Thursday, 22 October 2015

Senate Majority Leader explains why Ekweremadu didn’t preside over ministerial screening.


The Senate Majority Leader, Muhammed Ali Ndume, has given reasons the chamber’s Deputy President, Ike Ekweremadu, was not allowed to preside during the screening of ministerial nominees, citing differences in party affiliation.

Meanwhile, the Code of Conduct Tribunal, yesterday adjourned the trial of Senate President, Bukola Saraki to November 5 and 6.

The adjournment which was made by Chairman of the Tribunal, Danladi Umar followed the argument of prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, that the tribunal should adjourn out of respect for the Appeal Court, which reserved judgment on the suit filed by Saraki to stop his trial for alleged false declaration of assets.

In an interview with journalists at the National Assembly yesterday, Ndume spoke on why the Upper Chamber had to postpone its plenary session because of the trial of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, at the Code‎ of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), instead of continuing with the screening exercise with Ekweremadu presiding.

Ndume said: “We were thinking that the lower court would cancel the sitting of yesterday in the tribunal but it did not. And the Senate President had to be at the tribunal by 10.00am. He is the presiding officer. And this is an extraordinary time because we are screening ministers that are predominantly All Progressives Congress (APC) members. So, that was why we said this screening should continue under the Senate President presiding.

“This is not a normal day because we are screening APC nominees and there are issues surrounding it, we don’t want any other issue out of it again. The presiding officer is the Senate President who started the screening and we said we would take a day off and continue tomorrow (today). If you look at the constitution, it is not a ‘must’. It is just like when the President is off, the vice president does not automatically become the president of Nigeria. He remains the vice president until a letter is transmitted as such. That is what the constitution says.”

But the constitution states that in the absence of the President of the Senate, the deputy shall preside.
Section 53 of the constitution which spells out the role of the deputy President of the Senate states: “At any sitting of the National Assembly – in the case of the Senate, the President of the Senate shall preside, and in his absence the Deputy President shall preside.”

Ndume further declared that the Senate has within seven days to clear the ministerial nominees and urged Nigerians to be patient with Senators to do a thorough job.

Meanwhile, the planned political solution aimed at resolving the crisis in the leadership of the Senate might have crumbled as a result of alleged refusal of Ndume to resign.

It was learnt that the planned political solution, which was said to have been accepted by Saraki, the Presidency and the APC, was aimed at implementing the leadership structure preferred by the ruling APC in the Senate.

National Chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, had on June 24 written the Senate President to propose the names of four Senators who were to assume leadership positions in the Senate.

Odigie-Oyegun’s letter had named Senator Ahmed Lawan (North-East) as Majority Leader; Prof. Sola Adeyeye (South-West) as Chief Whip; George Akume (North-Central) as Deputy Majority Leader and Abu Ibrahim (North-West) as Deputy Chief Whip. But Saraki went ahead to announce Ndume as Senate Leader, Bala Na’allah as Deputy Leader, Sola Adeyeye as Senate Chief Whip and Senator Francis Alimikhena as Deputy Majority Whip.

However, following increased political hostilities between the APC leadership and the Senate leadership, ‎a committee headed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has been working on the planned political solution aimed at finding a middle ground for the Senate leadership and Saraki.
Dogara, who has been working with the party’s National Chairman and the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, was said to have proposed “a clear out” of the current APC leadership in the senate and a replacement with those originally proposed by the APC. Only Senator Sola Adeyeye, the Chief Whip would retain his seat if the political solution option works out.

But sources disclosed yesterday that Ndume has rejected the offer that he should resign, while the others, including Na’Allah and Alimikhena, were said to have agreed to the offer if it would bring peace between the party and the Senate.
Ndume, who was said to have been invited to a meeting at the Presidential Villa on Monday night was said to have been told to accept the offer to resign so as not to keep delaying the peace deal.


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