BY JOHNBOSCO AGBAKWURU & JOSEPH ERUNKE
ABUJA —THE Senate plenary was thrown into a rowdy session, yesterday, following protest by 11 senators elected under the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who defected to the All Progressives Congress, APC, that a joint letter to the Senate leadership, announcing their defection was not read on the floor during the announcement session.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the day’s sitting, had explained that the decision to shift the announcement to next Tuesday was due to the absence of the Senate President, Mr David Mark, who was said to be away in Jigawa State on official assignment.
The defected senators, led by Senator Bukola Saraki, Kwara Central, alleged that they submitted their notice of defection to the APC, insisting that the letter must be read on the floor of the Senate.
Saraki raised a point of order, under the Senate Standing Order 15, which states: “A matter of privilege shall be given urgent attention by the Senate.”
He said it was important that the letter be read on the floor to formally inform the Senate of their defection to the opposition party.
He said: “Any Senator may rise at any time to speak upon a matter of privilege suddenly arising, and he shall be prepared to move, without notice, a motion declaring that a contempt or breach of privilege has been committed, or referring the matter to the Committee on Ethics and Privileges, but if the matter is raised in committee of the whole Senate, the chairman shall leave the chair to report progress.
“A notice by a letter was communicated yesterday (Wednesday) to your chair on notification of the change of political party by myself and 10 other senators from the platform of the PDP to the APC.
“So, I felt that it was necessary for me to bring to your attention that the letter has not yet been read.”
But he could not convince Ekweremadu, as the latter insisted that since his boss was out of town, it would be unfair to treat such a letter, except he (Mark) knows something about it.
Although he admitted that Mark informed him about the development, he said the Senate President hinted him that a meeting meant to discuss the issue had already been slated for Monday with the defecting senators.
He said: “The Senate President has travelled and before he travelled, he told me you had a discussion with him and agreed to have a meeting on Monday.
“Unfortunately, this is my own understanding of your dialogue with him and he is not here. So I believe that we would stand down any issue relating to that until he comes back.”
However, the aggrieved senators were not ready to listen to his explanation. Saraki, in particular, insisted that the issue of the letter had nothing to do with the Senate President’s planned meeting with the defecting senators.
This resulted in hot verbal arguments between APC senators and their sympathizers on one hand and the PDP senators on the other hand, leading to a rowdy session.