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Saraki: Showdown on hold as NASS fails to reconvene

By Levinus Nwabughiogu & Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — Senators planning for a showdown with the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, over his continued stay in office, despite his defection to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, may have been caught off guard in their plan as the National Assembly has decided not to reconvene today, but hold a joint session to stave off impeachment of the leaders of the Senate.

But date for the joint session is not immediately known.

But observers said last night that both sessions of the National Assembly cannot meet to consider a bill.

The senators, it was gathered, had perfected plans to impeach the Senate president, using the occasion of an expected emergency resumption of both the Senate and the House of Representatives today.

But a source close to the leadership of the National Assembly told Vanguard, last night, that the National Assembly would not reconvene plenary as stated by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yusuf Lasun, to consider the budget of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for 2019 general election.

The source, who craved anonymity, however, told Vanguard that should the pressure of resumption continue to mount, the plan in the works now was to call for a joint session to be presided over by Saraki at the chamber of the House of Representatives.

He stated that the joint session shall be restricted to only one agenda, which is the budget for  INEC for 2019 elections.

The source stated that measure was being taken to keep the APC senators in check and to prevent them from raising even a dissenting voice against the Senate President during the session.

The source said: “The National Assembly is not likely to reconvene on Tuesday (today) or Wednesday (tomorrow) as being speculated. But a suggestion was made this morning (yesterday) to the leadership that if push comes to shove, a joint session should be held in the House of Representatives chamber presided over by the Senate President on INEC budget.

“The idea is to stave off the senators rooting for impeachment of the Senate president. If you hold the session with the members of the House, I can assure you that no senator would raise a voice against the Senate president because such a person may be beaten.   So, a joint session is currently being considered. That was the suggestion this morning (yesterday).”

The source, however, charged Nigerians to ask the Presidency why it decided to keep the INEC budget, which he said was submitted to it since last February, only to bring up the issue when the National Assembly was proceeding on recess.

He also hinted that Speaker Yakubu Dogara was not likely to defect to Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, this month until the dust in the Senate settles.

He added that the fact that the PDP won the local government of the speaker in the last senatorial by-election in Bauchi State was a straight deduction that Dogara would eventually move to PDP, no matter how long it takes.

“The election result was a straight answer that the people of his local government have rejected the APC. But I can tell you that the speaker is not defecting now, may not even be this month.

“Though the speaker is keeping everyone guessing, I know he would move after this time,” the source assured.

Meanwhile, two former All Progressives Congress, APC, senators, Rafiu Adebayo and Isa Misau, yesterday, approached the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, asking it to abort any attempt to forcibly impeach the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, from office without recourse to due process of the law.

The two lawmakers, who represent Kwara South and Bauchi Central, respectively, alleged that some chieftains of their former party, APC, led by its National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr.  Abubakar Malami, SAN, have perfected plans to use security agencies to force Saraki to vacate his position as the Senate President.

Consequently, the plaintiffs, through their lawyer, Mr. Mahmoud Magaji, SAN, applied for an order of interlocutory injunction stopping any impeachment proceeding against Saraki, pending the determination of legal issues they posed before the court.

Cited as defendants in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/872/2018, were the Senate, the Senate President, Dr. Saraki,   the Deputy Senate President, Dr. Ike Ekweremadu, Senator Ahmed Lawal (Senate Leader), Senator Bala Ibn Nallah (Deputy Senate Leader), Senator Emma Buacha (Deputy Minority Leader), Clerk of the Senate and Deputy Clerk of the Senate.

Other defendants are the AGF, Mr. Malami, SAN, Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris and the Department of State Service, DSS.

In a 13-paragraph affidavit personally deposed to by Senator Misau, he told the court that the APC was collaborating with key security agencies and the AGF to ensure Saraki’s removal, notwithstanding the number of senators in his support.

He said:  “Unless the Defendants and their agents are restrained by this Honourable Court from taking the law into their hands, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria would not only be breached and violated by the Defendants but would also plunge the entire Country into a constitutional and social crisis of immense magnitude.”

The plaintiffs told the court that they defected from the APC to the Peoples Democratic Party,   PDP, owing to internal crisis they said factionalised the ruling party.

They prayed the court to, among other things, determine, “Whether in view of the provisions of Section 50(l)(a)and(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who defected to another Political Party as a result of division in his former Political Party, can be made to vacate his office other than in accordance with the provisions of Section 50(2) of the Constitution?

“Whether by a combined reading of Section 50(l)(a)and(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and Order 3 Rule 8 of the Senate Standing Orders, 2015 (as amended), the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can be compelled to vacate his office on the ground that he is not a member of the Political Party with maiority of Senators in the Senate?

“Whether by a combined reading of Section 50(2)(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and Order 3, Rule 8 of the Senate Standing Orders, 2015 (as amended) the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can be said to have vacated his office by virtue of Section 50(2)(a) of the Constitution when he has not ceased to be a member of the Senate?

“Whether the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can be said to have vacated his office as President of the Senate by virtue of Section 50(2)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria when the 8th Senate of which he is the President has not been dissolved?

“Whether the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can be said to have vacated his office by virtue of section

50(2)(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) when he has not been removed from office by the votes of not less than progressivess maiority of the members of the Senate?

“Whether in view of Section 50(2)(c) of the Constitution and the fact that the members of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are 109 in number, any number less than 72 out of the 109 members of the Senate can validly sit and remove the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria whether by impeachment or whatever name so called?”.

Upon determination of the questions, the plaintiffs prayed the court to declare that Saraki cannot be compelled to vacate his office on the ground that he is not a member of the Political Party with majority of Senators in the Senate.

They further applied for “A declaration that the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria cannot be said to have vacated his office by virtue of Section 50(2)(a) of the Constitution when he has not ceased to be a member of the Senate.

“A declaration that in view of Section 50(2)(c) and the fact that the members of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are 109 in number, any number less than 72 out of the 109 members of the Senate cannot validly sit and remove the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria whether by impeachment or whatever name so called”.

“An order of this Honourable Court restraining the 9th, 10th and 11th Defendants, either by themselves, agents, servants, privies by whatsoever name so called from enforcing any act of the 1st, 3rd to 8th Defendants purporting to have removed the 2nd Defendant from office without such act being in compliance ‘with the provisions of Sections 50(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 199‘? (as amended)”.

Meantime, no date has been fixed for hearing of the matter.

 


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