By John Akubo, Abuja
For the President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio and his colleague Senators who rooted for him, the chickens have come home to roost, and the honeymoon might now be over. This is as many of the senators who supported his Senate Presidency bid are becoming disenchanted with his leadership of the Red Chamber.
It will not be an understatement to say that most of the Senators have not been on the same page with Akpabio, considering the many faulty steps he has taken as the presiding officer. But many of them are unable to confront him for several reasons ranging from the fact that many of them are first timers and hence compromised during the build-up to the election of principal officers.
The politics of money changing hands to sway positions on their preferred candidate during the period in question saw them switching camps and allegiance and eating from both sides of the mouth from the two gladiators.
However, the senator representing Borno0pkkkkķ South, Ali Ndume would not be swayed by any of those impediments.
To start with, Ndume was the campaign manager for Akpabio during his bid for Senate Presidency in June. But Akpabio’s election has continued to haunt the Senate and has, in fact, remained the root cause of most of the issues dividing the Red Chamber today.
Akpabio emerged because President Bola Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress zoning arrangement favored him. This was amid fears from many quarters that the 10th National Assembly might also be a rubber-stamp like the preceding legislature headed by Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila
The All Progressives Congress’ National Working Committee had micro-zoned the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President seats to Senator Godswill Akpabio from South-South and Senator Jibrin Barau from North-West, respectively.
Ndume had openly disclosed that Tinubu revealed to him that Akpabio was his preferred candidate for President of the 10th Nigerian Senate.
“The President told me that his preferred candidate is Akpabio, and I should lead the campaign,” Ndume said.
This was happening despite calls on Tinubu from several quarters not to meddle in the leadership of the National Assembly nor foist any anointed candidate on the lawmakers.
Akpabio, on his part, was facing corruption investigations from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and had recently refused to honour invitations from the anti-graft agency.
Ndume, from Borno South, nominated Akpabio while Senator Elisha Abbo from Adamawa North nominated Yari.
As soon as Senator Abbo nominated Yari, some lawmakers started protesting but he stood his ground while shouting on top of his voice.
He had challenged those opposed to Yari’s nomination to go to court.
However after his sack by the Supreme Court he alleged that Akpabio masterminded his ouster based on his role at the election.
Since his emergence, Akpabio has been caught between his alleged allegiance to Tinubu and the party and the discharge of his mandate as President of the Nigerian senate, to the extent that he is being accused of visiting the Villa first to take instructions before coming for plenary, hence the reason plenary is always delayed till 12noon.
Most of the Senators who compromised are also afraid of speaking up because of the unholy roles they played during the election.
However, Ndume who is a fourth timer in the senate would not allow himself to be cowed hence as the Chief Whip, he stormed out during plenary last Tuesday to protest the refusal of the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, to address alleged procedural errors.
Consequently, in order to prevent the situation from degenerating further, Akpabio requested that his colleagues meet behind closed doors for further discussion.
Senator Ndume (APC Borno South) had raised a point of order to draw the Senate President’s attention to alleged procedural errors committed by him which were yet to be corrected minutes after commencement of plenary.
Specifically, Ndume, made reference to a motion on the need for re – opening of Nigeria – Niger Border, which was moved by Senator Summaila Kawu (NNPP Kano South) which Akpabio allowed to be debated without first having the official title of the motion read as was the normal procedure.
Ndume, relying on Order 51 of the Senate Standing Rules, requested that the Senate President should allow for the correction of any error made or observed during plenary.
He had hardly completed expressing his mind when Akpabio interrupted by noting that, since he had ruled on issues raised, it can not be revisited. He subsequently ruled Ndume out of order.
Not deterred, another Senator, Sunday Karimi (APC Kogi West) rose in defence of Ndume’s point of order by raising another point of order; but was equally ruled out of order by the Senate President.
In his effort to douse the tension, which was at its crescendo at that point, the Deputy President of the Senate, Jibrin Barau quickly raised order 16, which requires a substantive motion to be moved by any Senator seeking to correct or review an earlier decision taken.
Akpabio sustained this order. This provoked Ndume as he raised another point of order, specifically order 54 to seek for correction of the perceived error.
Again, Akpabio ruled him out of order without giving him opportunity to exhaust his line of thought.
At this point, Ndume picked his documents and a few other belongings and stormed out of the Senate Chamber.
His action which was obviously unexpected, led the Senate into resolving to go into a closed session.
