Senators threaten to impeach Buhari Reps divided over immunity for Saraki, Dogara, others
The two chambers of the National Assembly had turbulent sessions yesterday for different reasons.
At the Senate, there was commotion when a senator suggested the impeachment of President Muhammadu Buhari at a closed session.
Senators who attended the session which lasted for 1.15 minutes told our correspondent that the impeachment was suggested during a discussion on the Senate rules forgery suit.
Both the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu and two others are standing trial over the forgery of Senate Rules.
It was gathered that the suggestion was made by Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia South) when the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters Senator David Umaru read the report of his Committee on the summoning
of the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami over the Senate Rules forgery suit.
Senator Umaru reportedly told his colleagues that the AGF refused to honour their invitation.
“A Senator suggested that the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim K. Idris be mandated to arrest him but some of our colleagues said the IGP will not carry out the order because the matter is being influenced by the Presidency, “a Senator told our correspondent.
He added: “It was at this point that Abaribe stood up and said, ‘we should go for the jugular.’ When he was asked to explain what he meant by the ‘Jugular’, he said meant the process of Impeachment of Buhari shoud commence.”
Another senator who corroborated the suggestion enraged members of the ruling APC resulting in angry exchanges with their counterparts from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The sources said the rowdy session lasted for about 30 minutes and it took the intervention of former Senate President, David Mark.
Abaribe couldn’t be reached last night.
Also at the session, Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West) reportedly threatened to assault Senator Oluremi Tinubu (APC, Lagos Central) who challenged his suggestion that senators who went to Court over the forgery of Senate rules be suspended.
Melaye was quoted as saying: “Since they are not ready to withdraw the case, they should be suspended. They were around when resolution was passed that our rules book was not forged.”
When contacted on phone, Melaye denied calling Senator Tinubu names, saying, “I only cautioned her for mentioning my name in her presentation during the closed session because when I made my presentation I didn’t mention any body’s name.”
Our correspondent reports that at the end of the session, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki discussed issues affecting the smooth running of the Upper Chamber.
Chairman Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator David Umaru reported that the Attorney General Federation, Abubakar Malami did not appear before his Committee.
In response Saraki said: “But it appears from what you are saying is that the Attorney General is requesting for one more chance to be given to appear before you.
“So, you will report back to us before the end of the week to let us know the status of that situation. And if that does not happen, we will go ahead and go in line with the Constitution very clearly.”
Reps in rowdy session
At House of Representatives a bill seeking to give immunity to four top leaders of the National Assembly triggered a rowdy session.
The sponsors of the bill have proposed to amend Section 308 of the constitution, which provides immunity for the president, vice president and state governors and their deputies.
The bill introduced by House Minority Leader, Leo Ogor now seeks to extend similar immunity to Senate President, House Speaker, Deputy Senate President and Deputy Speaker.
Also included are speakers of the 36 state houses of assemblies and their deputies are also included.
Speaker Yakubu Dogara single-handedly passed the bill for second reading but many members faulted the procedure saying the bill had not been put to vote nor had the clerk been called upon to read it for second time as required by the rules of the House.
Section 308 (1) (a) provides that “no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against a person whom this section applies during his period of office,” while (b) provides that, “a person to whom this section applies shall not be arrested or imprisoned during that period either in pursuance of the process of any court or otherwise,” and (c) says “no process of any court requiring or compelling the appearance of a person to whom this section applies shall be applied for or issued.”
Consequently, subsection (3) provides that “This section applies to a person holding the office of President, or Vice President, Governor or Deputy Governor; and the reference in this section to ‘period of office’ is a reference to the period during which the person holding such office is required to perform the functions of the office.”
However, Ogor in his bill said Section 308, subsection (3) be altered by adding “the words Senate President, Speaker, Deputy Senate President, Deputy Speaker, immediately after the word “Vice-President” and also to include Speaker of a State House of Assembly, Deputy Speaker of a State House of Assembly immediately after the word “Deputy Governor.”
