Rowdy Session in Senate Over Saraki

The Senate, expectedly, had a stormy session on Tuesday as some members of the upper legislative chamber protested the passing of vote of confidence in the Senate president, Olusola Saraki, by 83 senators. Tuesday was the Senate’s first plenary since the arraignment of Saraki by the Code of Conduct Bureau for false asset declaration. The senior lawmakers had been on break since August 13.

Members of the House of Representatives, however, on Tuesday, said they had chosen to support the anti-corruption crusade of President Muhammadu Buhari. The Speaker of the House, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, conveyed the position of the House in an address to lawmakers as they reconvened in Abuja after a six-week annual recess. There was uproar in the Senate as the senator representing Zamfara Central Senatorial District, Kabir Marafa, complained that he was denied the opportunity to air his own view before the Senate president subjected the confidence motion to vote.

Senator Babajide Omoworare also protested the inclusion of his name as a co-sponsor of the confidence vote in Saraki. Omoworare, representing Osun East Senatorial District, said his consent was not sought even as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business. He later dissociated himself from the vote of confidence passed in Saraki. Omoworare said he was not contacted before his name was included in the list of 84 senators, who passed votes of confidence in Saraki. He had then moved that his name should be struck out of the motion.

The motion for the lawmakers to pass vote of confidence in the Senate president was moved by an All Progressives Congress member representing Niger East Senatorial District, David Umaru, on behalf of 83 others. The motion, reportedly endorsed by 48 Peoples Democratic Party senators and 35 APC senators, was passed by overwhelming shout of ‘ye’ by the lawmakers. It was the second confidence vote in Saraki in two months. Eighty-one out of the 108 members of the Senate passed a similar vote on July 28

Umaru, while moving the motion, had noted alleged interference in the affairs of the senate “by detractors and media propaganda against senators, the senate and its leadership for selfish politicians.” He said the Senate would not allow itself to be distracted and that it would not succumb to blackmail in the course of carrying out its constitutional responsibilities. He therefore called on innocent Nigerians, groups and political associations not to allow themselves to be used by any person or persons to intimidate or blackmail the Senate and its leadership.

But Marafa,who is the spokesperson for the Senate Unity Forum, a group opposed to the leadership of the Senate by Saraki, caused an uproar by noting that Saraki was only calling on his supporters to contribute. Marafa, who was later recognised to speak after Saraki had ruled on the motion, cited order 53 (5) of the Senate Standing Rule, which forbids the Senate from discussing any issue before the court.

The insistence of Saraki that Marafa should also read the provision of Order 53 (6), which equally forbids any senator from raising any issue upon which the Senate president had ruled upon, degenerated into an open confrontation between the two lawmakers. While Marafa argued that Saraki deliberately denied him an opportunity to talk before he ruled on the issue, the Senate president stood his ground and ruled the Zamfara senator out of order.

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