Averted fireworks at first plenary in 9th Senate

Signs that legislative fireworks between senators on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and their counterparts on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), will characterised the 9th Senate, emerged last Thursday.TAIYE ODEWALE reports.

Expected fierce 9th Senate

The sign earlier shown last week Tuesday at inauguration when some APC senators led by Senator Jibrin Barau (Kano North), openly kicked against open secret voting system announced by the Clerk to the National Assembly (CNA), Alhaji Mohammed Sani – Omolori, as method of voting to be adopted for election of presiding officers i.e, the president and deputy president of the Senate, got clearer at the first plenary session last Thursday.

Senator Itsifanus Gyang (PDP Plateau North) had barely 48 hours after inauguration, at the first plenary of the 9th Senate last week Thursday, made bold move to get speech delivered 24 hours earlier on Democracy Day by President Muhammadu Buhari  debated openly on the floor of the senate.

Senator Gyang, who rose through orders 42 and 52 of the Senate Standing Rules in making the move, submitted thus: “I rise through these orders to put before this senate, a matter of urgent national public importance as regards speech delivered by President Muhammadu Buhari on Democracy Day (Wednesday, June 12, 2019).

“This speech is already in the public domain. I am asking that in view of the interest and in fact, controversy it has generated, there is need for this senate to subject it to debate”.

Nays have it

But the resident of the senate, Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan (APC Yobe North), cut him short saying he had to seek the consent of the senators for their approval whether he should proceed or not, which he did by putting it to voice votes with the nays carrying the day and the ensuing fireworks averted.

While those who shouted nay when the motion was put to voice votes were senators sitting on the right hand side of the isle (APC senators), those who shouted yes!, (PDP Senators), sat on the left side of the isle.

Though in line with parliamentary practices and decorum, Senator Gyang did not address the press after the rejection of his motion, but the controversy that he alleged the president’s speech generated, has to do with portion where he made reference to China, Indonesia and India making it under different circumstances of governance.

President Buhari in the speech said:”….This task is by no means unattainable. China has done it. India has done it. Indonesia has done it. Nigeria can do it. These are all countries characterised by huge burdens of population.

“China and Indonesia succeeded under authoritarian regimes. India succeeded in a democratic setting. We can do it. With leadership and a sense of purpose, we can lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years…..”

Recall that hours after the president delivered the speech that day, some social commentators and public analysts raised issues on the paragraphs quoted, by alleging that the president was indirectly telling Nigerians that he would be dictatorial if need be, in months to come, towards getting things done correctly.

At the same plenary, another motion moved by Senator Uche Lillian Ekwunife (PDP Anambra Central), on the man at the centre of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election as an umpire, Professor ABC Nwosu, was stood down for another legislative day.

First crisis averted

The senate president, Ahmad Lawan, also prevented what could have resulted into heated debate among senators over mistake made on the order paper on item four as regards those the senate needs to communicate to on its readiness to receive communications from them having been inaugurated and formed quorum to that effect.

The item states thus: “That the senate do direct the Clerk to the National Assembly to advise the Secretary to the Government of the Federation that a quorum of senate has assembled and is ready to receive any communication from the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria” 

Rising through Order 15 of the senate standing rules, to raise a point of correction on the item, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo (PDP Bayelsa West), argued that since for now, there is no Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), the item should be deleted or re-written as office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

But the senate president insisted that the item should be taken as drafted which eventually scaled through when put to voice votes.

Other similar requests adopted as listed on the order paper and ably moved by the deputy senate president, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, were that the senate officially communicates President Muhammadu Buhari that a quorum of the senate has assembled and that the presiding officers of the 9th National Assembly of the senate have been elected.

That the Senate do send a congratulatory message to the new speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila and his deputy, Hon Idris Wase over their elections, and that it had elected its presiding officers.

That the senate do send a message to the following International Parliamentary Bodies: the African Union (AU), Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament, Pan African Parliament and the Association of Senate (Shoora) and Equivalent Council in Africa and the Arab World (ASSECAA), informing them that a quorum of the senate of 9th National Assembly had assembled and is ready to receive any communication from them.

Although as a result of empty offices in terms of equipment and facilities, the Senate along with the House of Representatives, hurriedly adjourned plenary to July 2, 2019 but the sampler it gave last Thursday by all indications, shows that it will be a vibrant one where issues would be subjected to robust debates before final decisions are taken.

Further pointer at this direction from the PDP angle, was the election of Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South), as minority leader by PDP senators last week as APC senators are also expected to elect or select their principal officers from majority leader to deputy whip, before July 2 resumption date.

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