He said the amendment was purely for the independence of the legislature as an arm of government, saying the ongoing forgery case against Senate President, Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, was an act of interfering with the independence of the legislature, hence the need for immunity.
Let’s defer it – House leader
However, leading the lawmakers opposing the bill, House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, said as representatives of over 160 million Nigerians, they could not afford to make a law to take care of the interest of few individuals.
“Mr Speaker, we’re here to legislate. We’re here for the purpose of the members of our constituencies. If we throw this bill to the people, will they support it? The answer is no. This bill has a very wrong timing. Timing is a very sensitive ingredient in legislation,” he said.
Gbajabiamila said there was no need for immunity for the National Assembly leaders and challenged the proponents of such to bring evidence where such obtains in any democracy around the world.
“There’s no way we can convince Nigerians that this amendment is not about what is happening in the Senate. I want the sponsor of this bill and the proponents to tell me any country in the world where the heads of the legislature enjoy immunity.”
He said as a lawmaker, who has been in the House since 2003, he was not aware of any speaker that enjoyed immunity or suffered from the lack of it.
“So, let’s do the right thing. I don’t believe there’s any need to have immunity. I’m not aware that any member of the judiciary enjoys immunity. On that note, I urge that we defer this amendment.”
Dogara said the normal thing to do was to refer the bill to the special ad-hoc committee on the review of the 1999 constitution headed by Deputy Speaker Yussuff Suleimon Lasun.
Dogara’s comment however led to a rowdy session that lasted about 20 minutes with majority of the lawmakers shouting “No immunity! No immunity!”
During the period, members were seen consulting with one another as they resisted every attempt for the bill to go beyond that point.
The chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin (APC, Kano), one of those opposed to the bill displayed an inscription on a piece of paper, saying “No to Immunity.”
It was observed that the lawmakers were sharply divided along party lines with members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) vehemently opposing the bill, while lawmakers of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) openly supported it.
When the House eventually calmed down, Rep Aliyu Sani Madaki (APC, Kano) came with two points of order, first was the law of conscience and the second was under the House rules.
He said: “we all know that this amendment is wrong at this time. Again, based on our rule 81, a bill is supposed to be debated before the speaker puts the question for its second reading.
“Nobody in Nigeria should enjoy immunity. We should protect our integrity. What they want to do is ungodly and unjustifiable. Every member in this House knows that the amendment is wrong at this time. They want to use this amendment to satisfy the selfish interest of an individual.”
But at this point, Dogara tried to cajole the lawmakers on the matter to allow the bill scale through, saying “We should know that the bill before us is seeking to amend a section of the constitution. A bill of this nature is usually referred to the special ad-hoc committee. The bill can die at the level of the committee.”
Dogara therefore invited the acting chairman of the rules and business committee, Rep OlabodeAyorinde (APC, Ondo) “to educate the House” on what their rules say.
Quoting Order 8, Rule 98 (3) of the House, which deals with a bill on constitution amendment, Ayorinde said upon the second reading, a bill shall be committed to the special committee on constitution review.
Our correspondent reports that during the second reading of a bill, the presiding officer puts a question to which the lawmakers conduct a voice vote before the presiding officer rules. If majority of the lawmakers agree for its passage for second reading, the presiding officer calls on the clerk to read it for the second time before it is referred to a relevant committee.
Our correspondent recalls that bills on constitution amendment that came previously were all subjected to voice votes before their second reading and subsequent referral to the adhoc committee.
However, Dogara went straight to refer the bill to the adhoc committee on the constitution review without putting a question or calling on the clerk to read the bill for a second time. This did not go down well with most of the members.
‘Bill cannot scale through’
Rep Madaki later told Daily Trust that “I can assure Nigerians that wherever the bill goes, it will come back to the House, and it cannot scale through. For anybody to look for immunity, it means the person isn’t clean. Why should we look for immunity?”
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