- Halts further debate till court ruling
- PDP Senators want seats declared vacant
BY JOHNBOSCO AGBAKWURU & JOSEPH ERUNKE
SENATE President David Mark, yesterday, saved 11 Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, senators, who recently defected to the All Progressives Congress, APC, from losing their seats by rebuffing moves to declare their seats vacant as the defection drama continued in the Senate.
He also halted further debates on the matter until the courts rule on the issue.
PDP senators led by Senator Ita Enang had sought for the declaration of the seats of the former PDP members that dumped the party for APC vacant on the premise that when a senator leaves the party platform that gave him the seat unless that party is factionalised, his seat will become vacant.
Order 14 of Senate standing rule
Senator Enang who came through Order 14 of the Senate Standing Rule and relying on Section 68 Subsection (1g) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) said the defectors having dumped the party that brought them to the Senate had automatically lost their membership.
According to him, Section 68 (1) g of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic states: “A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected:
“Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored.”
As if it was a decision reached after the Senate PDP caucus meeting at the residence of the Senate leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba on Tuesday evening, the PDP senators chorused as Senator Enang was making his presentation and unanimously urged the Senate President to declare the seats of the affected Senators vacant. However, Senate President Mark apart from ruling Senator Enang out of order also stopped further debate on the matter until the court delivers final judgment on it.
Mark, who relied on the pending suit at the Federal High Court, said further comments on the matter was sub-judicial. He told Enang: “You were in the chamber here, yesterday, (Tuesday) and I did explain that the matter is in a court of competent jurisdiction. We all agreed that no reference should be made in a matter before a competent court of law. My ruling is that I am not going to be different because it is a constitutional matter. I shall not make any more pronouncements on it. The decision that you ask me to make is not possible.”
The Senate President’s ruling did not stop the PDP senators, who appeared ready to battle the defection issue with the APC. Senator Thomson Sekibo, who came also under Order 14 of the Senate Standing Order and Sections 1 and 2 of the constitution said that Order 53 (5) of the Senate Standing Rule upon which the Senate President based his refusal to declare the seats of the affected senators vacant was inconsistent with Section 1 of the constitution.
Contending that the Constitution of the country should be superior to any other law, Senator Sekibo cited Section 1 (3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended which states: “If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this constitution, the constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency by voided.”
Arguing that in the matter, Order 53 of the Senate Standing Rule was inconsistent with the section of the constitution, he urged the Senate president to discard the order and follow the constitution by declaring the seats of the affected defectors vacant.
Senator Sekibo maintained that having defected, the affected Senators lacked the locus standi to continue to seat in the chamber. But Sekibo’s position did not move Mark, who told him: “Senator Sekibo, the subject matter in which you spoke vigorously is before a court of competent jurisdiction.” Mark also ignored efforts by Senator Anthony Omowarare to revisit the issue and prevent the Senate President from adhering to the PDP senators’ plea as he said that he was not going to comment on the matter. Throughout the debate, the affected senators were cold.