Fresh Crises Knocking as National Assembly Resumes Session

There are strong indications that fresh crisis will rock the National Assembly as lawmakers resume today following the defections of the Senate president, Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). This is just as APC senators and House of Representatives members, who are still in the majority in both chambers, are fuming over a situation of being under the leadership of Saraki and Dogara who are now in opposition party, PDP. The federal lawmakers are also expected to work on the supplementary budget submitted to them just before they went on recess for the purpose of financing the 2019 general election. Even while the National Assembly has been on recess, relevant committees have been working on it ahead of resumption due to the near approach of the polls.

There is also the puzzle as to whether Senator Ahmed Lawan of the APC will still remain the majority leader of the Senate and function as such under the Senate president who is now in the opposition party. LEADERSHIP recalls that the ruling APC had on July 24 lost 14 senators as they defected to the PDP, raising the number of the opposition party lawmakers in the Red Chamber to 48, while the APC has 55. Subsequently, Saraki defected to the PDP from APC, making it 49 to 54. When APC won the Daura and Bauchi senatorial districts’ by-elections on August 11, 2018, APC upped its figure to 56. Other parties have four senators. APC also still retains majority seats in the House of Representatives even after 36 members defected from the APC to the PDP and ADC on July 24, 2018, leaving the APC with 192, PDP -156, APGA – 5, ADC – 4, Accord – 1 and SDP – 1. There is one vacant seat over a deceased member.

The argument has been whether the APC, with its slight majority in both chambers, can effect leadership change since, according to some legal analysts, section 2 (c) c) dictates that leadership changes in both chambers can only be effected by the votes of no fewer than two-thirds majority of the members of the House. But others are of the view that what is required is two-thirds of the members present at a sitting provided they form a quorum. According to a senator who does not want to be mentioned, the APC leadership is of the view that the leadership of the two chambers can be changed with the two-thirds majority of members sitting that day. ‘’This is why the APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, is insisting on automatic tickets for loyal party senators in order for them to remain together to effect leadership changes in both chambers when we resume.‘’But as it is now, so many lawmakers in the APC and PDP were not allowed returned tickets and it will all depend on how the leaderships of respective parties are able to resolve such crisis before resumption. ‘’Many APC governors insisted on their own way to stop some senators from returning to the Red Chamber, hence we resume before making the proper evaluation, and then be able to project properly,’’ he said. However, a legal practitioner based in Abuja, Alasa Ismaila, said, “In simpler language, Saraki can remain, president of the Senate, when the House reconvenes, unless he’s impeached by a two-thirds majority of lawmakers. ‘’And the APC can only attain a two-thirds majority of lawmakers required to impeach Saraki if senators from the PDP lend the governing party a chunk of senators. ‘’Saraki won’t be the first leader of parliament from the minority party. In the 2nd Republic, the Speaker of the House of Representatives was Edwin Ume-Ezeoke of the Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP), which wasn’t the governing party at the time. The governing party was Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s National Party of Nigeria (NPN). ‘’In the 7th assembly, Aminu Tambuwal continued to serve as Speaker of the House of Representatives even after dumping the PDP for the APC.“In the 8th assembly, Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP is serving as deputy Senate president even though that position should have been reserved for the governing APC’,’ he noted. However, Barr Sanusi Musa said “one can easily deduct that by the combined provision of Section 50 (2) (c) and section 54 (1) & (4) of the 1999 Constitution, what is required for any motion intended to remove the president of the Senate or his deputy is two-thirds of the members present at any sitting of the House provided there are up to 37 senators when such motion is tabled. ‘’It amounts to standing logic on its head to posit that a Constitution that empowers 37 senators to exercise the legislative powers of the National Assembly provided by sections 58 and 59 will turn around and make the less important duty of dispensing with who is leading the senators to perform the legislative duty more daunting. It cannot be the intendment of the framers of the same constitution to make it possible for 19 senators to make a president of the Senate turn around to require 73 senators to unmake him. If 19 can make a president of the Senate, it is only logical to posit that 24 can unmake the same president of the Senate.

‘’If the intendment of the framers of the Constitution is to require 73 senators to remove the president of the Senate, certainly the word ‘all’ could have been inserted in-between the words ‘of’ and ‘the’ in the phrase ‘…not less than two-thirds majority of the members of that House…’ of section 50 (2) (c) of the 1999 Constitution’’, Musa maintained. A source close to the Senate president’s office said that the first thing Saraki will do on resumption is to overhaul Senate committee memberships by appointing loyalists to juicy committees. However, as it is customary with the National Assembly, when they resume on Tuesday, both chambers will only read and adopt proceedings of their last sitting and adjourn till Wednesday due to the death of Funke Adedoyin, a female lawmaker representing Kwara in the House of Representatives. Hon. Adedoyin died of cancer in an Abuja hospital on September 28, 2018.

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