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Alleged Forgery Of Senate Rules: Controversy As Police Seek Political Solution

Source: thewillnigeria.com
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Controversy has swallowed the report of the Police investigations into the alleged forgery of the 2015 Standing Rules of the Senate following its recommendation of a political solution on the issue.

The 13-page report of the Police investigations obtained by Vanguard which details submissions from seven senators belonging to the National Unity Forum led by Senator Ahmad Lawan affirmed that the amendment of the rules was not according to the laid down rules of the Senate.

The Police report termed the development as not only “criminal, but portends danger for our growing democracy.”

However, the report, which did not indict any person, drew back from recommending prosecution. The report authored by the Deputy Inspector General of Police, DIG Dan'Azumi Doma, concluded by suggesting that the casefile be forwarded to the Attorney-General of the Federation for his assessment as to whether a crime had been committed or whether the action laid within the internal affairs of the Senate.

The police conclusion is in the wake of mutterings by elements supportive of the Senator Bukola Saraki-led leadership of dire consequences on senators who petitioned the police for dragging the internal affairs of the Senate to the Police. The development promises a showdown between the two camps as the Senate resumes tomorrow.

Further controversies stoked the development, yesterday, following the submission by a senior staff of the National Assembly that the amendment was at the behest of the leadership of the former Senate.

Despite that submission, it emerged, yesterday, that no member of the David Mark leadership was questioned by the Senate. Senator Mark was not available for comment on the development, yesterday, as a senior aide said he was not available.

Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the Deputy President of the Senate; Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, SAN, the leader of the 7th Senate both denied being questioned by the police in separate interfaces yesterday.

Ekweremadu, who has been in media spotlight over the issue was not once mentioned in the report by the police.

Meanwhile, the report has drawn controversy upon claims that the Police received submissions from only senators belonging to the Senate Unity Forum, in the All Progressives Congress. Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, senators and senators aligned to the Senator Bukola Saraki inclined Like Mind Group were yesterday muttering that their side to the issue was not taken.

Those questioned
The seven senators, who were questioned by the DIG Doma-led team, were Senators Suleiman Hunkuyi, Secretary of the Senate Unity Forum who wrote the petition to the police, Ahmad Lawan, Abdullahi Gumel, Kabiru Marafa, Gbenga Ashafa, Robert Boroffice and Abu Ibrahim.

Also questioned were former Senator Ita Enang, who served as chairman of the Business and Rules Committee in the 7th Senate; Senator Babafemi Ojudu and Solomon Ewuga, all of whom are members of the APC.

Also questioned were the Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa; the Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly, Mr. Ben Efeturi; Secretary, Directorate of Legal Services in the National Assembly, Mr. Daniel Adem and Secretary of the Senate Committee on Business and Rules, Dr. Ogozy Nma.

All of those questioned with the notable exception of Mr. Efeturi, who also doubles as the Clerk of the Senate, denied knowledge of the amendment.

The Clerk of the National Assembly, Maikasuwa, who presided over the election, is quoted in the report as saying: “that he did not refer to any Senate Standing Order/Rules but used the normal procedures for the opening of a new parliament.”

The report also quoted him as denying knowledge of the existence of the production of the Senate Standing Rules 2015 as amended.

Efeturi, on the other hand, however, affirmed that the production of the 2015 Standing Rules was in line with convention as he said that the same procedure was used in the production of the standing rules in 2003, 2007 and 2011.

Efeturi, who is about the longest serving legislative bureaucrat in the National Assembly with experience running from the Second Republic, according to the police report is quoted as saying that “the Senate Standing Orders 2003, 2007 and 2011 followed the same procedure as that of the 2015.

“He emphasised that in the parliament, amendment of Standing Orders is by practice and not necessarily by procedure. He further stated that the ruling of the Senate President on the June 24, 2015 that the Senate Standing Orders of the Senate 2015 is authentic is final, relevant and cannot be challenged. He attached a copy of the debates of the Senate on Wednesday, June 24 24 where the Senate President ruled that the Senate Standing Order 2015 was the authentic Standing Orders of the 8th Senate.”

The police in its findings nevertheless dismissed Efeturi's contention, saying that so long as it was not done in the lifetime of the Mark Senate that it was irregular.

But despite the dismissal of that submission, the police drew back from making an indictment. Rather, the police sought counsel from the

Attorney General on whether the issue was a crime or leave it as an internal affair of the Senate.

Findings
(a) That on the 9th of June, 2015, a document entitled “the Senate Standing Order 2015 as amended” was distributed to senators of the 8th Senate for their inauguration as members.

(b) That the contents of the Senate Standing Order 2015 as amended are substantially different from the Senate Standing Order 2011 as amended. Sections 2(iv), 3(3)E, I,ii,iii, G and H, 5 and 7 of the Rules are different in the two Orders.

(c) That the Senate Standing Order 2015 as amended was used by the clerks of the National Assembly and the Senate as the Senate Standing Orders to inaugurate and conduct elections into the offices of the presiding officials of the Senate viz the Senate President, the Deputy Senate President etc.

(d) That the testimonies of some members of the 7th Senate including that of the chairman of the Business and Rules Committee and Senators of the 7th Senate indicate that the Senate Standing Order 2011 was not amended during the tenure of the 7th Senate which ended on the 8th of June, 2015.

(e) That the procedure for the amendment of the Senate Standing Order as contained in Section 110 of the Senate Standing Order 2011 as amended stipulates that any amendment to the Senate Standing Orders should be in line with the following procedures:

  • Any senator desiring to amend any part of the Rules or adding any new clause shall give notice of such amendments in writing to the President of the Senate giving details of proposed amendment.
  • The President shall within seven working days cause the amendment to be printed and circulated to members. Thereafter it shall be printed in the Order Paper.
  • The movers of the amendment shall be allowed to explain in details the proposed amendments, thereafter the Senate shall decide by simple majority votes whether the amendment should be considered.
  • If the decision is to consider the amendments, then another date shall be set aside by the Rules and Business Committee, whereby opportunity would be given to Senators to further propose amendments but must strictly be confined to the original amendments.
  • Two third majorities shall decide the amendments and such amendments shall form part of the Rules of the Senate.

(f) That the Clerk of the Senate, Mr. Benedict Efeturi, who doubles as the Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly confirmed in his statement

that the Senate Standing Order 2015 as amended was produced on the orders of the Senate leadership without following the amendment procedures as contained in the Senate Standing Orders 2011 as amended.

(g) That the allusion by the clerk of the Senate to procedure of amending the Standing Orders of Parliament through “practise and not necessarily by procedure” is a misplaced analogy and undemocratic because the Nigerian Senate has clearly laid-down without a provisio, the procedure to be adopted in amending its standing orders as contained in section 110 of 2011 Senate Standing Orders.

Recommendations
5. From the findings, especially from the statement of the Clerk of the Senate who doubles as the Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly, the Senate Standing Orders 2015 which was used to inaugurate the 8th Senate on the 9th of June 2015 was ordered by the leadership of the 7th Senate without following Section 110 of the Senate Standing Rules 2011 as amended which requires that any amendment to the Senate Standing Rules must be debated and approved by the senators on the floor of the Senate.

5.1. This practice where some group of senators amend the Rules of the Senate without following legal procedures is not only criminal but portends danger for our growing democracy and should be discouraged. However, it is recommended that the file be sent to the Attorney General of the Federation for vetting to determine if this conduct constitutes crime or should be treated as an internal affair of the Senate.

VANGUARDNG