By Ben Agande, Shaibu Inalegwu, Vincent Ujumadu & Tordue Salem
ABUJAâ€”EVENTS at the two chambers of the National Assembly: the Senate and House of Representatives, were characterized by intrigues and political maneouverings, leading to grave uncertainty, yesterday. Â
First, was the extra-plenary moves by members of a group known as the Nigeria First Forum, seeking to change the leadership of the House of Representatives.
Vanguard can reveal that the group set up a seven-member committee to hold grievance talks with Deputy Speaker, Usman Bayero Nafada.
This was to calm frayed nerves within the Green Chamber and give respite to the Speaker, Hon Dimeji Bankole, who is the primary target of the campaign against the House leadership.
At the Senate, yesterdayâ€™s plenary saw the lawmakers refusal to swear in Hon. Alphonsus Igbeke who was declared winner of the Anambra North Senatorial seat in the April 2007 election by the Court of Appeal, Enugu.
Dousing Repsâ€™ leadership crisis
Seven members of the Nigeria First Forum that negotiated with the House leadership were: Reps Ishaku Joshua Shara, ANPP/Borno, Gbenga Onigbogi, PDP/Osun, Honourable Asita, PDP/Rivers, Dino Melaye, PDP/Kogi, Doris Uboh, PDP/Delta, Austin Nwachukwu, PDP/Imo and Ehiogie West-Idahosa, PDP/Edo.
Vanguard learnt that yesterdayâ€™s â€˜peaceâ€™ parley, would avail the leadership of the Green Chamber the opportunity to know the root cause of the groupâ€™s worries, and provide grounds for possible political horse trading.
Nafada held forth for Speaker Dimeji Bankole, who is in London, awaiting safety signals to fly back to Nigeria.
However, chairman of the group, Rep. Abba Anas Adamu, PDP/Jigawa, who Vanguard gathered was in the plot at the instance of his Governor, Sule Lamido, said to be a supporter of Acting President Jonathan, denied that the group had any impeachment plans.
He told reporters shortly after yesterdayâ€™s plenary: â€œWe have not discussed anything about impeachment at any of our meetings.â€
Reps’ plot, a rumour, says Jime
But a staunch supporter of the Speaker, Rep. Emmanuel Jime who represents Makurdi/Guma Federal Constituency in Benue State, said the plot was a rumour.
The former Speaker of Benue State House of Assembly, however, added that the supporters of Bankole were ready to counter any motion for his removal.
He noted: â€œI am not aware there was a meeting between an anti-Bankole group and any pro-Bankole group. All what we were hearing was the rumour about that (impeachment), but most of us were prepared at todayâ€™s (yesterday) sitting to counter the motion against the Speaker at this point.
We were ready for the Nigeria First Forum, NFF, and we were prepared to counter anything they planned to bring to the floor.â€
The Nigeria First Forum had, through one of its members, on Monday, passed a vote of no confidence on the leadership of Speaker Dimeji Bankole.
Speaking with journalists, Hon. Eziuche Ubani who represents Obingwa/Osisioma/Ugwumagbo constituency in Abia State said Bankole and other principal officers needed to go for a new leadership that would be more favourable to Goodluck Jonathanâ€™s ambition to be President of the country.
He said: â€œWe want cogs in the Constitution removed, so as to pave way for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to perform his duties. We are quite embarrassed that in a way, the standing of the House is far below that of the Senate in the eyes of the public. We are not happy with the way the House has been run.
â€œWe are nowhere near the status of the Senate. On the issue of impeachment, we have not met anywhere to consider overhaul of the leadership, but we are not satisfied with the leadership, and one of our strategies is to force issues on the floor.â€
Senate admits Emordi, bars Igbeke
Citing the conflicting judgments by the Court of Appeal, Enugu, and the on-going court process by Senator Joy Emordi seeking interpretation of the judgment that ousted her from the Senate as reasons, the Senate yesterday declined to swear in Hon. Alphonsus Igbeke who was declared winner of the Anambra North Senatorial seat in the April 2007 election by the Court of Appeal, Enugu.
