By Our Reporters
The two chambers of the National Assembly are sharply divided on how they would treat defectors from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the All Progressives Congress, APC.
While the Senate is insisting that defectors from the ruling party to the APC would lose their seats, the House in a contrary position said defections would be welcome as the House insisted that breaking party ranks is constitutional.
The Chairman of the Senate committee on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Enang, gave the Senate position while his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Rep. Sam Tsokwa spoke for the House. Both men spoke at different press conferences ahead of the resumption of the two houses next Tuesday.
Enang in a briefing threatened that any senator who defects to another political party would automatically lose his seat.
Though Senator Enang stated that he spoke in his personal capacity, there were feelings that he was indirectly speaking the mind of the senate leadership.
He said: “In Nigeria today, the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) prohibits independent candidates to participate in any election, therefore, to participate in any election, one must begin by joining a political party.”
Drawing references from Section 68 (1) (g) of the constitution which stops legislators from defecting unless there is a crisis in the party through which they were elected, he made reference to a precedence in 2012 when a member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Ifedayo Abegunde, representing Akure North/Akure South Constituency, that defected from the Labour Party, in Ondo State, lost his seat.
According to him, the court upheld the contention that the lawmaker did not prove a division (or faction) within the Labour Party.
Rep Tsokwa in a separate press conference, however, differed saying that no lawmaker’s seat would be declared vacant by the leadership of the House, citing relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to support the House’s decision.
He said: “Like the open letters, we are also into a season of defections and rumours of defections from one party to another. Cross-carpeting, as it is commonly known, it is neither a new phrase in our lexicon nor a new phenomenon in Nigeria since 1999. Indeed, it is on record that the ruling party has benefited from defection or cross-carpeting of no fewer than four governors and numerous legislators to it since 1999.
The chairman revealed that the leadership of the House was intact, saying that it shall continue to enjoy the unity it has maintained since inception.
“Therefore, defection or no defection, the leadership of the House of Representatives remains intact, having enjoyed and is still enjoying the confidence of the members.”
Meanwhile, the Senate President yesterday, pledged to rally like minded persons to stop the PDP from a meltdown.
Speaking ahead of the forthcoming National Executive Committee, NEC, meeting of the party, Senator Mark assured that the leaders would unite to save the party from its current crisis.
He said: “We will arrest the current situation and save our party from further disintegration. Some Nigerians are talking about Tsunami in the PDP because of the defection by some members of our party holding elective and non-elective positions.
“But as leaders, we will not sit by and continue to allow this drift. We shall do the needful and ensure that we save our great party.”
Mark in a statement signed by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Kola Ologbondiyan, admitted that the development in the PDP was challenging and that genuine efforts would be made to reconcile party men and women and bring peace and unity in the party.