Move to declare defecting senators seats vacant fails

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Senate President, David Mark
Senate President, David Mark

An attempt to declare vacant the seats of the  11 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators who have defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) failed on Wednesday in the senate. The Senate President, David Mark, warned his colleagues to lay to rest debate on the issue of defection until the court gives its ruling on the matter and face more important national issues.

Mark stated this when Senator Ita Enang (PDP, Akwa Ibom) raised a point of order asking the senate president to declare vacant the seats of the senators who announced their defection from the PDP to the APC.

Enang came under order 14 of the senate rules which allows senators to speak on issues of privilege and also cited section 68 (g) of the constitution.

Section 68 (g) provides that; “Being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected.

“Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored.”

Enang argued that there was no division in the PDP and as such, the defecting senator’s seat should be declared vacant and fresh elections be conducted to fill the seats.

Enang also cited section 68 subsection 2 which states that the senate president or speaker of the House of Representatives, shall give effect to the provisions of subsection 1 of this section.

The senate president however ruled Enang out of order saying that as the chief law maker, he could not go against the laws of the senate which says that a matter in court cannot be debated upon.

Senator Thompson Sekibo (PDP, Rivers), however cited sections 1, 2 and 3 of the constitution  and made emphasis on section 3 which states that any law which was inconsistent with the constitution was invalid.

By this, Sekibo meant that the senate law which says any matter in court cannot be debated was inconsistent with the constitution. Which means the senate president should rely on the constitution and declare the seats of the defecting senators vacant.

He said that since the senators had defected and their defection was invalid, it meant that there were no longer senators and should therefore not seat in the senate chamber.

The senate president, however, ruled him out of order saying that he maintained his stand that once a matter was in court, it should not be debated in the senate.

Mark told the senators that no matter how many points of order they raised on the issue of defection, his ruling would remain that the matter was in court and should not be debated.

Describing the points of order as a distraction and an attempt to delay other legislative activities of the day, Mark implored the senators to lay to rest the issue of defection pending the court ruling.

The senate president had been relying on the senate standing order 53 rules 5, which states that, “Reference shall not be made to any matter on which a judicial decision is pending, in such a way as might in the opinion of the senate president prejudice the interest of parties.”

Senator Mohammed Ndume (PDP, Borno) also raised a point of order and advised the senators to put an end to the debate on the issue of defection which had being ongoing in the last two weeks.

Ndume argued that the senate should move on to consider other issues that were lined up on the order paper of the senate. Having laid to rest the issue of defection, the senate proceeded to the screening of ministerial nominees and also received the report of the committee on Works on the screening of Col. Umaru Faruk (rtd).

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