This development happened at a time Senators were preparing to leave for Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital for retreat, which took place last Wednesday through Thursday.
IT is noteworthy that tension has been mounting up long before the Senate resumed from its long vacation in September.
There were even rumours of moves to impeach the Senate President and change the leadership. But the Senate President’s Media Office countered the speculation with a statement, saying it was a figment of the imagination of the authors.
However, Senator Elijah Abbo, who was recently sacked by the judgment of an Appeal Court, issued a statement on behalf of Northern Senators accusing Akpabio’s office of trying to pit them against President Bola Tinubu.
He, in fact, accused the Senate President’s Office of being the mastermind of the alleged move against the Senate leadership.
For some time now, Senators have been murmuring in hush tones that Akpabio has committed series of gaffes, which were not good for the image of the Upper Chamber.
First was the announcement that money was sent to their individual accounts for “the holidays,” then his “uncomfortable joke” about letting the poor breath.
The senator representing Nasarawa South, Mohammed Onawo, had also recently criticised Akpabio, for allegedly approving legislative bills without following due process.
He accused the Senate president of not ensuring that two-thirds of the senators were present during debates on bills before they are passed.
He made the criticism when he raised a point of order against the amendment of the bill establishing the National Social Investment Programmes (NSIP)
The amendment seeks to transfer the control and supervision of programs under the NSIP from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to the Presidency. The bill, presented by the Senate Leader, Opeyemi Bamidele, emanated from the executive arm.
Mr Onawo questioned Mr Akpabio for hurriedly approving sensitive bills. “It takes the total of the senators seated, but have we taken into consideration how many senators are seated and how many people have agreed that we say we are two-thirds.
“And apart from that, this point is very necessary because since we started this Senate, you said it is corrective Senate.
“We have been ambushed all the time that very sensitive bills are brought and are expected to be passed with the speed of light, which is not good for this country.
“Every senator here is supposed to be adequately informed; he does his research, comes to the floor and makes a positive contribution. But in a situation where even money bills are brought and we are expected to pass it within two hours, it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t go well for this country.”
“Sir, you are on the seat today; history will judge you that things like this are not good for this country,” the senator said.
Chief Whip of the Senate, Ndume, who also contributed to the point of order, explained that the two-third requirement to pass a bill is based on the number of senators present at the plenary and not the statutory number of senators – 109.
“There are few instances like the amendment of the constitution. Some parts require two-thirds. That means the senators, before voting, will be informed that there will be a vote on a certain matter and they need to be present so that two-thirds will be achieved. But any decision that comes up like this during the sitting of the senate, the two-third means those that are here.”
Responding to Mr Onawo’s comment, Mr Akpabio said if any bill hurriedly passed was in the interest of Nigerians, history would judge him right.
“If what we pass is good for the country, history will judge me right. If what we are passing with the speed of light is in the interest of Nigerians, history will judge me right. I don’t think we would come here to pass a bill that will not be in the interest of Nigerians, so your point of order is noted.”
Another issue came up recently. Barely two weeks after an impeachment scare, the Senate amended its standing rule and barred first term members from seeking to be elected as president of the Senate or deputy president of the Senate.
Adopting a motion sponsored by senate majority leader, Opeyemi Bamidele, the senate amended section three of its standing rule and specifically stated that to vie for the position of president of the Senate or deputy president of the Senate, a senator must have spent one term or four years in the upper legislative chamber.
The amendment also was perceived as another fallout of the election of Akpabio.
It was believed to be targeted at spitting Senator Yari and Tambuwal for daring to contest against him
The senator representing Kano South, Kawu Sumaila (NNPP) had described the amendment to the senate standing rule, which barred ranking members from the House of representatives and first term members from seeking to be elected as president of the Senate or deputy president of the Senate as a monumental blunder. He said the action will consume the leadership of the 10th senate.
Senator Sumaila who himself is a ranking member from the House of representatives said the senate has excluded former members of the House of Representatives from the ranking arrangements in the Senate with the way the amendments was done.
“We are practicing bi-camera legislation. From the arrangements we met on ground, for you to be a ranking member of the Senate, you must spend one or more terms in the Senate or in the House of Representatives. There was no exclusion of the House of Representatives members. Now it is a game of numbers.”
He said the new rule has created a dichotomy between the red and the green chamber. It is making the members of the House to be inferior to their colleagues in the Senate. The House is made of 360 members while the Senate has 109.
