Uproar in Senate as APC, PDP senators bicker over seat

The Senate was thrown into a state of pandemonium for about 30 minutes yesterday as members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and their opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterparts engaged in serious altercation over allocation of seat to Senator Godswill Akpabio.

This was even as Akpabio, the former minority leader of the Senate, who defected to APC in August, insisted that the leadership of the apex legislative chamber must be restructured to allow the majority party lead lawmakers, as opposed to the current situation where the opposition has taken over leadership of the chamber.

The pandemonium, which nearly resulted into fisticuff between APC and PDP senators, started when Senator Bassey Akpan (PDP, Akwa Ibom North-East) raised a point of order, to make personal explanation, alleging that the last APC primaries threatened the peace in Akwa Ibom State.

PDP had alleged that APC, in an attempt to fulfil its threat of ‘Warsaw Saw War,’ had released its murderous goons, who unleashed violence in the state capital, Uyo.

Raising his Point of Order, Senator Akpan, however, said that PDP was ready for a peaceful contest in the state come 2019, but expressed anxiety that APC was desperately plotting to unleash violence on the state in the next general elections.

He alleged that the ruling party was orchestrating and perfecting plans to violently scuttle the 2019 governorship elections in Akwa Ibom in order to impose an APC government in the state.

Shortly after Akpan finished making his presentation on the floor of the Senate, Akpabio rose to respond to the allegation, but was not allowed to speak by the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who observed that Akpabio was not sitting in the seat allocated to him.

Saraki explained that it was the rule of the Senate that a senator could only speak from the seat allocated to him, insisting that Akpabio had to adhere to the rules and regulations of the Chamber.

At this point, Senator Emmanuel Paulker (PDP, Bayelsa), raised a Point of Order, citing Order 43 and enlightened his colleagues that personal explanation did not require contribution from any Senator, adding that Senator Akpabio could not talk on the submission of Senator Akpan, insisting that “we cannot allow that to happen.”

However, angered by a perceived partisanship in the trend of arguments and counter arguments between the APC and PDP senators, the Senate Majority Leader, Ahmad Lawan, protested, claiming that Akpabio could speak from any seat within the chamber, saying: “As it stands today, there is no sitting arrangements.”

Insisting that the sitting arrangements should be organised as lawmakers have been sitting indiscriminately, the Senate Leader said that even though that the present assembly only had seven months to go, “we should do what is right.”

When Saraki asked the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, to comment on the matter, Lawan wanted to prevent Ekweremadu from speaking by saying “this is unfair; you can’t discriminate against us, you can’t say that….”

The confusion was so much that Ekweremadu was compelled to sit down without making the clarification he wanted to make on the controversial issue.

Saraki tried every means possible to calm the lawmakers because, at this time, tempers had risen among members of the two leading parties, but to no avail.

Senator Dino Melaye (PDP, Kogi West) and Akpabio on their part, had already gone into frenzied shouting match, even as other lawmakers, who had taken partisan position, joined in the shouting bout.

Saraki, who insisted that Akpabio could not speak from the seat he was occupying, said that the Clerk of the Senate had been directed to provide a seat for the former Minority Leader.

Responding to Lawan’s allegation of discrimination, Saraki explained that he told Akpabio to go to a place where there was a microphone as the seat he was occupying had none.

He said: “Leader, you are not being fair. All I said is that Akpabio should go to a place where there is a microphone.

“What we agreed is that Senator Akpabio should go to a seat where there is a microphone and not that he should not speak. Simple! That is what I said. He should go to a place where there is a microphone. I said it.”

Explaining further, the president of the Senate said: “I asked the Clerk if he has allocated a seat to you (Akpabio), the Clerk is here, let him respond.”

Clarifying the development, the Clerk of the Senate, Nelson Ayewoh, said: “He (Akpabio) said he will sit here and I told him there is no microphone there, but he still said he wants to seat there.”

Akpabio, who eventually relocated to the seat beside Senator Ali Ndume, demanded an apology from Saraki, saying that he was embarrassed by the Senate president, which the presiding officer denied.
Akpabio said: “All I expect here today is an apology to me. All I am asking for is for every Senator to be given equal right.”

He, however, apologised to his colleagues for raising his voice while the rowdy session lasted, threatening that he would not say anything “until the Senate is reconstituted.”
This, however, means that Akpabio was calling for a change of leadership.

During the disruption that lasted for half an hour, Melaye was seen going about engaging APC senators in war of words, even as Senator Kabiru Marafa and some APC senators rose to engage him.

Efforts by Ekweremadu to intervene in the matter failed as the chamber became noisy and uncontrollable. The persistent hitting  of the gavel by Saraki could not tame the aggrieved lawmakers.

When tranquillity finally returned to the chamber, Ekweremadu cited Order 11 (1 and 2) and defending Saraki, he said: “I want to put it on record that Order 11 (1&2) in our rules said the president of the Senate shall allocate a seat to each Senator. A Senator may only speak from the seat allocated to him provided that the president of the Senate may change the allocation from time to time.”

Again, it noted that the job of the presiding officer is to ensure that every senator has opportunity to speak while every senator is recognized, adding: “It is not that the Senate President is refusing you to speak but there is an Order that governs where we should speak from,” he said.
Clarifying what he meant by reconstituting the Senate while speaking with journalists after the plenary session, Akpabio said that minority party cannot rule over majority, adding that 10 cannot rule over 80.

Akpabio, who said that he defected for national interest, stated that those who also defected should emulate him by resigning their seats, a statement that obviously alluded to the fact that he wants Saraki to resign or to be impeached for APC to assume leadership.

Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, had defected to PDP recently and still remain leaders of the National Assembly.

Efforts by the leadership of APC to get the two presiding officers out of power appear to have failed, as senators resolved last week to sheathe their swords and work together in the interest of the country.

.new telegraph

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