‘Why We Can’t Read Your Letter Now’, David Mark Tells 11 Defecting Senators
The hope of the 11 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators asking to defect to the All Progressives Congress (APC) was dashed yesterday as the Senate unequivocally declared that their letter would not be read on its floor.
The Senate said its reason was that the Senate president, David Mark, was still exploring legal interpretations, since the matter is still pending in court.
The upper house will also meet with inspector-general of police Mohammed Abubakar on Tuesday next week and screen the ministerial nominees the next day.
The Senate, for the second time in two days, went into a closed-door session to trash out issues concerning the defection of the senators to the APC. The first was last Tuesday when the deputy president of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, presided.
Senate spokesman Enyinnaya Abaribe told a press conference shortly after plenary preceded by a prolonged executive session that senators as lawmakers should not be law breakers, adding that since the case was still pending in the court of law, the Senate’s hands were tied on the matter.
The senators, he said, resolved at the executive session that the defection matter was already in court at the instance of the intending defectors and, as such, the Senate Rules bar them from entertaining such matter.
He said: “In the past, senators had defected but they did not go to court against the presiding officer. The senators who are defecting had first gone to court against the presiding officer. And, of course, if you go to court, that means that we have to suspend what we are doing pending the resolution of the matter in court.”
Abaribe explained that the closed session was to seek and find ways to address some critical legal issues brought up by the letter written by 11 PDP senators while the matter was still pending in the court, and also the legal issues bordering on the interpretation of the constitution and the Senate Rules were thrown up in the course of the discussion.
Abaribe said: “I can confirm to you that on the matter of those who want to defect, that the issue was also discussed during the closed session.
“It was also resolved that the Senate, the Senate president in particular, would have to seek further legal advice because of the serious legal issues that were thrown up during the discussion.
“The legal issues relate to both the interpretation of the constitution and the interpretation of our rules within the Senate. And more time was given for further consultation. It was also resolved that when the Senate resumes plenary on Tuesday, that the Senate would now also continue to look into the issue.
“One thing is clear: under Rule 25 of the Senate, only the Senate president has the power and the authority to interpret anything, and we decided that it would be necessary for him to also seek further legal advice.
“I think it is in the best interest of the country for decisions that are going to be taken to be taken with due cognisance of the law. We are lawmakers, we are not law breakers.”
On why some of the APC senators and the intending defectors stormed out of the chamber ahead of the Senate president, as against the usual tradition of lawmakers waiting for the Senate president to march out first, Abaribe explained that it should not be interpreted as them walking out on the Senate president: “No, it only means that people are exercising their freedom of expression and freedom to meet with each other. Yes, there is a tradition that we shake hands when we are leaving. Whatever noise you hear at the end of the session is merely senators greeting each other and catching up with past gist, pending when we go to our various committee rooms for the consideration of the 2014 budget.
“So, what you saw was chairmen calling their members to come for the meetings.”
Reacting to the logjam, minority leader George Akume (Benue, APC) said: “Well, it is open knowledge that 11 senators from the PDP has indicated their interest to defect from PDP to APC. They are adequately covered by some provisions of constitution and of course the issue of defection is not new; it has happened before in the two chambers and when we met today to deliberate on this particular issue we said okay, Senate president should look at the political solution. Nobody talked about legal opinion on this matter and we are going to reconvene Tuesday to continue on this issue.
“I want to believe strongly that by Tuesday this matter will be laid to rest in the interest of the country and for the sanctity and integrity of the Senate.”
Last week, 11 senators in a joint letter to the Senate president indicated their intention to change political parties, but the letter was not read on the floor of the Senate.
Those on the list are senators Danjuma Goje (Gombe), Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa), Bukola Saraki (Kwara), Jumai Alhassan (Taraba), Umaru Dahiru (Sokoto), Ibrahim Gobir (Sokoto), Magnus Abe (Rivers), Wilson Ake (Rivers), Shaaba Lafiaji (Kwara), Ahmed Barata (Adamawa) and Jibrila Bindowo.
The defecting senators had earlier gone to court seeking an injunction for the Senate president not to declare their seats vacant.
Meanwhile, the Senate will meet the IGP Mohammed Abubakar over the crisis in Rivers State next week Tuesday.
The Senate had summoned the IGP to come and give a situation report on the Rivers State crisis.
The Senate will also commence screening of President Goodluck Jonathan’s ministerial nominees next Wednesday.
The nominees are: Senator Musuliu Obanikoro ( Lagos) , Hon Mohammed Wakili ( Borno), Alhaji Abduljelili Oyewale Adesiyan ( Osun), Amb Aminu Wall ( Kano), Hajiya Jamila Salik ( Kano), Mrs Akon Etim Eyakenyi ( Akwa Ibom), Lawrencia Labaran Mallam (Kaduna), Dr T W Danagogo ( Rivers), Asabe Asmau Ahmed ( Niger), Gen Aliyu Gusau Mohammed ( Zamfara), Boni Haruna (Adamawa), and Dr Khaliru Alhassan (Sokoto).
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