- Akpabio emerges Minority Leader
- Reps settle for Gbajabiamila as House Leader
Against all expectations, 81 of the 108 serving senators, yesterday passed a vote of confidence on the Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu and other principal officers in the Upper House.
The House of Representatives also resolved its leadership crisis as its members accepted Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and Hon. Leo Ogor as Majority Leader and Minority Leader, respectively.
Apparently unimpressed with the police role in the alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Rules, the Senators urged the Police High Command and other security agencies not to allow anyone to use them to harass, intimidate or blackmail the Senate, its members and their spouses.
At the plenary, Senator Kabiru Marafa (APC Zamfara Central) failed in his efforts to stall the Senate proceedings.
The confidence vote on Saraki and Ekweremadu laid to rest the crisis rocking the Senate in the past weeks over the emergence of the Upper House leadership on June 9, 2015 between the pro and anti Saraki groups. It was at the instance of a motion moved by Senator Samuel Anyanwu (PDP Imo East).
Anyanwu, in the motion seconded by Senator Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West), with signatories of 80 other senators across party lines, noted with dismay the continued harassment of the Senate and senators, the National Assembly Management and spouses of senators by security agencies.
He said that in spite of the distraction, the Senate should remain focused in the performance of its constitutional duties and responsibilities without fear or favour, especially on matters of interest and importance to most Nigerians in view of the enormous challenges facing the country.
The senators averred that the vote of confidence on their leadership as presently constituted, was necessary in view of the sustained interference in the internal affairs of the Upper House by detractors and sponsored media propaganda against the Senate and senators by selfish politicians.
The motion got express approval of the Senate without debate on account of securing more than 2/3 support of the entire senators before presentation.
Putting the motion to voice votes, Saraki said: “There is no need for debate on this motion since more than 2/3 majority of the senators have identified with it. We only need to put the two prayers to vote.” When he did, it got overwhelming yes votes from the senators.
A critical look of co-sponsors of the motion showed that aside 47 PDP senators that assented to it, 34 others from the All Progressives Congress, APC, also endorsed it. Among them were Monsurat Sunmonu (APC Oyo Central) and Bukar Abba Ibrahim (APC Yobe East). They were formerly in the camp of Senator Ahmad Lawan under the aegis of Senate Unity Forum, SUF.
However, one of the staunch members of the SUF, Kabiru Marafa, had before the pass of vote of confidence on Saraki and others, through point of orders, attempted to put in nullity, all proceedings of the 8th Senate aside its proclamation, from June 9 till yesterday.
Marafa, who came through Orders 15, 1 and 13, said the 2015 Senate Standing Rules state that proceedings of the lawmakers as specified in the rules, had not been complied with by the 8th Senate since inception.
He said: “I want to posit that the activities of the Senate on the 9th of June stand null because it was covered by the proclamation of Mr. President which states that the proceedings of the chamber shall start by 10am.
“But all other activities of the Senate from that time but not limited to the oath of office, is a nullity because it was not done within the timeframe. The activities of the Senate on the 23rd and 24th of June are equally a nullity as far as provisions of Order 13(2) is concerned,”
He was, however, ruled out of order by the Senate President.
Senate elects Akpabio Minority Leader
Once the Senate had put the leadership crisis behind it, the members proceeded to name the immediate past governor of Akwa Ibom State and senator representing Akwa Ibom North West, Godswill Akpabio as its Minority Leader.
It also announced Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, representing Taraba Central as the Deputy Minority Leader, Senators Philip Aduda (Federal Capital Territory, FCT) and Abiodun Olujimi, (Ekiti South) as Minority Whip and Deputy Minority Whip, respectively.
The confirmation of the four principal officers from the opposition PDP lawmakers in the upper chamber followed their nominations on Monday evening and subsequent presentation to the Senate for confirmation yesterday.
But the confirmation of Akpabio by the Senate President, did not go unchallenged, as the ruling APC opposed it, claiming that it violated the Senate Standing Rule.
The party, which spoke through Senator Kabiru Marafa, representing Zamfara South, explained that the rule recognises that only the ranking members were qualified to occupy the principal offices.
