The prolonged defection of 11 senators belonging to the Peoples Democratic Party yesterday took a twist in a drama which ensued on the floor of the Senate, as Senate President David Mark consistently rejected the formal notification of defection by the said lawmakers.
Mark, who ruled the lawmakers out of order, explained that the Senate would not consider any matter related to the defection of the senators, pending the outcome of the ruling of the Federal High Court over a suit filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) seeking restraint on the leadership of the National Assembly from declaring the seats of the defecting lawmakers vacant.
Immediately after adopting last Wednesday’s proceedings, Senator Bukola Saraki, rising under order 15 of the Senate standing rules dwelling on “privileges,” read out a defection letter to the Senate, notifying the upper chamber of the intention of 11 senators to defect from the PDP to the APC.
The Senate president, however, overruled the Kwara lawmaker, saying that the issue of defection was not a matter of privilege as he could not take on a matter already before the Federal High Court.
The Minority Leader, Senator George Akume, rising under order 14 of the standing rules of the Senate, moved to speak in defence of the defecting lawmakers, but was met with another brickwall hauled at him by the Senate president, who said that the majority leader lacked the right of intervention, given that there was no breach of privilege on his part.
The consideration of bills slated for yesterday’s plenary where intermittently interrupted with orders raised by some of the defecting lawmakers who took turns to denounce their membership of the ruling party.
Senators who interrupted the session included Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa), Aisha Alhassan (Taraba), as well as Magnus Abe and Wilson Ake (Rivers).
On her part, Senator Aisha Alhassan said her decision to defect from the PDP was due to injustice dealt her by the party at the state level.
She said: “I raised my point of order because I need to inform the Senate, I need to inform Nigerians, that I have changed position. I left the PDP because justice was not done to me. I had cried too many times that I am suffering injustice, persecution, and intimidation in my state. I had written the National leadership and the National Secretariat of the PDP so many times and nothing happened.
“Therefore, I now decided to move to the APC where I can get justice. We submitted a letter which the Senate president said he was not going to read because there is a pending court injunction that the status quo should be maintained.
“The issue before the court has to do with the declaration of seats vacant but Senator Mark maintained that it is about defection. We cannot be asked to maintain status quo about declaring our seats vacant. That order did not affect us and it is not about moving from one party to another.”
Speaking on the Senate president’s ruling, she stated that it did not in any way change the fact that she belongs to the APC.
“I have registered in the APC and I have moved from PDP. I want my supporters to know that I have moved in the Senate, but if the Senate president failed to read them that is his opinion.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe, while briefing newsmen on the matter, said that it was the resolve of the Senate to “maintain the dignity of the upper chamber.”
He said: “Let me make certain things clear. First of all, everybody is a member of the Nigerian Senate, elected under a platform. When you are elected, you are given a seat and if you have to move there are rules that you have to comply with.
“Nothing in that rule says if you come and just make a voice statement, that will be sufficient. When you come via a a point of order, the Senate president must rule on it and at a time that he rules you out of order, that means whatever you have said is null and void.
“As far as the Senate is concerned, there has been no movement yet. It is the legal opinion sought by the Senate leadership that played itself out on the floor of the Senate today in which the Senate president said the matter is in court and he is legally bound to abide by the rule which says once a matter is in court, you cannot comment on it.”
Abaribe also attributed the inability of the Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Mohammed D. Abubakar, to appear before the Senate to “scheduling problems” that couldn’t be resolved yesterday.