Would Saraki remain senate president after quitting APC?

The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, is plotting to remain in office despite defecting from the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), according to reports.

Mr Saraki had on Tuesday renounced his membership of the party after weeks of speculation that he would do so.

“I wish to inform Nigerians that, after extensive consultations, I have decided to take my leave of the All Progressives Congress (APC),” he wrote on his Twitter handle.

He later announced that he was rejoining the PDP, a party he left in January 2014 after he accused it of raping democracy repeatedly.

Mr Saraki, a former governor of Kwara State, emerged the senate president in June 2015 following the success of the APC at the general elections. He and 10 other senators had joined the party in January 2014 from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Yesterday, we spent the day in Kano engaging with stakeholders at the #SenateTacklesDrugAbuse Roundtable. The purpose of the Roundtable was to wake the nation to the insidious threat of drug abuse, which has, for too long, been the unacknowledged enemy within for us as Nigerians. The drug abuse epidemic has been of a particularly virulent nature, touching all social strata and afflicting families and young lives. Women and girls are particularly susceptible, married or not. Not even nursing mothers are spared; and future generations are already endangered by the spectre of drug abuse, even while unborn. Clearly, something is seriously wrong in our society if so many people can become so desperately at the mercy of rampant substance abuse that shows no sign of abating. This is why a few weeks ago, at the Senate, we passed a Resolution on the Need to Check the Rising Menace of Pharmaceutical Drug Abuse in the country. Additionally, we set up two Senate committees to determine the nature of the problem; and their work is ongoing. At yesterday’s roundtable, the Emir of Kano, HRH Muhammadu Sanusi II, mentioned the enforcement of laws. We have been carrying on as if everything is normal when the pharmacy sells restricted or controlled drugs. When drugs are imported through the ports, nobody checks who imported them and for what purpose and how they are distributed. We are all at fault. By the time we finish this two-day dialogue, I want to hear that all the drug laws enforcement agencies have swung into action and that many illegal pharmacies and drug distribution centers have been closed down and their operators arrested. In the next budget, we will provide better funding of the relevant agencies. We will also follow up to ensure the funds are properly applied for the purpose they are meant. I promise that we will display political will to tackle the problems in the relevant agencies and will be ready for the usual blackmail tactics the agencies may resort to, against the Senate. -Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki (CON) President of the Senate

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The other senators were Shaba Lafiagi (Kwara North), Mohammed Ndume (Borno South), Danjuma Goje (Gombe Central), Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa West), Magnus Abe (Rivers South East), Wilson Ake (Rivers West).

Others were Bindo Jubrilla (Adamawa North), Abdullahi Gobir (Sokoto East) and Alhassan Aisha Jummai (Taraba North).

Mr Saraki emerged the senate president against the wishes of the leadership of the APC, which favoured Ahmed Lawan, the incumbent senate leader.

A close aide of Mr Saraki told PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday that his principal would remain in his position, citing precedences.

According to the aide, although a clearer picture of which of the parties between the APC and PDP commands majority in the upper chamber would emerge when the senate resumes from recess in September, Section 50 of the 1999 Nigerian constitution (as amended) does not bar persons from minority parties from occupying the position of the senate president.

Section 50 (1) (a) of the document states that there shall be “a President and Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.”

The aide, who pleaded not to be quoted because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, argued that the Constitution does not specifically states that members of minority parties cannot seek election into the position.

He said Mr Saraki would rely on the provision to retain his seat until June 2019 when the Ninth Senate would elect its presiding officer and new principal officers.

Today, we debated several security-related issues at the Nigerian Senate. Senator Kabiru Marafa from Zamfara, raised a Point of Order on the issue of kidnappings in his state. I reassured him that at the upcoming National Security Summit, we will ensure that this issue is discussed. Additionally, I directed the Senate Committee on Police Affairs to ensure that Senate Rabiu Musa Kwankwanso, receives adequate protection to return to his state, as all representatives of the people must be able to visit their constituents. Finally, many of you will recall that 2-weeks ago, we gave the Inspector General of Police a deadline to apprehend the killers responsible for the New Year killings in Benue. Today, I directed the Senate Committee on Police and Intelligence to summon the Inspector General of Police, to explain what actions have been taken since our ultimatum. We must make it very clear to the security agencies that parliamentary ultimatums cannot be taken lightly. If by Tuesday we are not happy with the report that the Senate Committee on Police Affairs is given, we will summon the Inspector General to the full plenary to give us an explanation. We are not going to stop until people are made accountable. All issues on security must be taken seriously.

