Mark Stalls PDP Senators' Defection To APC

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Declares it a nullity SAN FRANCISCO, February 11, (THEWILL) - President of the Senate, Senator David Mark, has finally put a seal on the planned defection of 11 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Citing a legal injunction, Mark also bared them from further discussing   the matter on the senate floor until all legal issues connected with it are fully dispensed with.

For five times, the Senate President  ruled out the Point of Order attempts by five of the 11  senators who planned to defect to  APC  to induce him to read their defection letter through the invocation of Order 15, which deals with the privileges of each senator.

Five out of the PDP Senators at the plenary made spirited effort to invoke their point of order  privilege, yet Mark pointedly told them that all amounts to obviating all legal injunctions and as such they must respect judicial order.

Senator   Mark, relying on Order 53(5) of the Senate Standing Orders 2011 as amended, successively declared their planned defection   as null and void and of no effect.

The five senators who raised the Points of Order, citing Order 14, which deals with the privileges of Senators, to announce their defection to the APC were: Senators Bukola Saraki(Kwara Central); Abdullahi Adamu(Nasarawa West), Aisha Alhassan(Taraba North); Magnus Abe(Rivers South East) and Wilson Ake (Rivers West).

Senator Saraki was the first to raise Order 14 on matter of privileges, drawing the attention of the Senate President  to the letter he jointly submitted in respect of their defection to the APC and asking him to read the letter.

Responding, Mark referred him to Order 53(5) which reads: "reference shall not be made to any matter on which a judicial decision is pending, in such a way as might in the opinion of the President of the Senate prejudice the interest of the parties thereto".

The Presiding officer further told Saraki, "It cannot be a matter of privilege to you because the matter is in court and no mention should be made of it.

Therefore, I rule you out of order.
" In a seeming premeditated arrangement, the other four Senators followed Saraki in like manner, raising the same point of order and announcing their defection to the main opposition party.

They received the same response from Mark.
But in a desperate attempt to help  his prospective party colleagues, the Senate Minority Leader, Senator George Akume(Benue-APC) raised Order 15 and moving a motion immediately that Mark should read the letter of the defecting Senators.

Order 15 reads: "any Senator may rise at any time to speak upon a matter of privilege suddenly arising, and he shall be prepared to move, without notice, a motion declaring that a contempt or breach of privilege has been committed, or referring the matter to the Committee on Ethics and Privileges, but if the matter is raised in Committee of the Whole Senate, the Chairman shall leave the Chair and report the progress.

" After citing this Order, Akume went further to say, "This is a legislative house and privileges are guaranteed by law.

This is an issue that has dragged on for so long.
We cannot stop people from associating.
By the power conferred on me as the Minority Leader, I have the right to speak on behalf of my people.

Therefore, I move that the Senate President should read the letter now.

I so move.
" Countering Akume's motion and argument, Mark confronted the APC leader, saying, "Tell me your privilege that is being breached and I will rule on it.

I do not want to shut you out, but there shall be no further reference made on it.

" When the former Benue State Governor could not wriggle out of the legal cage, Mark ruled him out of order, declaring that by the power conferred on him by Order 14 which Akume referred to, he was not satisfied by his explanation.

The defecting Senators had earlier gone to court and obtained an interim injunction to stop the President of the Senate from declaring their seats vacant.

The court order also stated that the status quo should be maintained by the parties in the suit.

However, negating this legal hurdle, the 11 aggrieved Senators from the ruling party jointly wrote a letter, expressing their defection to the APC and desperately impressed on the President of the Senate to read their letter of defection to the Chamber.

Not willing to violate the rules of the Senate, Mark, in the last three weeks, has tactically tried to manage the situation politically so that the matter would not degenerate and disintegrate the Upper House.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe briefing Senate Correspondents said  the senate has resolved to maintain the dignity of the upper chamber.

In that wise, everything was done today openly, transparently without rancour.

We have to give kudos to the senate and the senate president for handling the matter in a manner that Nigerians are very proud of.

' Abaribe added that senators can get up and express themselves but the procedure must be followed and that was what the Senate President was saying.

"Our rules are very clear when a matter is in court, we cannot discuss it.

The hands if the Senate President is tied,  he cannot do otherwise and if he does otherwise, it will, be contempt of court.

Therefore, while not saying that the matter has been laid to rest, we can say sufficiently that the matter has now been handled in such a way that all sides are aware of their rights and things are going smoothly in the senate.

" "Let me make certain things clear, first of all, everybody is a member of the Nigerian Senate elected under a platform,  when you are elected,  you are given a seat and if you have to move  there are rules that you have to comply with.

  Nothing in that rules says if you come and just make a voice statement, that will be sufficient.

When you come via a point of order, no.
" "As far as the senate is concerned,  there has been no movement yet.

