Senators of Nigeria’s 8th National Assembly have vowed to stand by the embattled President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, until he is convicted by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
Saraki is currently standing trial at the CCT for alleged false declaration of assets; an offence he allegedly committed between 2003 and 2011 when he was Governor of Kwara State.
“We agreed that this Senate should stand by the Senate President in his trial until proven guilty by the court, in accordance with our Constitution and democratic practices all over the world, including South Africa, Brazil and Russia,” Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu said.
Also, the Senate Wednesday made a reconciliatory move by resolving to suspend further considerations on the contentious Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) Amendment Bill, 2016, which is currently before it.
The Upper Chamber also resolved to suspend consideration on the report of its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions on Senator Kabir Marafa (APC, Zamfara Central). It further agreed that all pending court cases from aggrieved members should be withdrawn in the current effort to reunite the rancorous Eighth Senate in the best interest of Nigeria.
The apex legislative chamber also set up a 12-member reconciliation committee to tackle all pending issues that have been causing division amongst the lawmakers, to ensure a stable and productive Senate.
The committee is made up of two senators from each of the six geopolitical zones of the country.
From the South-South, Senators Godswill Akpabio and James Manager are the representatives while North-West is represented by Sani Yerima and Suleiman Hunkunyi. North-East has Buka Abba and Joshua Lidani, and South-East has former Governor of Ebonyi State, Sam Egwu, and Hope Uzodinma as representatives. In the North-Central, Barnabas Gemade and Abdullahi Adamu were chosen to represent the zone while Monsurat Sumonu and Gbenga Ashafa represent the North-West.
These resolutions were the outcome of a two and half hours closed-door session held by the Senate and presided over by Ekweremadu.
The Senate, which commenced plenary at 10:57a.m., had quickly passed the votes and proceedings of the previous legislative day before going into the executive session.
Ekweremadu had called on Senator Sonni Ogbuoji, representing Ebonyi South Senatorial District, to move a motion for the adoption of the last votes and proceedings. Curiously, the presiding officer also nominated Marafa, who has been prime antagonist of the leadership of the Eighth Senate, to second the motion.
There was however, some level of apprehension because it was not certain whether Marafa would accept to carry out that parliamentary function since he was known in previous times, to have left the Chamber whenever Ekweremadu presided over plenary. When he stood to second the motion, Marafa comically asked:
“Who moved the motion?” which triggered laughter among the senators. Without ado, he seconded the motion and it was adopted.
It was at that point that Uzodimma (PDP, Imo-west) raised a point of order, citing Order 43 of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 (as amended) to make a personal explanation.
He said that he was being bombarded by his constituents and other Nigerians pertaining to certain issues perceived wrongly by the public about the Senate, urging that there was need for the Chamber to meet in a closed-door session to address those issues.
Noting that some of the issues he alluded to were in the day’s Order Paper, Uzodimma called on the Senate to go into executive session in order to trash out the issues and proffer ways forward. Ekweremadu, who did not argue on the motion of his colleague, immediately called for the executive session, which started at 11:10a.m. and ended at 1:40 p.m.
At the end of the meeting, the Senate resumed plenary, where the Deputy President of the Senate declared the resolutions of the Chamber.
He said that “The Senate, in a closed-door session, discussed a number of issues affecting the smooth working of the Senate, and I am happy to announce to our colleagues and the entire nation that after exhaustive deliberations, and being sincere to ourselves, we decided to put behind us all things that have divided us since the inception of the Eighth Senate and work as a united Senate in the best interest of our country.
“We also agreed to suspend the discussion of the Committee on Ethics report on Senator Marafa. We agreed to suspend further deliberations on the amendment of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act and the Criminal Administration of Justice Act.
“We also agreed to set up a committee, two from each geopolitical zone to address all remaining issues.
“And as part of the reconciliation, those in court should consider withdrawing the cases. Further to the agreement to set up the committees, the geopolitical zones have sent names of their representatives.”
The Senate has been in serious turmoil since its inauguration on June 9, 2015, following the controversial emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki as the President of the Senate, contrary to the decision of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC).
The rift brought intense division in the Chamber, as two blocks emerged along the lines of pro and anti- Saraki senators.
Those against him have been operating under the umbrella of Senate Unity Forum while those standing behind him work under the auspices of Like Minds Senators.
It is believed that the unending tussle for the leadership of the Senate, which involves Saraki and other political titans in the APC led to his current trial.
It is not certain if the reconciliatory resolutions of the lawmakers yesterday will bring any respite to the crisis in the Senate, and Saraki’s trial in particular.