Mark Saves Saraki, Goje, Nine Other Senators From Sack
----Stops further debate on defection ----As PDP Senators ask him to declare seats vacant SAN FRANCISCO, February 12, (THEWILL) - As the defection drama continued at the Senate on Wednesday, the President of the Senate, David Mark, stood between the 11 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Senators and their seats being declared vacant on the Senate floor.
The Senate President made spirited efforts to save the seats of the 11 PDP Senators who have indicated interest to defect to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) even as he put a final stop to debate on the matter.
Senators elected on the platform of the PDP, led by Senator Ita Enang(PDP, Akwa Ibom) had called for the declaration of the seats of the defecting PDP senators vacant on the premise that when a senator leaves the platform of the party that gave him the seat, he ought to vacate the seat.
Senator Enang, who came through Order 14 of the Senate Standing Rule and relying on Section 68 Subsection (1g) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, said the defectors having dumped the party that brought them to the Senate, had automatically lost their membership going by the constitutional provision.
According to Enang, Section 68 (1) g of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended states: 'A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected 'Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored.
' As if it was a decision reached after the Senate PDP caucus meeting at the residence of the Senate leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, on Tuesday evening, the PDP Senators chorused as Senator Enang was making his presentation and unanimously urged the Senate President to declare seats of the affected defected Senators vacant.
But the Senate President, while ruling Senator Enang out of order , also stopped further debate on the matter until the court delivers final judgement on it.
Mark who relied on the pending suit at the Federal High Court, said further comments on the matter was sub-judicial.
'You are in the chamber here yesterday and I did explain that the matter is in a court of competent jurisdiction.
We all agreed that no reference should be made in a matter before a competent court of law.
My ruling is that I am not going to be different because it is a constitutional matter.
'I shall not make any more pronouncements on it.
The decision that you ask me to make is not possible,' Mark told Enang.
However, the Senate President's ruling on the motion did not stop the PDP Senators who appeared ready to battle the defection issue with the APC .
Senator George Thompson Sekibo (PDP, Rivers) .
who also came under Order 14 of the Senate Standing Order and Sections 1 and 2 of the 1999 constitution as amended , said that Order 53 (5) of the Senate Standing Rule upon which the Senate President based his refusal to declare vacant, the seats of the affected Senators, was inconsistent with Section 1 of the constitution.
He further contended that the Constitution of the country should be superior to any other law.
Senator Sekibo cited Section 1 (3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which states: 'If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution, the other law shall to the extent of its inconsistency be null and void and of no effect.
" Consequently, he declared that in the matter of Order 53 of the Senate Standing Rule, it was inconsistent with the section of the constitution.
He therefore urged the Senate president to discard the order and follow the constitution by declaring the seats of the affected defectors vacant.
Senator Sekibo maintained that having defected, the affected Senators lacked the locus standi to continue to seat in the chamber.
But his position did not sway the Senate President who pointedly said; 'Senator Sekibo, the subject matter in which you spoke vigorously is before a court of competent jurisdiction.
' Even efforts by Senator Anthony Omowarare to save the 11 defectors and prevent the Senate President from adhering to the plea by the PDP Senators to declare their seats vacant also met a stonewall as Mark insisted that he was not going to comment on the matter.
EMMA UCHE, ABUJA