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69 senators want Yar’Adua to go

Senate President David Mark

By Emmanuel Aziken

ABUJA —PRESIDENT Umaru Yar‘Adua was, yesterday, facing an uncertain fate ahead of today’s decisive debate on the report of a Senate ad-hoc committee of lawyers on the constitutionality of his continued absence from his duty post.

The report, according to Senate sources, has affirmed penultimate week’s pronouncement by a federal high court mandating the Vice-President to execute functions of the President.

Meanwhile, the ranks of senators demanding that the President stepped down was in jubilant mood upon advances in their numerical strength, which by yesterday afternoon had swollen to 69.

The senators who have styled themselves as the Nigeria Interest Group (NIG) were, last night, scheduled to hold a meeting ahead of today’s decisive debate on the report of the ad-hoc committee where members have promised to kill the motion.

The Senate leadership was equally expected to hold a meeting about the same time where modalities for today’s crucial debate in a closed session were expected to be fine tuned.

The hilarity in the camp of the NIG senators was boosted by unconfirmed reports of support for their cause from some members of the Senate leadership who have, until now, been opposed to the group’s demand for the President to step down from office.

Besides, a number of senators are also said to be waiting in the wings ready to sign  the group’s petition on the condition of first going through the motion to be tabled by the senators.

A final draft motion for the consideration of those senators on the fence was, yesterday, said to be ready, one normally reliable source told Vanguard on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issues involved.

In a related development, the Senate was, yesterday, enveloped by speculations of the imminent arrival of a special presidential correspondence. At press time, no such correspondence had arrived, according to the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Mohammed Abba Aji.

The ad-hoc committee of Senate lawyers under the chairmanship of Senator Umaru Dahiru, chairman of the Senate committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters had, last Wednesday, interacted with the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa, SAN, on the issue of the President’s absence from his duty post.

The AGF had posited that the ruling of the Federal High Court, penultimate week, to the extent that the Vice-President should execute the functions of the President was sufficient to clear the fog surrounding the President’s absence.
Majority of the senators, with the exception of about three senators present at that meeting including Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, SAN, agreed with him.

One source present at the meeting told Vanguard that the report of the committee to be presented to the Senate today would validate the status quo. The submission of the lawyers was, however, countered by one of the senators from the NIG who promised that the report of the ad-hoc committee would be killed by the Senate.

There were indications, however, that the submission by the Senate lawyers ad-hoc committee was vitiated, weekend, by the contradictory ruling of an Abuja High Court demanding the Council of Ministers to make a submission on the President’s health condition. There were indications that the judgment may have caused several senators hitherto supportive of the President to shift camp.

Yesterday, an activist in the NIG which is championing the crusade for the President to temporarily step down told Vanguard that their numbers had swollen to 69.

Strong sense of anxiety

“Sixty nine persons have so far signed and there are others who want to see the paper before signing. But the good news is that a number of principal officers are now with us but they do not want to be exposed,” the senator told Vanguard yesterday evening.

There was a strong sense of anxiety in the National Assembly about the imminent arrival of an important correspondence from President Yar’Adua yesterday evening. Presidency sources were as at press time, non committal on the issue of a correspondence.

When asked to confirm the arrival of any letter from the Presidency,  Senator Mohammed Abba Aji, Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, simply retorted “I am not aware.”

Meanwhile, ahead of the debate which is to be in closed session, the Senate has affirmed that senators would be firmly guided by the constitution. Senate spokesman, Senator Ayogu Eze, in a statement, weekend, equally rebuffed insinuations that senators had been bribed to take a compromised position.

He challenged anyone with proof of such to come out in public, stressing: “I challenge therefore anybody with information about distribution of money to members of the National Assembly to name the persons and the circumstances where this money exchanged hands, or forever remain silent.”


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