Senate: Protest Trails Senate President's Refusal to Read Defection Letter
SAN FRANCISCO, January 30, (THEWILL) - The senate plenary burst into chaos and was temporarily halted for 20 minutes on Thursday over the refusal of the Senate President, David Mark, to read the letter that could have given effect to the planned defection of 11 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The APC senators mounted a protest by citing series of orders and shouting on top of their voices, yet they failed to browbeat the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu , who presided over the session in the absence of Mark.
The 11 senators had written a formal letter of notice to defect to the APC from the PDP, which was not read on the floor on Wednesday by the President of the Senate.
Trouble started shortly after the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ekweremadu , who presided over the plenary session in the absence of the Senator Mark, concluded the pre-plenary procedures without reading the letter or even making reference to it, thus prompting arrowhead of the defecting senators, Senator Bukola Saraki (PDP, Kwara) ,to raise order 15 of the senate's rules to enforce his privileges.
He recalled that he and other 10 PDP senators had in a letter put the chair on notice yesterday (Wednesday) over their change of political party from the platform of PDP to the APC and that he felt that it was necessary for him to bring to the attention of the Deputy President of the Senate that the letter has not yet been read.
Ekweremadu responded by telling Saraki that the Senate President had traveled and that he had told him that both of them (Mark and Saraki) had a discussion during which they agreed to meet on Monday over the issue and as such it was appropriate to stand down anything relating to that.
The exchange between Saraki and Ekweremadu went thus; SARAKI: "I would like to draw your attention to a notice, which by a letter was communicated yesterday to your Chair on notification of the change of political party by myself and 11 other senators from the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
So I felt that it was necessary for me to bring to your attention that the letter has not yet been read.
EKWEREMADU: The senate president had travelled and before he travelled he told me you had a discussion with him and agreed to have a meeting with you on Monday.
So, that was what he told me on the subject.
SARAKI: That is not the case, sir.
I submitted the letter as of yesterday and he indicated the intention that he would like to meet with senators.
But the two issues, submitting the letter and his request for the meeting do not seem that the meeting was subject to the bringing of the letter.
So I felt that the two are two separate issues.
EKWEREMADU: Unfortunately this is my own understanding of your dialogue with him and he is not here.
So I believe that we would stand down any issue relating to that until he comes back.
The response by Senator Ekweremadu led to a flurry of consultation with the chair by a horde of senators of the APC.
In the process, Senator Danjuma Goje (PDP, Gombe) entered the chamber and raised similar point of order as did Senator Saraki.
Again the following exchange ensued; GOJE: "Yesterday, I Sen.
Danjuma Goje representing Gombe Central and ten others presented a letter to the senate president formally informing him to inform the chamber that we have defected from the PDP to the APC.
We thought the letter would have been read yesterday but it was not and we feel that it should be read today.
I feel it is our right and privilege for that letter to be read.
I have defected and 10 other senators have also signed that letter defecting from PDP to APC.
So I demand that that letter be read.
" EKWEREMADU: "First of all, I think you just came late.
We have discussed this matter earlier before you arrived and we have taken a decision on this.
We have taken on that.
So he did not give me any letter to read.
" At this point, the Minority Leader, Senator George Akume (APC, Benue), got up as he attempted to fault Ekweremadu, saying t the country practices a bicameral legislature and wondered why what obtains in the House of Representatives .
He said what is constitutional in the House of Representatives cannot be unconstitutional in the Senate.
AKUME: "Mr President I speak on behalf of those of us who have sworn to protect the Constitution of this country.
President you are not new to this system.
We are all senators of the Federal Republic.
This country operates a bicameral legislature.
This country has only one constitution that guides the country.
Therefore, what is constitutional in the House of Representatives cannot be unconstitutional in the senate.
EKWEREMADU: "Please I have to stop you.
You have to wait.
I don't see what the problem is.
Saraki raised a Point of Order that he sent a letter containing the names of senators who want to defect.
He said he gave it to Sen.
Mark who is the President of the Senate.
Today Mark is not here and before he travelled he told me that there was a discussion he had.
And I appealed to Sen.
Saraki to wait until Mark comes back.
My own understanding is that the discussion had something to do with the letter.
So there is no way you will tell me to believe somebody who is here and I don't believe somebody who is not here.
So, that would be unfair to Sen.
My appeal is that we leave all these matters, make progress and by Tuesday Mark will be here.
So if there is any need to read the letter, then we would read the letter".
Another point of order was raised by Senator Anthony Adeniyi (APC, Osun).
He pointed out that Ekweremadu as of a rule can act in the absence of the Senator Mark.
ANTHONY ADENIYI: In the absence of the Senate President, the Deputy Senate President shall perform all the duties and function of the Senate President.
(uproar from senators).
Fortunately, the senate president told this chamber that he is aware of the letter.
The Deputy President of the Senate would not bulge, thus precipitating another point of other from Senator Oluremi Tinubu, who pointed out that when a matter of privilege arises it shall be taken up immediately.
OLUREMI TINUBU: Order 14 (b)- Whenever a matter of privilege arises , it shall be taken up immediately.
EKWREMADU: I have already done that.
I have dealt with that and we are making progress.
Saraki raised it and I have ruled on it.
Let us not waste our time on this please.
Let us leave this matter until the senate president comes back.
It would be his word against that of Saraki.
The 11 senators formally wrote to the President of the Senate notifying him that they have decided to defect from the PDP to APC.
But the letter was not read on the floor thus stalling the defection of the lawmakers.
It was expected that the letter will be read at the next legislative day being Thursday, but that was not the case, thus raising suspicion that the letter may not be read or could be subject to other actions.
BY EMMA UCHE, ABUJA