By Henry Umoru & Joseph Erunke

ABUJA — The Senate yesterday witnessed another drama in the leadership contest between the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the ruling All Progressives Congress as Senator Ahmed Lawan, who contested the Senate Presidency seat against Senator Bukola Saraki at the inception, and his supporters boycotted the sitting, presided over by Deputy Senate President, Senator Ekweremadu.

For the first time  since he emerged Deputy Senate President in the 8th Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, yesterday, presided over the plenary.

The Senate plenary, which usually begins shortly after 10:30 am was delayed up to 11:30 am, yesterday, following the absence of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, who was at the Presidential Villa to attend the swearing-in of ministers by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Senators, who had turned up for the day’s sitting were seen loitering in the Senate lobby with a few of them already seated in the chamber waiting for Saraki to come and take charge.

But as the Senate President did not show up and because of communication he was believed to have had with his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, the latter came into the chamber to take charge of the day’s activities.

Immediately the Deputy Senate President mounted the seat of the Senate President, preparatory to presiding over the affairs of the red chamber, Senator Lawan and his loyalists, among who were the former governor of Benue State and senator representing Benue North West, George Akume, and  Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi, representing Kaduna Central, refused to go inside the chamber.

Senators Lawan, Akume and Hunkuyi, who stood at the Senate lobby for over 15 minutes, discussing among themselves, while the plenary was going on, were later joined by a few others.

After rounding off their secret meeting, the lawmakers were seen going away to an unknown place, leaving others at the chamber.

Product of illegality

One of them, Sulaiman Hunkuyi, later told Vanguard on phone that their action was predicated on their belief that the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, was a product of illegality.

He said: “I, personally will never attend any sitting of the Senate that is being presided by Senator Ekweremadu because he is a product of illegality.”

Later, Senator Hunkuyi, in an unsigned press statement,tagged: ”The conspiracy against the APC finally consumated,” which he released to journalists, accused the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, of handing over the Senate leadership to the opposition PDP.

He said: “As President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurates the new Federal Executive Council of the change agenda, PDP takes over the hallowed chamber of the Senate.

‘’We noticed with great sadness, the handover of the hallowed chamber of the Senate today (yesterday) to the opposition party, the PDP, by the Senate President to Ike Ekweremadu as the PDP helmsman to preside over the majority membership of the APC-led chamber.

“It is a very sad development that must be denounced by all well meaning APC members and leaders alike.

“This is to show our protest as APC senators of the 8th Senate. We wish to announce that we shall cease to attend any sitting presided over by the PDP in an APC majority chamber of the 8th Senate.


Senate reacts

But the Senate, reacting swiftly to the allegation, through its chairman, Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Aliyu Sabi Abdullah, denied that there was conspiracy of any nature against senators.

Sabi, at a media briefing, after plenary, said the allegation raised by the aggrieved senators, was the figment of imagination of those behind the allegation and asked people to ignore them.

The Senate spokesman, added: “The Senate wishes to reiterate its total commitment to providing robust legislative actions  to support the change agenda of Mr President as he strives to move Nigeria to new height. The bi-partisan stand of the Senate has not and will not be an impediment.

“The distinguished senators are happy with the inauguration of the Federal Executive Council and look forward to having harmonious, rancour-free but inclusive and participatory relationship that has at its heart the welfare of Nigerians.”



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