It is the legal opinion sought by the senate leadership that played itself out on the floor of the senate today in which the senate president said the matter is in court and he is legally bound to abide by the rules which says once a matter is in court, you cannot coment on it.

" "The defecting Senators got an interim order and the main case is still in court so it is not the job of the senate to seek the interpretation of the injunction.

There is no problem with our rules.
We are not lawyers and we are not court so we leave the issue as that.

The onus lies on those who went to court to quickly hasten the court process,  either way,  they can decide to withdraw their letter and once they do that," Abaribe said.

On the non appearance of the Inspector General of Police, Abaribe said  unfortunately  "We could not meet with the Inspector General of Police as earlier scheduled today because of some scheduling problems but we will let the public know when we are going to have the IGP in   chamber.

"There were scheduling problems that we couldn't resolve today.

The IGP is also a busy person and we should be able to iron out things with him", he added.

Meanwhile, there are strong indications that APC may lose two senators to PDP.

This emerged when Senator Ehigie Uzamere (APC, Edo) signified his intention through a statement on Tuesday.

The other senator , according to a   source,  is from Nasarawa State who was elected on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) Uzamere in his statement described APC as a  party organised around a sole administrator who overturns and overturns and overturns depending on his moods, desires, whims and caprices and cannot dispense justice, equity and fairness in a heterogeneous polity.

"My political vision has been and remains a state or nation where every segment gets what it deserves within the limits of its contribution to the whole and where everyone, whether individual or group, is free from domination and oppression.

In exercise of the mandate freely given to me by you in my first tenure on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), I protested and fought against the domination of the people of Edo South Senatorial District by the forces, structure and dynamics of the party and government of that time.

The heat generated by the resultant friction led to my inevitable exit from the party.

" "On hand to receive me was the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), as it then was, a party which rose to power in Edo State as a result of the peoples dissatisfaction with the PDP's performance in governance.

I postulated then that the PDP's ticket in Edo State was worse than the Zimbabwean Dollar.

My movement from PDP to ACN was smooth due to my policy of putting state interest above partisan considerations as an elected leader.

It was this policy that influenced my decision to clear an ACN nominee for the position of Edo State Representative on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Board, even though I was a PDP Senator.

In appreciation, the ACN did not only admit me to their fold, it gave me a return ticket to the Senate, an act for which I will remain eternally grateful.

" "Great expectations followed the movement into the ACN.

Going by the sloganeering in the party and public perception of the key leaders as men of integrity we believed that vices like godfatherism, imposition, ethnic domination, dictatorship, etc which characterised the PDP then would be non-existent in the ACN.

We honestly expected that every senatorial district would be autonomous in the handling of its affairs and would be given its fair share according to its size, resources and population.

We genuinely believed that the ACN would approximate ideal democratic culture in the conduct of governance and its internal affairs.

Consultation, rule of law, collective decision making, team spirit, accountability, etc, were expected to be the hallmarks of the party.

But that was not to be.
" "A party organised around a sole administrator who overturns and overturns and overturns depending on his moods, desires, whims and caprices cannot dispense justice, equity and fairness in a heterogeneous polity," he said.

"Speaking to the press immediately after plenary, Senator Magnus Abe said: "What you are witnessing is the internal politics of the senate, we have confidence in the leadership.

There is a problem in the senate and we believe that Senator David Mark has been over years, proven himself as an astute statesman, democrat and politician.

We still believe that this is a problem that has a political solution and what we need to do as senators under our leadership is to look for a solution that will satisfy the desires of individual senators, satisfy the desires of individual citizens of the country to see greater democracy,  satisfy the constitution to allow free association of persons and I think the challenge before the senate is to look for the solution and we are still working together.

" Also, Senator Aisha Al Hassan    said :'I raised my point of order  because I need to inform the senate, I need to inform Nigerians that I have changed position.

That I have moved from the PDP to the APC.
I left the PDP because justice was not done to me.
I had cried too many times that I am suffering injustice, persecution, and intimidation in my state.

"I had written the national leadership and the national secretariat of the PDP so many times and nothing happened.

Therefore I now decided to move to the APC where I can get justice.

We submitted a letter which the senate president said he was not going to read because there is a pending court injunction that the status quo should be maintained.

" "We are saying that the issue before the court has to do with the declaration of seats vacant but Senator Mark maintained that it's about defection.

We were asked to maintain status quo about declaring our seats vacant.

That order did not affect us and it's not about moving from one party to another.

" "I have registered in the APC and I have moved from PDP.

I want my supporters to know that I have moved in the senate but if the senate president failed to read them that is his opinion.

I have given the information.
I respect him but he said there is a court injunction against him, he is entitled to his opinion,  he is entitled to the way he interpretes the order.

I am in APC 100 percent.
But if the senate president still thinks I am in the PDP,  that is his personal opinion which he is entitled to.