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The aide further argued that defecting to another party was not one of the ways a senate president could lose his position.

Buttressing his argument, he cited Section 50 (2) of the Constitution which says “The President or Deputy President of the Senate or the Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives shall vacate his office:

a) If he ceases to be a member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives, as the case maybe, otherwise than by reason of a dissolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives; or

Today, we passed a Motion at the Senate on the need to investigate, regularize and amend arbitrary bank charges and illegal deductions by commercial banks. We resolved to urge the Federal Government to: 1. Protect customers rights; 2. Eradicate the short payment of interest rates; and 3. End the culture of excess and arbitrary bank charges. We have also directed our Committee on Banking and Finance to conduct a public hearing on the issue of exorbitant bank charges. This Public Hearing will be attended by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), his officials and other stakeholders like forensic auditors and managing directors of commercial banks in order to harmonize our laws to end the practice of vague, unjust and arbitrary bank charges.

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b) When the House of which he was a member first sits after any dissolution of that House; or

c) If removed from office by a resolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives, as the case may be, by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of the members of the House.

The aide also argued that in line with the constitution, there were occasions in the past political dispensations in the country where persons from minority parties presided over both chambers of the National Assembly.

He specifically referred to the Second Republic when the late Edwin Ume-Ezeoke of the defunct Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) was Speaker of the House of Representatives while his deputy, Ibrahim Idris, was of the then governing National Party of Nigeria (NPN).

Today at the Senate, we considered the Report of the Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND on the modalities for establishing Federal Polytechnics, Federal Colleges of Education and Universities across Nigeria. The report highlighted the need for equity in the distribution of tertiary institutions across the nation. At the end of our debate, we resolved that: 1. The six specialized institutions that have been suspended across the country should be allowed to commence their operations as soon as possible; 2. Any state without a federal polytechnic or federal college of education should have one established in line with equity; 3. The establishment policy for tertiary institutions should tilt towards the upgrading of buildings on existing tertiary educational structures or building new ones into specialized institutions; 4. Special funding should be made available for the successful take off of thirteen new universities; and 5. Work should be done to ensure the equitable distribution of tertiary institutions in every state the nation. Moving forward, I am sure that with close collaboration with the executive branch on this issue, we will be able to see many of our tertiary institutions are properly funded and well set up. Additionally, we will continue to work to ensure that there we have an equitable distribution of tertiary institutions across the country.

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He also cited an instance where John Wash Pam, also of the NPP, was the deputy senate president. Mr Pam from Plateau served as deputy to NPN’s Joseph Wayas.

Both cases were however made possible because of the alliance formed between the two parties after the 1979 elections.

The aide also recalled that in the Seventh Assembly, then Speaker Aminu Tambuwal defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the APC but retained his position as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

 

He also said in the current Eight Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, a member of the PDP, is sitting as the deputy senate president despite belonging to the minority PDP.

The aide further told this newspaper that although he would not foreclose attempts by the APC leadership to seek to remove Mr Saraki, he however, said such move might also trigger the removal of other principal officers who are members of the ruling party, Mr Lawan.

When contacted, the spokesperson to Mr. Saraki, Yusuph Olaniyonu, confirmed that Mr. Saraki was not considering resigning as Senate President.

The sad situation in Benue State shows some fundamental faults in our security system. There is a clear failure of intelligence gathering, analysis and response time. Our security agencies must be totally overhauled in terms of equipment, specialization, funding, training and staffing. This is the reason why in November, the Senate set up a special committee led by Senate Majority Leader, Ahmed Lawan, to work with security agencies to review the entire system and identify what is required in terms of laws, processes, procedure, funding and other necessities for us to have a solid security system that can be pro-active in identifying potential threats, responding to them on time and preventing any breaches. We are quite aware of the fact that security is the first and prime responsibility of any government. That is why early last week, I directed the Lawan committee to take into consideration the sad developments in Benue and Rivers in their deliberations. Now, we cannot wait for the time they planned to conclude their recommendations. They must fast track their schedule . They must sit through the weekend and get an interim report ready for the Senate when we resume plenary on Tuesday. We must immediately support the executive in solving this problem. We cannot afford further shedding of blood. We are already moving into the election year with the potential for the aggravation or escalation of these problems. We must decisively resolve the problem of needless blood letting immediately.

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“All I can say at this time is that you should go and read the constitution,” Mr. Olaniyonu said. “Does it forbid members of minority or majority parties from becoming presiding officers of House or Senate.

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