Says it’s no longer business as usual
As Senate suspends plenary till July 21
By Henry Umoru & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA — SENATE President, Bukola Saraki, yesterday, announced Senator Ali Ndume, representing Borno North Senatorial District on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, as the Senate Majority Leader.
He also announced Senator Ibn Na’Allah, representing Kebbi South on the party’s platform, as the Senate Deputy Majority Leader just as he announced Senator Francis Alimikhena, APC, Edo North, as the Deputy Majority Whip.
But the Senate President, who said he merely announced the three principal officers of the Red Chamber, following their nominations by senators of their various zonal caucuses, failed to announce the occupant for the position of Majority Whip.
Saraki’s action appeared to be in defiance of his party, the ruling All Progressives Party, APC, which had in a written letter to him a week earlier, directed that he announced Senators Ahmad Lawan, representing Yobe North and George Akume, representing Benue North West, senatorial zones as Majority Leader and Deputy Majority Leader respectively.
The party had equally directed the Senate President to announce Senator Olusola Adeyeye, APC, Osun Central, from the South-West and Senator Abu Ibrahim, APC, Katsina Central, as Majority Whip and Deputy Majority Whip respectively.
While Ndume hails from the North-East, Na’Allah, who had served in the House of Representatives between 2007 and 2011, hails from the North-West.
Ndume assumed office immediately after Senate President Bukola Saraki announced his name as the candidate for the North-East where the position of Senate leader was zoned to.
Also, Senator Bala Ibn Na’allah, Kebbi South, assumed office as Deputy Senate leader while Senator Francis Alimikhena, Edo North took the seat of Senate Deputy Chief Whip, just as the office of Senate Chief Whip was not read following the inability of South West to produce a name.
In announcing the new principal officers, Saraki said: “I received a letter from the North-West APC Caucus nominating for the position of Deputy Majority Leader, Bala Na’Allah, in line with its standing rules. APC North-East Caucus also elected Ali Ndume as Majority Leader. APC South-South Caucus, Francis Alimikhena, APC Edo-South, Deputy Whip.” He then remained silent on the position of Majority Whip.
Marafa challenges Saraki
Saraki’s action was not left unchallenged, as Senator Kabiru Marafa, a frontline advocate for the pro-Ahmed Lawan group, otherwise known as Unity Forum, raised objection through a Point of Order, that the Senate cannot override the position of the party as regards the sharing of the Senate leadership positions.
Marafa, representing Zamfara Central on the platform of APC, argued that it was inappropriate to read letters from any caucus when the Senate president could not read a letter from the party leadership on Wednesday. He insisted that the letter from the leadership of the party nominating principal officers should have been adhered to.
He said: “If you cannot read the party’s letter, you cannot read any letter from any caucus as no caucus is bigger than the party.”
Marafa’s point of order was countered by Senator Danjuma Goje, APC, Gombe Central, a pro-Saraki senator, who also cited Senate Order 53 upon which he stated that,” standing by the same order and the ruling of Wednesday, that the issue has been ruled and settled by the senate and therefore should not be brought up again”.
Also speaking on the issue, Saraki referred Marafa to the Senate Order 53 (6), saying it would be out of order to attempt to reconsider a specific issue which the Senate had already ruled on.
He also explained that in the Senate Order 26 (j), interpretation of any Senate Rule was at the discretion of the Senate President and on the strength of this, he ruled Marafa’s point out of order
The Senate, thereafter, suspended plenary till July 21.
Recall that the APC senators from the North-East, had on Wednesday, at the National Assembly complex, conducted mock election, where Senator Ali Ndume defeated Ahmad Lawan by nine to two votes.
It’s no longer business as usual —Saraki
Meanwhile, the Senate President said, yesterday, that as Senators settle down for the 8th Senate, it would no longer be business as usual and they must be prepared to make sacrifices for the growth and development of the country, just as he stressed the need for reduction in running cost and effective legislative support system.
Speaking while inaugurating two separate Senate Ad-Hoc Committees on Finances and Legislative Agenda, Saraki who noted that the present dwindling economic situation of the country was worrisome, stressed that the 8th Senate will be more transparent regarding all public funds spent for the purpose of paying salaries and allowances of legislators.
Members of the two ad-hoc committees have one week each to work and submit their reports as that would help overhaul the entire system.
According to him, the Senate would ensure that distinction was sufficiently made between what a legislator actually earns and what was spent to run and implement legislative business and committee activities.
Senator Saraki said, “The subject of reduction in cost of governance has been a sensitive matter on the front burner of national issues in the polity especially with regards to the Legislature. While much of this could be due to an underlining ambiguity in the monthly salaries of legislators and their allowances, there still persists the need to project clarity, accountability and transparency in all legislative matters and legislators’ welfare.
“The 8th Senate under our watch recognises the concerns raised by Nigerians about the cost of running office most especially with the economic challenges facing our nation.
“The Senate will be more transparent regarding all public funds spent for the purpose of paying salaries and allowances of legislators and ensure that distinction is sufficiently made between what a legislator actually earns and what is spent to run and implement legislative business and committee activities.”