“With the latest development definitely we are calling for anarchy as somebody who has the experience of the House of Representatives, I think it is not a healthy situation.
“At the end of the day, it is the executive arm of government that suffers. Definitely, the House of Representatives that I know for almost 20 years will surely strike and the Senate will be at the receiving end.
“I don’t think it should be an issue if a first time senator decides to contest the presiding officers’ positions. It happened in 2007 when Senator George Akume contested the Senate Presidency as a first time member in the Senate against David Mark, he went to court and the court allowed them to contest.
“For the senators to start thinking that way, they lack something, they need to understand what National Assembly is all about.
“In 2015, when Akpabio had no legislative experience, he became minority leader. Recently Umahi became deputy majority Leader without legislative experience.
“We have three stages in our book. Senators who are re-elected are automatically referred to as ranking, also members from the House of Reps who migrated to the senate are ranking members.
“These two stages are ranking senators and we copied this system from the US. We need to ask ourselves how they are doing it. You cannot make a sister chamber to be inferior and think that you are not stoking controversy.
“If there is constitutional amendment, Senate has its own version and the Reps have their own. We will constitute a conference committee. The conference committee cannot alter any thing, it is either to accept Senate version or Reps version.
“Then we will come up with a uniform version, but if for any reason Senate disagrees with the House or House disagrees with the Senate, it must be resolved by votes.
“If for any reason they refuse to adopt the senate’s position, definitely there will be a joint session. Though it is the Senate President who will preside over the joint session, they are 360 while the senate members are 109.
“This is the silent question they need to ask before they arrived at the decision. Somebody like Aminu Waziri Tambuwa, you are referring to him as non ranking when he spent more than 12 years in the House of Representatives, a former speaker and now you are calling him a non ranking senator in this chamber? People need to understand the implication of this kind of legislation.”
Sumaila noted that most of the members need to be educated on the working of the Bicameral legislature. “The Senate representation is based on equality. The House is based on constitutional representation.”
He also pointed out that, in the current Senate, House of Reps members that migrated to the Senate are about 30. “In the leadership, six persons came from there. Rafai Sani Hanga in the minority, we have Ali Ndume in the majority, and we have the House Leader, Opeyemi Bamidele. He is also from the House of Reps. Over 30 senators started from the House of Reps.”
He concluded that though they were in the minority, they did not raise issues because their concern at the moment was the current challenges the country is facing economically and politically. “We need to bridge the gap between the leadership and the followers,” he said.
Culled from The Guardian
Constitutional Roles for Traditional Rulers As Recipe for Security, National Development
By Friday Idachaba
It is widely believed that an inclusive governance is only possible when stakeholders sit at the decision-making tables and contribute to planning for national development in policies and programmes and as well, proffer solutions to national challenges.
Analysts have often expressed the opinion that when critical sectors are denied inclusion and left out of the decision making process, implementation of policies and programmes made on their behalf more often, are hampered making attainment of aims and objectives less feasible.
This, according to observers and political analysts, account for the seeming ineptitude in addressing the numerous national challenges such as insecurity, crime and criminality, economic and social hiccups, climatic vagaries and other problems plaguing the nation.
Agitations for clearly defined constitutional roles for the traditional institution and the Royal Fathers in Nigeria to pave way for their inclusion in policy making processes have been on for a long time.
That lack of legally provided functions for the traditional rulers, according to analysts, limits their exercise of power and authority on quite a number of issues that they ought to address to keep the their domains and communities safe.
Traditional leaders control vital resources such as land and play a very important role to any service delivery and development strategies to be implemented in the rural areas.
Although they do not have formal political power in the Grundnorm, in many cases they continue to command respect from their people and have considerable influence.
According to Wikipedia, traditional rulers play useful roles in mediating between the people and the state, enhancing national identity, resolving minor conflicts and providing an institutional safety-valve for often inadequate state bureaucracies.
Section 211(2) of the Constitution regards traditional authorities as primary agents of development.
They are seen as the representatives of the community and as such are entrusted with an important responsibility, namely that of harmonising community customs and traditions with the ethos of the Constitution.
These agitations, salient as they could be have often been muffled by successive regimes and administrations.
The squelching policies, often perpetuated and implemented by operators of the three tiers of government have kept traditional Institution in perpetual subjugation.
The traditional rulers have over the years, continued to agitate for constitutional provisions that would accord them their rightful place in policy making, development and governance.
