of the equal sharing principle stipulated by the new rule is that the APC which drew its membership mainly from the North West, North Central and the South West will enjoy no special preference unlike what PDP enjoyed when it was in power.
The 2015 Standing Rule had generated serious crisis leading to the intervention of the police. The Unity Forum Senators had petitioned the police over what they described as forgery of the Senate Rule. This was a reaction to their defeat in the battle for Senate leadership.
Consequently, the police had summoned the leadership of the 7th Senate including Senators David Mark, Ike Ekweremadu as well as Victor Ndoma-Egba. Also invited for questioning was the president of the 8th Senate, Bukola Saraki.
The petition read: “We write to bring to your attention, the existence of the fraudulent introduction of a 2015 Senate Standing Rules as amended. We wish to attach the original and authentic Standing Order for 2011 that was used by the 7th Senate, Annexure A.
“We again attached the annex Herero, a purported amended Standing Orders 2015, which was used by the Clerk to the National Assembly (along with the Clerk of the Senate) in inaugurating the 8th Senate on June 9, 2015.
“The so-called new Standing Orders purports to allow for secret instead of the open ballot system that has been prevalent in all Senate elections as permitted by the extant rules.
“This infraction, among others, arose from the fraudulent production of the Rules without an approved consideration by the 7th Senate.
“At no time was the Standing Orders of the Senate amended during the entire life of the 7th Senate, neither has the 8th Senate sat for long enough to produce the rules now being circulated and in use”.