*APC leadership welcomes removal, as Ndume reacts
*PIB, PPA, Competition Bills to be given priority —Reps
By Henry Umoru, Emman Ovuaokprie, Johnbosco Agbarakwu & Omezia Ajayi
ABUJA— The Senate, yesterday, adopted the change in the leadership of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the Senate as it affirmed the replacement of Senator Ali Ndume with Senator Ahmad Lawan, a former rival of Senator Bukola Saraki.
The move, it was gathered, was to bring peace between the leadership of the party in the Senate, the executive branch and the APC national leadership. The triangular relationship had been ruptured by the insistence of Senator Saraki and the APC caucus in retaining Ndume as party leader against the party’s preference for Lawan.
Ndume was caught off guard by the action of his colleagues on the first day after resumption from the yuletide break as his colleagues played a fast one on him minutes after he had opened the business of the day and stepped out temporarily for his afternoon prayers. By the time he returned to the chambers, he had lost his position as the Senate’s number three man.
The House of Representatives, until now more accustomed to internal storms was, however, tranquil on resumption.
Senator Saraki announced the decision of the APC caucus to effect the change in the leadership of the caucus once Ndume stepped out at about 12.45 p.m. yesterday.
Reading the resolution of the APC caucus, dated January 10, 2017, entitled, “Notice of change of leadership,” Saraki said: “This is to inform Your Excellency and the Senate that after several meetings held on Monday, January 9, 2017, and upon due deliberation and consultation, the APC Caucus of the Senate, hereby wishes to notify you of the change in the leadership of the Senate that the new Senate leader is now Senator Ahmad Lawan, representing Yobe North Senatorial District.”
Immediately he finished reading the letter, the deputy leader of the Senate, Senator Bala Ibn Na’allah, APC, Kebbi South, whom Ndume had asked to deputise for him while he went for his prayers, moved for the adjournment of plenary. His motion was immediately seconded by Senate Minority leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio.
Senator Ndume’s first knowledge of his removal came as he made his way back to the chambers and was beckoned on by reporters for his reaction to his removal.
Why he was removed
Vanguard gathered, yesterday, that Ndume’s removal was not unconnected with the ongoing reconciliatory moves between the Senate leadership, the leadership of the APC and the executive arm of government.
Ndume had emerged as Senate Leader against the preference of the party leadership and President Muhammadu Buhari for Senator Lawan, who lost the position of Senate President to Saraki.
A senator privy to the development said the action was a follow-up to the December meeting between the APC Senate leadership and the party national leadership.
Ndume, a source said, also did not help matters for Saraki, who had been taking the bullets for him by turning against Senate resolutions as he did with the matter of Mr. Ibrahim Magu, Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, when he implied the Senate would still confirm him.
His relationship with senators was further strained at the Monday night meeting, where the plot was hatched.
Sources also disclosed that senators were not completely satisfied with his role in the handling of the allegations raised against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal, arising from alleged misuse of the funds meant for Internally Displaced Persons , IDPs, in the North East.
Reacting to his removal, Ndume at a press briefing, said: “Let me say I don’t have much to say because actually I was leading the business of the Senate and when it was like quarter to one, as usual, I asked my deputy to sit in for me while I went to pray.
“On coming back I discovered that the session was over and one of your colleagues approached me and said: Leader what happened and I said what happened? And he said there has been announcement on the change of leadership. I said I didn’t know. ‘At this point that is the position. I didn’t know that there was change of leadership because I was not there, I went for prayers and I didn’t know what actually happened and I cannot say much now.”
It was learnt that as the plot was about to be hatched that a move to offer Ndume the option of resigning was rebuffed by him.
Senate spokesman, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, yesterday, shied away from commenting on the development, asserting that he was not the spokesman of the APC caucus.
He said: “I speak for the Senate and of course as you can hear from the announcement, it was a letter from the APC caucus. I am not the spokesman of the APC caucus, but I am a member of APC.”
A test for the new political configuration in the Senate will be shown today as Senator Lawan steps in for the first time as the leader of the Senate. His first outing, however, would be an irony for him as Saraki would be attending his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal. In his place, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who Lawan had always frowned at taking the presiding officer’s chair, would preside.
APC leadership welcomes move
The move was welcomed by the APC leadership. Reacting through its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, the party said: “The party view this as concrete expression of faith by the APC Senate Caucus in our efforts to resolve the lingering issues that have trailed the election of Senate leadership. We believe this is a major step forward in our efforts to reunite the various interest groups in that Senate election, thereby presenting a common legislative front for our great party.
“We are particularly delighted that the consultations that were initiated towards the end of 2015 between the party caucuses in the National Assembly and the party executives as well as other leading stakeholders of our party have yielded these results and the Senate has demonstrated its willingness to finally submit to the will of the party in this regard.”
PIB, Public Procurement Act, Competition Bills to be given priority —Reps
Meanwhile, returning members of the House of Representatives were, yesterday, charged by Speaker Yakubu Dogara to brace up in discharging their responsibilities to their constituents with more vigour.
Welcoming the members back from the yuletide break, Dogara said some important bills that would stimulate the economy, including the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB; Public Procurement Act (Amendment) Bill; Federal Competition Bill, as well as legislative actions to amend the constitution and Electoral Act would top the agenda of the House in the year ahead.
Dogara flays killings in S’Kaduna
Dogara also flayed the spate of killings in Southern Kaduna, saying the President was squarely on top of the issue and that peace would soon return to the area.
He said: “As the year 2017 rolls by, we should expect great challenges once again but with renewed determination and faith that things shall surely get better with God on our side. In this regard, I wish to remind us that perhaps the most critical and urgent task before us is the pending 2017 Appropriation Bill. The economy must be our central focus in 2017.
“Measures to exit Nigeria out of recession must be the critical aspect of our legislative activities. The 2017 Budget remains the major tool to rejig our economy. This is in addition to other fiscal and monetary policies.”
House rejects bill to establish Office of Surgeon-General
Following the opening formalities, the House rejected a bill to establish the Office of Surgeon-General of the Federation.
Members, who generally lauded the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Abiodun Awoleye, nevertheless saw his action as superfluous and voted down the bill.
Ogor tasks officials on winning confidence of the populace
Meanwhile, the House Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, yesterday, charged all elected and appointed officials to renew efforts towards winning the confidence of the populace.
In a statement he issued on behalf of the PDP caucus, Ogor urged President Muhammadu Buhari to swing into action by sending the right signals to Nigerians as a way to bolster the confidence reposed in him to lead the nation.
“A biased anti-corruption war solely focused on those considered as political adversaries will further open the treasury to looting rather than implement the required safeguards, genuine change will reflect in proper management of the economy, an end to economic recession, addressing worsening unemployment and resolving violent clashes in which many innocent people continue to lose their lives in various communities”, he stated.
According to Ogor, President Muhammadu Buhari has to be poised for action because the challenges facing our citizens are immense, governmental resources are increasingly becoming scarce and Nigerians can’t afford to be patient when their livelihood is being threatened.