Against this backdrop, Governor Yahaya Adoza Bello of Kogi on Saturday, March 5, at the Coronation and Presentation of Staff of Office to 104 graded, upgraded traditional rulers rose in defence of the Royal Fathers on the need to assign them constitutional responsibilities that would clearly define their position in the polity.
Bello said his administration had scored a high Mark in security of lives and property as well as enabling environment for human and material growth having, since inception, prioritised unity, peace, tranquility, progress and development.
He said all these couldn’t have been possible without the cooperation, understanding and support of the traditional rulers starting from the Attah Igala, the Ohinoyi of Ebira land, the Ohimege Koton-Karfe, the Obaro of Kabba and all other paramount rulers including the recently upgraded traditional rulers.
“We should be able to recognized them even as the fourth tier of government and I will continue to send that message across even to the National Assembly.
“If we don’t include them in government activities then we are not ready to enjoy the desired peace, safety and development in our land .
“Our traditional rulers are the owners of the land, they know every inch of our land, they own it and every crime committed are being perpetrated on the land and not in the air at all.
“And since they are the owners of the land any crime and criminalities that takes place in their domains they should be able to know the perpetrators.
“If Government refused to include them in its activities how can crime and criminalities be tackled. It is evidently clear that I could not have succeeded in the fight against criminalities in the state without their cooperation and support”, he said.
Barr. Salami Ozigi Deedat, the state Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, speaking in same veing, said Governor Yahaya Bello’s administration had given the traditional institution its rightful place in the state.
“The traditional rulers, being the custodians of our culture and tradition, need to be given priority attention which the New Direction Government has done since its inception six years ago.
“The government also places high premium on the traditional rulers in the state which has accounted for the continued review of the structure of our chieftaincy institution by positioning it to be more effective and responsive through the engagement of programmes”, Deedat said.
The Commissioner held that by placing the traditional Institution in it’s rightful position in governance, “Without an iota of doubt in the last six years, this administration has transformed the socio-economic, political and traditional landscape of the state.
He said that state government had ensured fairness, equity and justice in achieving its set goals adding that it was therefore, instructive and expedient for the traditional rulers to actively participate in the activities of their respective councils.
“As traditional rulers you are expected to ensure there is peace and tranquility in your domain and also ensure the rule of law prevails in the course of discharging your official duties.
“You will be held accountable for any breach of peace and security in your domain. Kogi state is known to be the most peaceful and secured state in Nigeria and you must join hand to sustain that feat”, he further admonished them.
The Ohiniye of Ebiraland, Alhaji (Dr Ado Ibrahim) also speaking, said, I as a father I shall always asked my couleages to respect government in power.
The State has put a bigger challenge before us, that we should at all time do the right thing to sustain the absolute peace the people of the state have been enjoying in the last six years.
The Obaro of Kabba, Oba Michael Owoniyi thanked Governor Bello for believing in the traditional Institution and standing by them to do the needful and address challenges facing the traditional Institution in the state.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, charged the newly appointed, graded and upgraded royal fathers to girt their loins to do more saying, “To whom more is given, more is expected.
The Sultan who was represented by the Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar said the presentation of Staff of Office was another gesture by the government telling them they needed to do more.
“We all know by history that traditional institutions stand the best in terms of administration, knowing people, understanding people and know that they are supposed to do and at what time.
Highlight of the occasion was the presentation of Staff of Office to 104 newly approved, graded and upgraded traditional rulers, comprising 31 First Class, 30 Second Class and 43 Third Class Chiefs.
The Eje of Ofu, Alhaji Akwu Obaje had declared on behalf of other traditional rulers that, urged that necessary steps be taken to assign constitutionally backed functions to the traditional institution to enable them contribute their quota effectively.
“We will stand by the Governor to do the needful in the interest of our people who are also looking unto us for a peaceful and secured society”, he said.
From the position of the governor and the traditional rulers on the issue of constitutional roles for the traditional institution, the age long agitation sought to be put to rest by the National Assembly rising to the challenge.
It is expedient for both Chambers of the National Assembly to initiate bills that would specify the essence and roles of traditional rulers as custodians of culture and tradition and modifiers of cultural practices among the people.
The legislation should also be able to define their limits or latitude in conflict mediation, maintenance of security, channels of communication between their members and the government, control and regulation of traditional titles among others, rather than limiting them to playing mere advisory roles. (Ends)
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