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With the advent of a raging Senate-Presidency cold war, any member who openly supports presidency is likely to be punished with suspension order.AHURAKA YUSUF ISAHwrites that the reign of suspension orders are not only scaring senators but threatening the fabric of nation’s democracy

It has become a very dangerous enterprise for senators to identify or attempt to protect the interest of Presidency or President Muhammadu Buhari in the course of any debate in the senate or House of Representatives Chambers. The leadership of either chamber will descend heavily and decisively on such peripatetic member like an orphan, just as the Presidency as usual choses to looks the other way.

On March 29, 2017, Senate suspended Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume (Borno South, APC), for six months for raising a motion on the floor of the senate, to demand for an investigation into media reports alleging that the Senate President, Bukola Saraki imported a bullet proof range rover with fake documents; while Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi west) forged Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria first degree certificate.

The House of Representatives had earlier on September 28, 2016 suspended Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin representing Kano for 180 legislative days for accusing the Speaker Dogara, his deputy Yusuf Lasun, House Whip, Alhassan Doguwa, Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, and nine others for fraudulently padding the 2016 budget. Jibrin is still serving the illicit punishment meted on him by his colleagues.

The ten All Progressives Congress (APC) senators that walked out of the senate plenary session on February 14, 2018 while Senate President, Bukola Saraki was presiding to protest the new amendment to the Electoral Act regarding election sequence in the 2019 general elections before the press are now endangered species in the senate.

Led by the then Chairman of Northern Senators Caucus and former governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, the 10 senators were peeved that their argument against the bill was truncated at the plenary by Senate President Saraki and vowed that the amendment would not stand. The aggrieved APC senators included Binta Garba (Adamawa); Ali Wakili (Bauchi); Kurfi Umaru (Katsina); Andrew Uchendu (Rivers); Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (APC Delta Central); Abdullahi Danbaba (Sokoto); Yahaya Abdullahi (Kebbi); Abu Ibrahim (Katsina); and Benjamin Uwajumogu (Imo).

Senator Adamu, in his remarks, said they were unhappy with the contents of the report. He claimed that the inclusion of Section 25(1) is targeted at President Buhari. He said the process was rushed. He also alleged that the copy of the report circulated did not carry the signature of the chairman and some members of the committee

Crisis set in the upper chamber on that February 14 when the chairman of the committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Senator Suleiman Nazif presented the Conference Committee Report on INEC Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill, 2018.

The aggrieved senators led by Senator Abdullahi Adamu walked out of the senate plenary against new sequence of 2019 elections and declared that a total of 59 of them are against section 25(1) of the Act which reordered sequence of elections earlier announced by INEC last year by fixing National Assembly election first, followed by Governorship and State Houses of Assembly Election and Presidential election last

As soon as Nafiz presented his report, been a confluence committee report , the Senate President, Bukola Saraki put motion for adoption of the report straight for voice votes by the senators without subjecting it to any debate .

Tension further heightened when at the voice votes, those who shouted nay did it louder than those who shouted ayes! , but Saraki in his ruling said the ayes have it.

Angered by the development, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (APC Delta Central) kicked. He raised a point of order and challenged the inclusion of Section 25(1) in the Electoral Act.

He quoted relevant sessions of the constitution. He called for a head count of members present. While he was still speaking, Omo-Agege was ruled out of order by Saraki who presided over the day’s legislative business.

But in another spirited effort to nullify the passage of the Act, Senator Kabiru Gaya from Kano State, raised a similar point of order, arguing that it was against the Senate rules for a conference committee report to be adopted without being debated at the committee of the whole .Like Omo-Agege’s case, Gaya was ruled out of order by Saraki.

Gaya’s argument was however punctured by Saraki who referred him to rule 53(6) of the senate’s standing order which prevents the upper legislative chamber from revisiting any matter that had been ruled upon.

“ Distinguished colleagues, I’m just entertaining all these points of order being raised over the just passed 2010 Electoral Act ( Amendment) Bill for the sake of understanding ourselves better on an issue which is of national and not selfish interest “, he said .

Apparently not satisfied with the explanation, another senator, Abdullahi Adamu disrupted the proceedings further with another point of order by arguing that the sequence of election included in the act was illegal.

According to him, section 76 of the 1999 constitution vests the power to organise, conduct and fix dates for elections on INEC which in spirit, also includes order of elections as earlier announced by the electoral body.

His argument however infuriated the Senate President who declared that section 25(1) of the electoral act which deals with sequence of elections has nothing to do with organising, conducting and fixing dates for elections, upon which he ruled him out of order and called on the Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan (APC Yobe North), to proceed with next item on the order paper.

Feeling humiliated with Saraki’s ruling, Abdullahi Adamu and nine other senators immediately stormed out of the chamber to the Senate’s press centre to express their displeasure over the issue.

While addressing the press, Senator Abdullahi Adamu who led the group said they already have 59 signatures of senators against the Act based on section 25(1) inserted into it.

“Though we are 10 here now, but we can assure you that as at this morning (yesterday), not less than 59 senators have expressed their opposition to the illegal sequence of elections included in the act. Perhaps that was the reason why the senate president refused to follow the due process when report on the act was to be adopted in the senate. Section 25(1) of the act reordering the sequence of elections from the one earlier released by INEC last year , is a law targeted at an individual which to us is totally in bad faith and will not be allowed to stand”, he said .

Another member of the group, Senator Ovie Omo Agege said he won his election in 2015 on the platform of Labour Party and not APC but as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it would be wrong for him to keep quiet when wrong things are being done.

Senator Binta Marshi Garba in her own submission said the hurriedly passed electoral act was nothing but handiwork of an individual who may be thinking that he is holier or greater than the state. “An individual cannot be holier than the state and besides, power is transient and is given by God”, she said.

She added that those behind the new sequence of elections are more or less enemies of the country by not considering the economic implications it entail because if INEC based on economic problems at hand mapped out two layers of elections, why coming up with three segmented sequence of elections?, she queried .

On February 20, 2018, while Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu was presiding in place of, Saraki , Senator Dino Melaye who in similar circumstance raised a motion which led to Senator Ndume’s suspension moved a motion for the investigation of Senator Omo-Agege’s allegation that the amendment to the Electoral Act changing the sequence of 2019 Elections was targeted against President Buhari.

“I want to add that this statement was made by Omo-Agege among other statements that the Committee on Ethics and Privileges need to investigate this matter and find out if truly our decision was made and targeted at Mr President among other issues raised by him’’, Melaye said.

Consequently, the senate directed its committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions to investigate the veracity or otherwise of the allegation that the amendment of the Electoral Act to put the election of the President at the rear was targeted at the President.

The Senate committee which was asked to conclude its investigation and submit report for Senate consideration within two weeks was the same committee which investigated another allegation against Senator Ndume and eventually led to his suspension.

Meanwhile, in attempt to whip the senators along the line and obedient to leadership of the upper legislative chamber, the Northern Senators Caucus (Forum) February 21, 2018 announced the removal of Senator Abdullahi Adamu as its chairman saying he allegedly misappropriated forum’s funds.

Source; leadership.ng
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