As the Senate President called on the Sergeant-at-Arms to usher the new principal officers from the PDP fold to their respective seats, Marafa raised a point of order, citing the Senate Order 13 (1) and (2), which opposes the appointment or election of any non-ranking member to the position of principal offices.
He noted that the PDP Senate Caucus violated the position of the Senate Standing Order when they nominated Akpabio as Minority Leader and asked the upper chamber to reverse the confirmation of Akpabio.
But the PDP senators, through Ekweremadu, representing Enugu West, raised a point of order, upon which he explained that he and his colleagues did nothing wrong in the nomination of Akpabio for the position.
Citing the relevant rule of the Senate, Ekweremadu insisted that Akpabio’s nomination was in order and should be upheld by the Senate.
Having listened to the arguments from Marafa and Ekweremadu, Saraki upheld the nomination of Akpabio and three others from the PDP senators for the four principal offices.
Gbajabiamila, Ogor emerge House leaders
And after close to two months of leadership tussle in the House of Representatives, the lower chamber yesterday named the House principal officers.
The principal officers are Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, House Leader; Hon. Buba Jubrin, Deputy Leader; Hon. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, Chief Whip; Hon. Pally Iriase, Deputy Chief Whip.
Others are Hon. Leo Ogor, Minority Leader; Hon. Chukwuma Chukwuka, Deputy Minority Leader; Umar Badre and Hon. Binta Bello, Deputy Minority Whip.
The emergence of Gbajabiamila (APC, South-West) as the House Leader has ended the lingering crisis in the Green Chamber since it was inaugurated on June 9.
Of the eight principal officers of the House, two are from the South-South; two from the North-West; one each from the South-East, North-Central, South-West and North-East.
Nigerian Pilot had yesterday reported that the Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, would name the four principal officers of the House as it resumes plenary today.
It would be recalled that fight broke out on the floor of the House on June 25 over the Speaker’s refusal to read the letter of the APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun on who should occupy what position.
The incident forced the House to adjourn plenary to July 21 and later to July 28 due to the Eid-el-Fitri celebration.
At the plenary attended by over 300 lawmakers, Dogara intentionally delayed to name the principal officers till the last minute when most of the lawmakers and journalists had left the chamber.
Some of the lawmakers told Nigerian Pilot that the move was to douse tension and allow maturity and reasons to prevail.
Before the Speaker finally named the principal officer at about 3:30pm, he left the chamber at about 2:30pm to make last minute consultations only to emerge an hour later to make the much-awaited announcement.
The House Ad-hoc Committee Chairman on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Sani Zorro (APC, Jigawa) described what transpired on the floor of the House as the triumph of internal democracy.
Zorro said the House was able to overcome the crisis because of the patriotism, constitutionalism, reason and rationality.
He said the commitment of the House to the objectives of the party and national interest was no longer in doubt.
“You are all witnesses to the eventful plenary session today upon the resumption of the House of Representatives. You can also remember that when we were going on recess and there were some disturbances in the House of Representatives, we made it clear that the problems we were going through were merely transitional in nature and we have been proved right.
“Today, we have resolved all the problems that brought that circumstance. What transpired today is the triumph of internal democracy of the House of Representatives and this triumph is also anchored on four factors.
“It is anchored on patriotism, constitutionalism, reason and rationality. This is what guided the steps taken by the entire House of Representatives laid by its leadership and all the contending groups that were party to the various negotiations.
“Whenever the House comes in afresh upon proclamation, because of its complexity as it is made up of 360 members of diverse background, there are bound to be disagreements.
“So what we did was purely transitional and is in order, but I can assure you that apart from the triumph of dialogue; the 8th House of Representatives has shown that we are mature politicians. Politics is about give and take and that is what has happened.
“The commitment of the leadership and the followership of the House of Representatives to the objectives of the party and commitment to national interest can no longer be in any doubt.
“We members of the House of Representatives will be on good behaviour hence forth; there will be no cause for rancour not to talk of the kind of disturbances that witnessed the other day.
“We want to use this opportunity to thank Mr. President for a 20 minute meeting. It was very crucial. What Mr. President did was a fatherly engagement; what he did has clearly shown that he is not the so called dictator that our opponents wanted to paint him as.
Commenting on his emergence as House Leader, Gbajabiamila, who was not present when the announcement was made, said he was glad that the crisis was over.