Hon. Igbeke who came into the National Assembly hoping to be sworn-in by the Clerk of the National Assembly was not allowed into the chambers of the Senate. He was told by the Clerk of the National Assembly that he needed to clear with the Senate President
The Court of Appeal, Enugu, had at different sittings declared both the incumbent, Joy Emordi and the petitioner, Alphonsus Igbeke, winners of the April 2007 Anambra North Senatorial election in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
Senator Emordi had asked the Court of Appeal, Enugu, to set aside ex-debito-justiciae, the judgment nullifying her election or in the alternative order a review of the judgment awarded Hon. Igbeke.
Addressing Senate correspondents after yesterdayâ€™s session which had in attendance, the ousted Senator Joy Emordi, spokesman of the Senate, Senator Ayogu Eze said the decision to allow Senator Emordi continue on her seat was because of â€œsubsisting court processes.â€
Senator Eze said: â€œWe have a procedure in the Senate and it is even in our rules. When matters are in court, we do not interfere in order not to affect the judicial process.
There are two judgments on the Anambra North Senatorial seat and Senator Joy Emordi has gone to court to seek interpretation. The court processes have been served on the Senate. We will not do anything until we get the interpretation from the courts.â€
While asserting that â€œthe Senate does not have any preference for any of the parties involved in the case,â€ Senator Eze said the Senate would be failing in its responsibilities if it did not allow Senator Emordi to remain on her seat.
He added: â€œWe will be failing in our responsibilities and duties to go and take any action that foreclose whatever that interpretation was meant to achieve.â€
But addressing Senate correspondents after he was denied entry into the Senate chambers, Hon. Igbeke said what the Senate did constituted a breach of the constitution which they all swore to uphold and defend. He vowed to continue to come into the National Assembly until the right thing was done.
Igbeke, however, accused the Senate of trying to deny him entry into the National Assembly premises, stressing that as a former member of the House of Representatives, he had a right to be allowed into the National Assembly.
He said: â€œI am here today for the purposes of swearing in, but to my greatest shock I just learnt that my opponent who was sacked by the Court of Appeal in Enugu, is right there in the Chamber sitting despite this order of the Court of Appeal.
As I am talking to you there is no other order rather than that one given on 25th March, 2010.
â€œThere is no stay of execution; there is no injunction, there is nothing that warranted her being given the legal backings to get into hallowed chamber.
It is shocking, itâ€™s a surprise, I canâ€™t believe this. I canâ€™t believe this but I was surprised when the Clerk came in to tell me that my opponent was right there in the chamber sitting.â€
Amongst the grounds upon Senator Emordi is seeking relief is the fact that the judgment 25th March, 2010 which returned Alphonsus Igbeke as the rightful winner â€œwas delivered without averting to the earlier judgment in appeal No CA/E/EPT.73/2008.â€
She also argues that â€œthe judgment of the Court of Appeal in appeal number CA/E/EPT/73/2008 has conclusively determined all the issues canvassed in Appeal No: CA/E/EPT/04/2009 delivered on the 25th March, 2010.â€
Jubilation over Emordiâ€™s alleged return to the Senate
There was jubilation in Onitsha and other parts of Anambra North Senatorial zone yesterday, when news filtered in that Senator Joy Emordi, representing the zone, had returned to take her seat.
At Emordiâ€™s legislative office in Onitsha, hundreds of her supporters trooped to the office, where they danced and jubilated that the senator, who they said, had done so much for the zone since she entered the Senate, should continue with her good quality representation.
Also at Aguleri in Anambra East Local Government Area and Atani in Ogbaru Local Government Area, PDP supporters trouped out in large numbers to thank God for making it possible for Emordi to return to the Senate.