The Senate president David Mark yesterday proved himself a thoroughbred lawmaker when he refused to read the letter of the 11 PDP Senators who recently defected to All People’s Congress (APC) citing the ongoing court case instituted by the senators to stop him from declaring their seats vacant.
It will be recalled the 11 defecting senators have gone to court and obtained an interim injunction to stop the President of the Senate from declaring their seats vacant. The court order also stated that the status quo should be maintained by the parties in the suit.
Senator Mark, relying on Order 53(5) of the Senate Standing Orders 2011 as amended, successively declared their planned defection as null and void and of no effect.
The five senators who raised the Points of Order, citing Order 14, which deals with the privileges of Senators, to announce their defection to the APC were: Senators Bukola Saraki(Kwara Central); Abdullahi Adamu(Nasarawa West), Aisha Alhassan(Taraba North); Magnus Abe(Rivers South East) and Wilson Ake (Rivers West).
Senator Saraki was the first to raise Order 14 on matter of privileges, drawing the attention of the Senate President to the letter he jointly submitted in respect of their defection to the APC and asking him to read the letter.
Responding, Mark referred him to Order 53(5) which reads: “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 President of the Senate prejudice the interest of the parties thereto”.
The Presiding officer further told Saraki, “It cannot be a matter of privilege to you because the matter is in court and no mention should be made of it. Therefore, I rule you out of order.”
The Senate Minority Leader, George Akume lending a voice to Saraki’s argument, raised a point of order under section 14 of the Senate Standing Orders. He argued that the affected senators should be allowed to exercise their right to join the party of their choice.
He said, “This is a legislative house and our privileges are guaranteed. This Senate should not rule the issue raised by Saraki out of order. This matter has dragged on for a very long time and we cannot stop people from associating with whoever they like.”
The Senate president also ruled Akume out of order because his line of argument was on the same issue raised by Saraki.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe, told journalists after the session, that none of the 11 senators had defected as far as the Senate was concerned .
He said, “We resolved within the Senate to maintain the dignity of the upper chamber. In that wise, everything was done today openly and without rancour.
“We have to give kudos to the Senate and its president for handling the matter in a manner that Nigerians are very proud of.”
Abaribe, who admitted that senators had the right to express themselves, stressed that procedures must be followed in doing so.
He said, “Our rules are very clear, when a matter is in court, we cannot discuss it. The hands of the Senate President are tied, he cannot do otherwise and if he does otherwise, it would be contemptuous of court.