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One week to be proud of the Nigerian Senate

By Emma Aziken
David Mark’s captivating military salute to Lt. Gen. Theopilus Danjuma last Thursday was suggestive of the abundance of military culture abounding in the Senate President. The vigour Brig. Gen. Mark put in saluting Lt. Gen. Danjuma may have been surprising considering the great depth the Senate President has gone in rooting himself as a political phenomenon.

No one Senate President has lasted the duration Senator Mark has occupied the Senate presidency without a major crisis.

Danjuma was in the office of the Senate President alongside President Shehu Shagari and some other prominent Nigerians who came to add voice to the national clamour for President Umaru Yar‘Adua to step down from office while on his ongoing medical vacation.

Shagari came along with a letter from the Eminent Elders Group (EEG) comprising of some former leaders of the executive and judicial branches of government led by Gen. Yakubu Gowon.

It was the first time President Shagari would be known to have publicly visited the National Assembly in Abuja.
The letter handed over to Senator Mark echoed the resolution adopted by the Senate the day before urging President Yar‘Adua to comply with constitutional provisions requiring him to handover to his deputy while on holiday or medical vacation.

The resolution was adopted at the end of eight hours of closed door deliberations between Tuesday and Wednesday. On Tuesday the Senators sat for five hours, the longest time the Senate was known to have sat in closed door since the advent of the David Mark Senate.

So determined were the Senators that some came out only to take lunch and go back while others were unmoving during the closed door affair.

On Wednesday the Senate sat for only three hours at the end of which the Senate President read out what he said was the resolution adopted during the closed door.

The resolutions were adopted unanimously after 80 Senators penned down their names in support of the motion canvassed by the Nigeria Interest Group (NIG), a group of Senators who coalesced to compel President Yar‘Adua’s compliance with section 145 of the constitution.

So determined were the Senators particularly the NIG Senators to their cause that they did not allow any other issue to becloud the matter of the President’s absence during Senate plenary sessions this week.

Indeed, the only other issue that was discussed in the Senate plenary this week was the National Institute for Educational Planning and Administration bill sponsored by Senator Joy Emodi (PDP, Anambra North).

But irrespective of the merits of the bill or the respect the Senators have for Senator Emodi, they did not mind stepping down the bill to enable them deliberate on the issue of the President’s absence from his duty post.

By nearly all accounts the exhaustive deliberations has paid off handsomely on the integrity of the Senate. Many Senators say that the decision to allow everybody speak on the issue helped to forge a consensus that was applauded as patriotic and nationalistic.

“I felt tall being a Senator,” one prominent Senator told your correspondent.

Indeed, the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) which until now was not known to have seen anything good in the Senate gave the Senate excellent marks as the body called on the House of Representatives to emulate the Senate.

Outside Senate plenary, there were committee meetings mostly budget defense sessions involving MDAs and their respective oversight committees.

Remarkably, Senator Ikechukwu Obiorah, the gangly chairman of the Senate Committee on Housing it would seem is determined not to give up on the committee’s investigations into petitions arising from alleged wrong doings by the Presidential Implementation Committee on the sale of Federal Government Houses.

On Wednesday, Senator Obiorah fired a stern letter to the Minister of State (Housing) Mrs. Grace Ekpewhire to respond to allegations of a cover-up of the alleged scam.

Obiorah in the letter also accused the minister of discourteous tendencies towards the committee noting her previous failures to honour committee invitations and requests.

Some would suggest that Obiorah was taking opportunity of the President’s physical incapacity to hound one of his ministers. It is, however, remembered that since the hearings commenced last year, Senator Obiorah and his committee had been on the issue.

Such acts of legislative assertiveness as demonstrated by the Senate resolution to President Yar‘Adua and the steadfastness of the Senate’s probe of the sale of Federal Government houses are worthy commendations for the Senate.

Indeed, this week was one good week to be a Senator!


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