By Henry Umoru, ABUJA
AFTER it adjourned sitting for six-weeks to enable members participate in the just concluded primaries to pick candidates ahead of 2023 general and Presidential elections, the Senate yesterday resumed in what could be described as the seemingly solemn and glum plenary session as the hallowed chamber was scanty.
The chamber had suspended plenary on Wednesday, May 11, 2022 to enable lawmakers participate in the primaries of political parties.
At the resumed plenary, the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan announced to his colleagues the resignation of the Majority Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, Kebbi North and the Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, Abia South, adding that their resignation followed their defection from their political parties under which platform they got elected into the Senate.
The atmosphere at the Senate Chamber was solemn against the backdrop that n0 fewer than 70 per cent of the senators lost their bid to return to the red chamber on the platform of their parties, just as some of them dumped their parties for new ones.
In a letter he read, the President of the Senate said that Abdullahi’s resignation was attributed to his decision to his defection from the All Progressives Congress, to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP
Lawan also said that Abaribe dumped the PDP for the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA.
Recall that Abaribe had in May, left the PDP on grounds of “shambolic electoral procesdin the state, driven by a procured court injunction.”
The Senator who resigned as the Minority leader about 48 hours after he withdrew from the state’s governorship race had decried the party’s use of “an imaginary three-man adhoc delegates and the exclusion of the party’s statutory delegates” in the primary elections to elect candidates.
In another letter Lawan read to his colleagues, he disclosed that tjr Chairman, Senate Committee on Works, Senator Adamu Aliero, Kebbi Central has defected from the APC to the APC.
Soon after reading the letters, he directed the Chief Whip, Senator Orji Kalu, APC, Abia North to relocate both the former Senate Leader and his colleague in the minority caucus, to another seats that are very comfortable.
Meanwhile, attempts by Senators Phillip Aduda,PDP, FCT; George Thompson, PDP, Rivers and Gabriel Suswan, PDP, Benue to stop the relocation of Abaribe to another because he had not formally communicated his decision to his caucus however proved abortive as the President of the Senate frustrated them.
The PDP Senators who faulted the defection of Enyinnaya Abaribe, raised several issues ranging from failure to consult the PDP caucus to breaching some provisions of the Constitution.
Speaking further, Lawan who noted that Abaribe had sent two letters notifying him of his defection and resignation, he did not read the letters. He simply made a verbal announcement, said, “Abaribe has decamped from the PDP to APGA. The position of the minority leader is now vacant for the PDP to fill. We wish him success.”
Lawan who announced that APGA is now represented in the Senate with the former Minority leader now in that party, said that Abaribe gave “good leadership” and “kept the majority party on its toes” and also supoorted the progress of the administration.
But shortly after Lawan’s nnouncement, the Senate Minority Whip, Philip Aduda who raised a Point of Order – Order 42, said that the section is asking for explanation on the “circumstances upon which Abaribe left.
According to Aduda, he would go on to say it was a controversial one and that the former minority leader “did not consult the minority leadership caucus” before making a decision to decamp.
At this point, Aduda was however, interrupted by Lawan who said that he circumstance was not a controversial one.
Senator Sekibo who was the next to raise a similar issue, said that the PDP caucus was initially not aware of his reasons for leaving and that “if the reason was division in his state party”, he was expected to come to the caucus for discussions and interventions.
But Lawan said that everyone was aware the moment Abaribe defected and the Senator’s decision to consult the caucus is his decision to make.
Other Senators like Gabriel Suswam and Betty Apiafi, PDP, Rivers who made similar complaints, said that his defection contradicts Section 68(1)(g) of the Constitution which says a member of Senate or House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member “if being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by another political party. he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected.
“Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored.”
“This law means any lawmaker who defects to another political party when the party on whose platform he was elected is not undergoing any form of crisis or is not part of a merger with two or more political parties shall vacate his seat.
At this point, the President of the Senate asked Apiafi and any aggrieved lawmakers to “go to court. Abaribe has moved on to obtain the APGA senatorial ticket.”
In his welcome address, the President of the Senate has his colleagues who lost during the just concluded primary elections at various levels to take heart and continue to pursue what they believe in, just as he wished those who defected to other political parties well and advised them to hope for a better opportunities in the nearest future.
Lawan who called on his colleagues to remain committed to the political system of their respective parties not minding the outcome of the just concluded primaries, even as he also underscored the need for the Senate to prioritise the nation’s security challenges, as well as undertake further amendment of the Electoral Act.
According to him, the electoral process in the just concluded primaries have thrown up issues that must be critically looked at by the National Assembly.
Speaking on the outcome of the party primaries, Lawan said, “Some of us participated in the congresses for their Senatorial Districts, some of our colleagues went for Governorship of their states, and four of us went for the Presidency of our great country.
“We have recorded different results from those activities, but as politicians, it is never over until It is over. We should continue to support the political system that we believe in.
“Those of our colleagues who have recorded successes, we wish them more successes in the general elections.
“[And] those of who have not succeeded as much, we are hopeful that between now and then, the situation may be better.
“But on the whole, our commitment to ensuring that this democracy benefits from legislative Interventions of the National Assembly should remain our focus.
“As a Parliament, we still have issues that require our legislative intervention.
“The security of our country, still needs our attention and, therefore, I urge all of us to continue from where we stopped before we went on recess, in giving due and desired attention for the improvement In the security of our citizens.
“The electoral process may have thrown up certain issues that the National Assembly could also look at and address, because they electoral act itself, even though a good document, is not a perfects document.
“So, it needs some refinement from time to time to improve our electoral process.”
The President of the Senate said that the Ninth Assembly in the last three years has done so much in improving the quality of governance.