Monday, December 31, 2018

Mace Theft, SSS Blockade, Monkey Tale – See The Major Events That Shaped Nigerian Senate In 2018

The year 2018 will not be quickly forgotten in a hurry as far as the 8th Senate led by its President, Bukola Saraki, is concerned.

The outgoing year witnessed some controversial moments, some making history in legislative business in Nigeria. From mace theft to in-house controversies, below are the major ones.

Electoral Amendment ‘Targeted Buhari’

February 14 is widely known as lovers’ day world over but there was no Valentine celebration at the Nigerian Senate on this day.

The lawmakers were divided over the adoption of a report by the Senate and House of Representatives Joint Committee on the Amendment to the Electoral Act.

The amendment sought to re-order the election sequence with the federal lawmakers’ election coming first in 2019, before that of the state lawmakers and state governors, with the last being the presidential election.

The adoption did not go down well with some senators who accused the Senate President of not allowing them to lend their voices to the debate. While the plenary was still on, 10 of them left the chamber to address the press, insisting that the sequence change was targeted at Mr President. Two senators, Ovie Omo-Agege and Abdullahi Adamu were more vocal.

Axing Abdullahi Adamu

In the northern part of Nigeria, age and experience are considered a revered attribute but this didn’t play out in the removal of Abdullahi Adamu as chairman Northern Senators’ Forum in February.

The removal came a week after Mr Adamu led nine others to oppose the Senate passage of the amendment to the electoral act.

Mr Adamu had questioned the conduct of the Senate president in the passage process.
He specifically noted that the Senate president did not allow some of his colleagues to talk despite indicating so in the debate that led to the adoption.

Mr Saraki had in the chamber said that it was the custom of the Senate to adopt a conference committee report without questioning.

In a controversial move, he was replaced by Aliyu Wammako, a former Sokoto State governor.

Monkey Tale

Perhaps, this is the most trended story out of the upper legislative chamber in 2018.

A senator, Shehu Sani (Kaduna-APC), said Mr Adamu’s removal bordered on financial mismanagement. He alleged Mr Adamu mismanaged a N70 million belonging to the forum.

But Mr Sani did not state the obvious in simple terms. Instead, he alleged that about N70 million belonging to the group was claimed to have been carted away by monkeys in a farmhouse. He was subtly referring to Mr Adamu.

Mr Adamu later denied the allegation.

Mace Theft

For the very first time in Nigerian history, hoodlums invaded the Senate chamber carting away the mace which serves as a symbol of authority in the legislature.

The robbery, executed in the full glare of lawmakers, journalists and other observers in the Senate Chamber of the National Assembly bore the imprints of a security operation with at least two of the attackers identifying themselves as police officers.

They entered the chamber with a senator, Ovie Omo-Agege, although the lawmaker has continually denied being involved in the incident.

After gaining entrance, one of the hoodlums went straight for the mace, grabbed it and made for the exit.

In the company of some others who were waiting with four vehicles, the thugs left the National Assembly without being challenged by security operatives.

The mace was later retrieved at a location close to Abuja city gate. Nobody has been arrested for the incident.

Omo-Agege’s Suspension

Following recommendations by a committee set up to investigate Mr Omo-Agege’s comment on election sequence, the lawmaker was suspended for 90 days.

Mr Omo-Agege was among the 10 senators who left the chamber to address the press while the plenary was still on.
He was suspended for accusing his colleagues of working against President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election

However, a judge, Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court nullified the suspension of Mr Agege after faulting the decision of the Senate.

Saraki’s Defection Ripples

Following his defection from APC to PDP in August, the Senate President instantly became an object of possible axing from his opposition colleagues.

While many openly called for his resignation as Senate president, others were rumoured to be lobbying the needed two-thirds to remove him. While this was on, a major event happened on August 7.

Six days after Mr Saraki’s defection, the National Assembly was in the early hours of the day cordoned off by officers of the State Security Services in an alleged move by some senators to remove Mr Saraki.

It was rumoured that APC senators planned to disallow opposition senators entrance into the chamber while they removed the Senate President. This turned out to be partly true.

The SSS operatives for many hours locked out senators and representatives before eventually allowing them entrance. The siege was lifted in the afternoon.
The event led to the removal of SSS boss, Lawal Daura, by the then Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo.

Controversy Over Party Majority

There was confusion over which party controls the majority in the Senate between APC and PDP on August 5 following the defection of 15 senators from the APC.

The senators, in a joint letter to Mr Saraki, made their intention known. With 14 of them joining the PDP, it became immediately difficult to determine which party is the majority at the Senate. Prior to the defection, APC officially had 64 senators while the PDP had 42.

With 14 leaving the party (for PDP), the instant calculation favoured PDP which would then have 56 as against APC (50). But this soon changed as some senators renounced their defection while some clarified that they defected to another party other than PDP.

The situation also forced the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan to present a list to show that APC had 52 senators while PDP had 50.

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